The following article comes from Early Years Specialist Teacher Lisa Atkinson, who has shared cultural celebration activities in Early Years.

Lunar New Year celebrations are well underway and it has got me thinking about how we embrace different cultures in Early Years.

Key festivals are an age-appropriate and engaging way to immerse our children in different cultures and beliefs, and can complement our culturally inclusive day to day practice. It’s essential that we encourage children to explore and embrace identity, uniqueness, community, religion and languages. This can be created through daily routines, continuous provision, provocations/curiosities and building up relationships with families or local communities. It is crucial to celebrate each child in your school or setting by finding out and understanding their unique backgrounds and upbringings, ensuring you ask them to share their cultures and traditions with you. Valuing your school or setting’s community is key and an important part of our role is to challenge any discriminatory practice.

When you are thinking about ways to improve the diversity of the resources in your setting, it is a good idea to source authentic resources wherever possible. In Early Years, using ‘real’ resources is becoming more common across all areas of learning, inspired by movements such as ‘The Curiosity Approach’ or ‘Hygge’ and practitioners such as Alistair Bryce-Clegg just to name a few. Auction sites, car boot sales and charity shops are a fantastic place to begin. Most schools and settings have little to no budget to work with. This is where you need to get creative. Reach out to local communities and families to see if they can give you any authentic culture-rich objects to use in your setting. There is also a number of ‘freebie’ websites where you can put out pleas for things you require, and you might just fall lucky! Once you start to provide children with an environment filled with authentic cultural items, you will give them the chance to explore these cultures further through their play and promote diversity within your setting all year round, not just for one week during a festival. That does not mean that you should not embrace key festivals in EYFS, just be mindful of how we can use these to facilitate a culture rich environment with embedded respect, understanding and diversity all year round.

Introducing Cultural Provocations

Lunar New Year begins on Friday 12th February and this year is the Year of the Ox. Most settings will be starting to introduce some provocations as they begin to teach their children about the traditions and celebrations of East Asia.

I thought I would share a few starting points for simple activities you could introduce, using some authentic resources. These might spark some inspiration for you, and you could improve on these ideas or tailor them to meet the needs of your cohort. That is key when you look for inspiration for your environment and provision enhancements. How will it impact on and meet the needs of YOUR children?

All of these activities have been explored by my little girl who is two and I have also introduced similar activities with my cohort of FS2 children in school so there is scope for you to modify or adjust any of these to fit the age of your children.

Cultural resources and provocations can be weaved through your provision all year round. Some food for thought… Are you promoting cultural artwork in your creative area? Do you have a significant range of cultural books throughout the different areas of learning and in your reading area? Do you provide traditional cooking pots and decorations from other cultures in your home corner? Do the children hear a range of modern and traditional cultural music?

Are the images you share representative of a diverse range of people in both modern and traditional clothing? If you usually put resources away after learning about a particular festival, is there anything which could become part of your continuous provision?

Sensory Play

Fill a tuff tray, baking tray, washing up bowl or whatever you have available with some dyed rice for the children to scoop, pour, explore. Try adding an authentic Chinese Tea Set to introduce culture and traditions.

Chinese Magic Scroll

These are a fantastic way to introduce mark-making as part of your cultural provocations. The children just need a simple brush (or their fingers) and some water and the marks will magically appear in black on the fabric. You could provide some pictures of characters for the children to copy. You can buy these scrolls for under £5 on an auction site.

Authentic Chinese Tea Set

If you can find a traditional tea set in a local charity shop or on an auction site they are an incredible way to introduce some culture to your home corner and can be added to the continuous provision for children to explore further. Give the children water and some tea bags or tea leaves and let them explore pouring, filling, capacity and role play.

Decorations and Accessories

You can pick up authentic decorations online at a really low cost or if you are very lucky, you might have a local shop which sells authentic decorations and other items. You can create a simple provocation or curiosity area using cymbals, decorations, lights, lanterns, toys and fabrics, even if you have a low budget. For younger children, there are some lovely books which you can add to your provision to make it easier for them to begin to understand. These can be added to your continuous provision after the holiday period to ensure children keep revisiting it and to ensure it does not become a one-off event which can lose meaning.

To find out more, visit @MrsAEYFS on Twitter and Instagram for Lisa’s EYFS setting and @tufftraysathome on Instagram to see her home learning activities.

If you try any of the ideas above, please tag True Education Partnerships and @MrsAEYFS in your photographs and we will share them.


Lisa Atkinson

Lisa has been an Early Years Specialist Teacher for 10 years and she works in a Primary School in Yorkshire.

She has recently taken on the role of RE lead in her school and she is working with her team to evaluate and improve the cultural diversity of their environment.

Lisa is also Mum to a two-year-old girl and she enjoys providing learning experiences in her home environment too.

Follow Lisa on Twitter – @MrsAEYFS.

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