Celebrating Diversity

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The Reflective Practitioner: Celebrating Diversity.

The purpose of this portfolio is to identify what forms a child's cultural identity. It will investigate the diverse range of experiences beyond the preschool setting using a focus group of four children, around the subject of mealtimes. The information gathered will be used to analyse the importance of supporting self identity and self esteem in young children.

The preschool provision offers 2 to 4 year olds sessional childcare and education. Sessions are between 3 and 5 ½ hours long and are available Monday to Friday during term time only. The provision receives funding for all eligible 3 and 4 year olds as well as the new 2 year old funding, up to a maximum of 15 hours per week.

Practitioners within the provision are aware of the importance of raising self esteem and use inclusive practice following policies promoting equality of opportunities and inclusion. These are included in the portfolio's appendix. The Every Child Matters outcomes and Early Years Foundation Stage is used to develop individual children's learning. Practitioners use the look listen and note sections within the six areas of learning to focus on what the child can do now and help extend this effectively.

“It is important to highlight the complexity of identity formation in children. To ignore it is to ignore the child's individuality” (Blatchford : 5)

Therefore the practitioner needs to understand exactly what identity and self esteem is and how to promote its importance. Through social interactions practitioners observe and praise competent learners and therefore raise self esteem. The provision promotes diversity by showing positive images of children within the setting.

What is self esteem and self identity? And how is a child's cultural identity formed?

Self identity is the individual's unique personality and self esteem is how we appreciate ourselves and our personal worthiness. A child's cultural identity is formed by the environment and the context within which the child lives. The child's unique personality will be a factor in determining their identity as will their family traditions as described by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

It has been suggested by Damasio (lester, Maudsley cited Damasio 2007:13) that Children need to develop their emotions and feelings through play. He suggested that children need an understanding of how to express emotions in appropriate ways, therefore practitioners support children to become responsible for the way they convey their feelings.

Through play children can express their emotions and begin to develop self discipline and increase their knowledge through social interaction. Vygotsky described how in his ‘zones' of development, children can extend their learning and increase self esteem when they are offered support from practitioners. Bruner also believed that role models who help children's thinking will promote self esteem and identity. Erikson described how he believed that following a period of trust in a child's first year of life there emerged self esteem. (MacLeod-Brudenell 2004:97)

The provision provides opportunities for children to express themselves, value what others have to say and encourage positive self esteem. Children trust practitioners and the safe and stimulating environment has regard for the Every Child Matters outcomes of staying safe and enjoying and achieving.

Children understand the need for boundaries within the provision to encourage positive relationships and acceptable social behaviour needed for later life.

“say yes as often as you can and when you say no mean it”

(Roberts eBook 2002:145)

The social interactions between staff, parents and children are valued and promoted. Children are encouraged to talk and listen to others, use their negotiation skills and attempt conflict resolution within the provision. The provision operates a key person system which considers Bowlby's attachment theory, which described the need for children to have a sense of belonging and security. (MacLeod-Brudenell 2004:102)

“positive self esteem depends on whether children feel that others accept them and see them as competent and worthwhile” (Blatchford 2008:18)

Describing how important it is for practitioners to value the feelings of children and acknowledging them.

Through regular observations children's levels of self esteem can be recognised. Children's behaviour, either happy or sad, their reluctance or motivation to take part in activities and how they play all have indications for their degree of self esteem.

In the provision children who display low levels of self esteem are encouraged to communicate their feelings and ideas and are helped to become actively involved in the provision. By helping reflect on feelings and relationships through role play and small group focus activities children can become competent learners. Piaget described how children needed the adults help to think through their ideas and feelings. The EPPE project conducted in 2004 concluded that social and cognitive development, are complementary and one should not be prioritised against the other. Through sustained shared thinking, practitioners work together to help children solve problems. They are good role models, who do not stereotype children or use preconceived ideas.

Laevers who recognised children's well being could be undermined if they are called ‘naughty' described how practitioners should approach managing behaviour with maintaining the child's self esteem as crucial. His Involvement scale was used to identify how the provision was effective in promoting the levels of children's participation within certain activities. He considered that a child's confidence could be enhanced if they showed a deep engagement in an activity, with adults support.

To promote self identity and self esteem, preschool provides an atmosphere where children eat together at snack and lunch time. Staff sit alongside children and it is considered a social time where children's conversations are valued and independence is promoted. Children are encouraged to share and individual children's cultures are respected. Maintaining effective practice throughout the provision has regard for meeting the diverse needs of individual children. The choice of furniture used for mealtimes is considered as well as supporting children's independence when using cutlery. Effective practitioners form an understanding of their key children's likes and dislikes, their hunger patterns and fine motor skills.

Some children demonstrate schematic behaviour during play, which is a repeated pattern of behaviour that interests them and helps them to find out about how things work. Laying the table can support positioning, containment, transporting, rotation and vertical schemas. Mealtimes can become an emotional time for children who have a positioning schema, such as where to put the gravy or custard? This could lead to distressing the child if put in the wrong place, therefore in this situation letting the child decide would be the ideal choice.

The investigation

For the purpose of the investigation two girls and two boys all aged four were chosen to take part. Their parents were asked for written consent for them to be included in the portfolio and presentation.


Who the child lives with


K: girl

Mum and dad

Only child

E: girl

Mum and dad

1 older brother

J: boy

Mum and dad

H: boy

Mum and dad

Parents of each focus child were given questionnaires relating to mealtimes, they were asked to fill in a weekly diet sheet indicating everything their child ate or drank over the course of each day. The second questionnaire looked at table manners, and whether the recession had made an impact on their mealtimes. It also asked about parents' views on self esteem and identity and their roles and responsibilities. It was interesting to find out that the parent's memories of their own childhood had an impact on their children's routines.

Only the two girls taking part in the focus group stay all day at preschool and bring a packed lunch. Both girls had varied packed lunches with sandwiches, yoghurts, fruit and crisps. Child E commented that “too much sugar makes you as high as a kite”. Her packed lunch consisted of savoury items as well as a piece of fruit and no chocolate bar. The children chosen for the focus investigation have varied levels of self esteem. Child E shows high levels of self esteem, with regard to the information collected, whereas child K shows lower levels of self esteem. Both boys (H and J) have lower levels of self esteem. The information gathered is useful in determining levels of self esteem; however, a child's reactions on a one to one basis may be different. (appendix)

Results from questionaires

All four focus children ate as a family for most meals and had conversations about events that happened during the day. They were all able to use cutlery safely and effectively and agreed that the children sometimes helped to set the table. No children were considered fussy eaters or vegetarians and all considered their children to have a healthy diet.

Three of the four children ate cereals at breakfast time during the focus week while one child preferred yoghurt. The children liked fruit and all children drank milk during the week. With consideration to the Dcsf guidance, for food and drink provision in Early Years settings, (March 2010) the provision provides fresh water for the children and snacks are healthy, balanced and nutritious.

National Health Service research shows that obesity and chronic illnesses can be prevented if intervention into eating unhealthily is established in early childhood. At preschool children are encouraged to help prepare snacks and parents are given advice and useful information for healthy eating choices. Practitioners understand that children are active during the session and promote the importance of a balanced diet from the four main food groups of bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy products and meat, fish eggs, beans and other non dairy sources of protein.

Family mealtimes are considered by many to be a chance for discussing events of the day, and plans for the future. However, it is interesting to look at whether mealtimes within the focus group are just a routine, or whether there is a ritual. Routine mealtimes tend to be just to get the job done, there are set patterns of task completion and repetitive seating plans. Ritual mealtimes may be passed down from generation to generation and the level of communication and problem solving that occurs reinforces self identity and self esteem. Bronfenbrenner described how children are influenced by those closest to them. He considered that our community and the wider context such as government factors have an effect on us. Although the Guardian reports that families are still eating together some are facing challenges to continue this because of working commitments and the recession. They are often faced with influences from the media and the marketing of food, such as MacDonald's meals offering toys with their food.

The focus families said the recession has not had any adverse effect on their spending on food however parents described how they were more likely to consider cheaper brands than they did before.

Parents were asked for their opinions about what is important to them with regard to table manners which resulted in differing views. All of the focus families agreed that having table manners was important. To increase their children's self esteem parents praise and encourage their children to help lay the table and help tidy up. It was indicated that parents value their children's views and feelings and praise their achievements.

Observed activity

The children were asked to lay the table for breakfast time, including cutlery needed and dishes and plates. Photographs were taken and the children were able to talk about what they were doing, this was documented. (appendix)

In conclusion, practitioners value what each individual child can do and use their knowledge of the child's interest to help extend their learning. A balanced curriculum is offered promoting social and emotional well being and support for increasing self esteem and identity. As practitioners we work together with families and other professionals and have an understanding of the importance of supporting the Personal Social and emotional development of children. Useful booklets are available for use within the provision such as Dcsf publication SEAD (social and emotional aspects of development) and SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning), the EYFS document and website and local authority training materials. Continuing Professional Development is highly valued within the provision to promote self esteem and cultural identity.

Fiese, B.H. Foley, K. Spagnola, M. Routine and ritual elements in family mealtimes: context for child well being and family identity Chapter 5

MacLeod-Brudenell, I. Early years care and education Heinemann: Oxford 2004

Bruce, T. Early childhood education 3rd Edition Hodder Education : Kent 2005

Blatchford, S. Supporting identity, diversity and language in the early years McGraw-Hill Education:Berkshire 2008

Lester, S. Maudsley, M. Play, naturally, A review of children's natural play National Children's Bureau London 2007

http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/BathNES/healthand social/practitioners/fosterguide/AguideforSocialServicesStaffandFosterCarers-Part2Promotingapositiveidentity.htm (12/2/10)

Fawcett, M. Learning through child observations 2nd Edition, Jessica Kingsley Publications: London 2009

EBOOK Roberts, R. Self esteem and early learning 2nd Edition Sage: London 2002 accessed 16/3/10

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/02February/Pages/Child-care-link-to-obesity.aspx (2/4/10)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/aug/17/more-families-eating-together-recession (2/4/10)