Inclusiveness in the childcare setting

Inclusiveness is a word that is thrown around childcare centres all the time, but what does it mean and what does it look like in practice?  Childcare centres are a unique environment, as you can have a very diverse range of children and families utilizing the centre.  Every child regardless of ability, has the right to feel safe and secure when attending childcare.

Having an inclusive environment is not only good for children with special needs, but it is also beneficial for other children.  Children learn from each other by observation and interaction. By having an inclusive environment, children are developing new skills and building on existing skills.  Children with special needs will be given the opportunity to practice their skills in a safe and supportive environment. Having an inclusive environment will also ensure that children with special needs have the chance to build relationship with other adults other than parents.  Other developing children will be exposed to individual differences and in turn develop skills such as empathy and care.

All children learn at different paces, especially if  a child has a special need. An inclusive environment will allow such children to experience opportunities  for learning in a safe and caring environment.  Its important that children with special needs can learn at their own pace and be supported during this process.  Children with special needs should be exposed to a wide variety of challenging activities that are suited to their abilities. By having an environment that is inclusive,  all children will feel supported.

Did you know that the physical environment can play a big part in inclusiveness?  In order for children to be able to participate in the routines and activities at the centre, the environment needs to be set up to promote this.  Indoor and outdoor spaces need to be set up in such a way that children of all abilities should be able to access resources and space. Its important that children who have special needs can manage daily routines and experiences as independently as possible. Educators need to think about ways to present information (eg pictures, have resources at a level that children can reach etc) that will be understood by all children.

Childcare centres are busy places. They can get loud and this can have an impact on some children.  Some children with special needs, may have high anxiety levels and behavioural issues.  It is important that the environment is set up in such a way that it has quiet and  safe areas for children to retreat to when then feel overwhelmed.  It is important to ensure that these areas are available inside and outside.

Next time you are planning activities and your environment, take the time to consider all children and find ways to make your room more inclusive.  It’s a great idea to get suggestions from families and specialist regarding ways in which you can change activities and the environment to be more inclusive.  After all we all want children to have a positive experience in care and to have a sense of belonging.

If you're after more training around this topic, check out our online professional development course.