It can be heartbreaking for parents and carers to navigate a situation where a child is being excluded in social play situations with their peers. While it is more common with older children, it can start from a very young age, particularly if children have disabilities that lead to them struggling to keep up with normal play. Luckily there are some things that carers can do to encourage social inclusion in childcare.
Using inclusive language
Make sure to use inclusive language, such as calling each other friends. Encourage the children to have multiple friends and switch the groups that they use for small group activities during the day. This stops the children from forming tight cliques, which can make it hard for new children to integrate into the group.
Incorporate storybooks into your lessons plans that emphasise the value of difference and the unique characteristics that each child brings to the group. Children often enjoy being able to reference the modelling in books in their creative play.
Buddy up new children
If you get new children into an established childcare, it can help to buddy them up with a specific child who can give the child an insight into the games that the children play together and help to show them the details in the environment that appeals to the children.
Choose a child to be the buddy who is responsible and kind, who will enjoy the chance to take a leadership role in the group. While adults play an important role in the group dynamic, children often find it easier to negotiate games independently and share private jokes and games out of the direct supervision of the adults.
Communicate clearly with the parents
If a child is having trouble integrating due to specific behaviour, it can be useful to discuss this explicitly with the parents. They can often give context to sudden behaviour changes (such as the birth of a new sibling), and can help reinforce correction of any behaviour problems. Parents are usually equally eager for their children to fit in socially, as it makes the child happier to attend childcare.
For shy or easily overwhelmed children, it can often be useful for the parents to organise some one-on-one weekend play dates, so that the children get a chance to bond in a less busy environment.
Setting up positive and inclusive social habits in your childcare creates a positive environment for the children and the parents. These habits will be an asset for the children for the rest of the life.
For more ideas, you may want to talk with other childcare centers, like Hopscotch Boambee.