Last night I attended a webinar hosted by Kerry Payne, @eyfs4me and delivered by Liz Pemberton, @theblacknurserymanager, on Inclusion in Role Play for Under 5’s.

I came away with so many ideas – pages of notes, my mind was full of light bulb moments and memories of children that I have worked with over the years. Liz’s training has made me think back to when I did my childcare training/qualifications over twenty-four years ago and more recently when I completed my foundation degree and BA Honours and also then to consider any training & CPD I have done over the years that really enabled me to delve deeper and consider different cultures – people & communities in real ways. I’m sad to say the answer is none. None that I can remember making an impact.


Think about how many role play hairdressers you have set up over the years, I have, not once did I have Afro combs or any black hair care products, photos or magazines.

Think about the kitchen set up – it was always those funny looking little plastic sausages, along with other generic food all found in the homes of white people. I never took the time to really think about how different the homes & kitchens of ALL the children would be and what would be inside them so that they feel included.

When I think back to how I have used development matters to plan and link to Understanding Of The World, I cannot help but think how tokenistic my practice may have been.  Even though I thought we had all moved further forward than ofsted pleasing-tick box exercising, multi-cultural laminated posters on the wall, rugs on the floor and a labelled box of multi-cultural resources, it is clear I am not as further forward as I thought, and I know I am not alone.

Listening to Liz last night and digging deep I can understand that children of colour, from different ethnicities other than white who practise and celebrate different customs and religions, are not always fully represented or understood in our practice. Because we still specifically plan focused activities that are ill-thought-out token gestures, such as Tesco’s version of chinese food tasting, Handa’s surprise reading, going all out for Chinese new year Kung hei fat Choi celebrating are not always authentic or as inclusive as we like to think they are!

I say this because I realise in order for diverse and inclusive play experiences to be authentic, they must be naturally woven into the every-day-not-even-thought-about-anymore seamlessly intertwined into practice, actions and play – respected and valued by all.

Examples, such as beautiful fabrics in role-play to create just about anything imaginable, thawbs, sari’s, face and headscarves and items of clothing, children joyfully, happily searching out items that belong and fit into their play spaces that reflect their experiences and life at home, that allow them to act out how they see themselves in the world and recreate real-life experiences and personas, an abundance of objects, open-ended items and resources to allow room for testing, trying out and creating new and familiar ways of play, experimenting with such things as cooking items, dolls, music and books of everyday stories with children from different cultures and communities all represented on the pages.

Supported by skilled practitioners with an understanding of anti-discriminatory pedagogies, such as an understanding and respect of why some children may talk with a different pitch, tone or intonation to their voice, kiss their teeth and may happily prefer to eat meals with their hands.


It made me further reflect and revisit Diane Garrisons recent guest blog in which, she discussed cultural insensitivity and how differently boys and girls from other cultures may play in our spaces and how sources of conflict in children’s play may be down to different cultures being replicated and not understood or respected.

If children don’t see themselves in the world, how can they belong in the world? I am discovering there is lots more we can do in the earliest years to ensure we see all of our children with our eyes wide open!

I was recently told of a story where a member of staff was observed doing a flashcard type lotto activity and the images were photos of children. The practitioner was exploring a photo of a little girl with a group of children and they were discussing what she looked like, her hair and eye colour etc. Afterwards, in feedback, the practitioner was asked why she didn’t talk about the colour of the little girls skin because she was black and the group of children were white. It was an opportunity to talk about this, “oh I don’t see colour” said the practitioner.

Our children need us to see colour. When we see children clearly, so too can children see and be themselves and belong – not just in our early years spaces we lovingly create, but in the world. As Liz stated, “know better, in order to do better”and now is an opportunity to do so much better.

Liz’s next webinar is exploring Black Boy Joy on the 25 August, details can be found on

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