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Diverse world

Access expert advice on how to reflect diversity of age, culture, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation in early years.

Why diverse world is important

Diversity describes differences in age, culture, family structures, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Understanding of a diverse world also includes understanding technological and ecological diversity.

There’s diversity in all communities. The more experience children have of being out and about in their community the more they are able to understand their community and make a contribution.

Having an idea of who they are as a child, within a family, leads naturally to being curious about everyone else. Starting in a setting or belonging to a childminder’s family, children begin to sense other relationships outside their own family.

From an early age children have formed attitudes towards children different from themselves. Support children to be curious about people around them, to see and understand similarities and differences. In this way children will be curious and respectful about others and become a positive member of a diverse world.

Children need to be able to form positive relationships, especially with other people who do things differently to themselves and their family. Children’s natural curiosity needs to be nurtured, nourished and extended to include their friends in the setting.

The diverse world should be integral to everyday practice, as well as the celebrations of religious days, visitors and visits. Make sure your setting reflects the diverse world. For example, you can look at musical instruments you have and find out where they originate from. In this way knowledge is built up that can be used incidentally with the children.

Developing a child’s understanding of a diverse world builds their knowledge of the world, about families, seasons and days of the week, places, days gone by, natural habitats and the built environment. Their knowledge of the world is enriched with non-fiction and story books and a growing repertoire of songs, rhymes and poetry.

Over time children become aware of the impact people have on the environment. Examples include understanding that it is important to care for small creatures, not to drop litter, the value of growing your own food, to reuse, recycle, reduce and repurpose.

Young children learn that they can make informed choices and selections. This helps them to engage in the world in a positive way. To further enrich the child’s knowledge and sense of the world, help them to learn about the natural and built environments around them. Talk to young children about ecological diversity in terms of differences and similarities in:

  • animal habitats, including sea life, birds and minibeasts
  • weather
  • the seasons
  • the countryside such as farms, fields, woods, moorland and seaside
  • urban areas including towns and cities
  • places in the world, such as, forest, woodland, desert, jungle and oceans
  • built environments, types of buildings, different homes, roads and waterways

Diversity in technology can be defined in different ways, think about who has access to technological devices at home and in the setting. It’s important to make sure all children are supported to become more technologically aware in the world around them. Talk about what is used in the home, in shops, including the use of mobile phones, tablets and computers.

The focus in the early years is on active learning, however, if children have no or little access to technological devices at home, it’s important to include provision in the setting for them. Children love to be involved in audio and video recording and taking photographs. Young children start to learn how to keep themselves safe, so always ask children if they are okay with having their photographs taken. They will learn to ask permission of others.


In this video, an early years expert explains the importance of the diverse world in the early years foundation stage framework. There are also some tips on how to support children in this area.

What the EYFS framework says

Listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains.

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage, page 9, childminder EYFS, page 10, group and school-based EYFS.

What this means in practice

When you’re confident in your own principles and values around diversity, you can ask genuine questions about families who are different to your own. In this way you’re demonstrating to the children and their families that everyone needs to have a genuine interest in others. Your interests may be about a parent or carer’s job, or a specialist skill, or heritage. If a child lives between 2 different homes, offer support to both parents or carers.

Recognise that one community that is represented, for example, by one religion is a complex entity. Not everyone in one community acts the same. Therefore, making an assumption about a person because of their difference is unhealthy.

Having people visit, or going out on trips helps develop yours and the children’s ideas about the diverse world. Both need to be planned carefully. Consider the relevance of ecological diversity (natural and made environments) and technological diversity (seeing examples of technology in the environment) when planning visits.

Children, including babies, benefit from visitors. When professionals visit regularly, such as police officers, fire fighters, doctors or nurses, they become familiar people to the children. Children gain confidence to ask questions and listen actively.

Suggested activities

A Diwali celebration

Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated by Hindu, Sikh, Jain and some Buddhist communities. Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist families participate in the 5 day festival during the autumn, check online calendars for dates each year.

It’s important in settings where the Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities are not represented to celebrate Diwali because of its significance in Britain’s diverse cultures. When an event is not a direct experience for most of the children, it needs to be made as real and meaningful as possible by you.

Families celebrating Diwali will be creating Rangoli Patterns on their doorsteps, using chalk, exchanging gifts and Diwali cards, and eating specially prepared food. There are street lights, lighting Diva lights at home, as well as fireworks.

In your setting or childminder’s home, enrich the environment to reflect elements of the Diwali festival, for example:

  • watch and play alongside the children and provide them with more information about the Diwali festival
  • use images and short films available from BBC Bitesize and CBeebies
  • have a selection of information and story books available, accessible to the children and read to them when they show an interest, simplifying the text if necessary

Inform the children’s families of the 5 day long Diwali festival. They may have resources they can bring in such as, Indian artefacts like puppets, elephant ornaments or clothing.

You may want to hold back some parts of the activity like the cooking, until maybe, day 3 or 4.

On day 5, have a Diwali celebration, play Indian music, eat Indian food and provide music for dancing inside and out.

A popular Indian dance is the dance with sticks or Ludi. Show the children a film of a Ludi dance, readily available on YouTube. Children will enjoy making up their own Ludi dance. Check with the parents to see if anyone could demonstrate the dance for you. Note that the Ludi Dance is also performed at the Muslim Eid (Eid ul fitr and Eid ul adha) and wedding celebrations.

For a child to have their family’s religious festival recognised is deeply personal and enriching. For children who are unfamiliar with Diwali their social understanding is developed, knowing what happens for other children (personal, social and emotional development). The Diwali celebrations will stimulate interaction between adults and children (communication and language). Opportunities for children to manipulate different materials like clay, paint, paper, scissors, will develop their fine motor skills, which contributes to later mark making and writing. physical development and literacy.

Visit to a local supermarket or corner shop

Family life has changed dramatically, and some children will not have experienced shopping at all. Local supermarkets, whether they are the equivalent to a ‘corner shop’ or are on a larger scale, offer a range of possibilities for supporting children’s understanding of diverse worlds. There are opportunities to develop children’s understanding of cultural, social, technological and ecological diversity.

The more frequently these visits are planned the more children will understand what it means to go shopping. Shopping with the family is a different experience and the children will benefit from you talking them through the experience.

Before the visit:

  • formally arrange the visit so that you are expected
  • plan to take as small group as is possible and visit several times, rather than trying to take everyone at once
  • visit the shop, with a colleague, before you take the children so that you know what to expect
  • inform the shop manager or owner that the children are very young and let them know if the group includes babies
  • complete a risk assessment and share it with every adult who is going on the visit
  • try to anticipate what might happen so that you are well prepared
  • take a first aid kit, as you would do for all walks outside of your setting or childminder home
  • if you need to travel on public transport, make this a part of the visit, it will offer much to support the diverse world and many other aspects of a child’s learning and development
  • make a shopping list with the children, make it purposeful, for example:
    • a range of fruits (maybe the fruits for Handa’s Surprise)
    • a selection of vegetables (the vegetables for Oliver’s Vegetables)
    • cooking ingredients, for example for dough, a birthday cake, daal, soup, a favourite family recipe
  • if you are visiting a supermarket it may be best to visit just one section

On the way to the shop or supermarket, listen to the children and respond to any of their questions, concerns, needs. On arrival, explain to the children that this is potentially a busy place and so we need to be aware of everyone around us.

Some supermarkets provide child-sized trollies to use if you can.

Support all the children to be actively involved and have a role. Who is going to look after the shopping list and tick off each item? (Have a mini-sized clipboard), who is going to take items off the shelf? Who is going to look after the money?

Show the children where machines and devices are used. Give time for the children to observe while you describe what is happening. For example, when looking at the weighing scales in the fruit and vegetable section, ask, ‘I wonder what this machine is for?’

Note the countries of origin. Some older children may have travelled abroad and can recall the experience. If they have been to Spain, it is likely that there will be fruit imported from Spain. If they or their family members have visited the Caribbean, show them the sweet potatoes. You could buy different types of potatoes to explore back at the setting.

If they or their relatives have been to either the Caribbean, Hong Kong, China, Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, show them coriander, chillies, ginger, garlic, aubergines and okra and rice, ingredients for Chinese cookery. You could cook a stir fry back at the setting.

With older children, think about how far the food has been transported to reach the supermarket. How has the food been transported? When returning to the setting see how many different trucks can be spotted that are transporting foodstuffs. These discussions will deepen children’s ecological awareness of the impact of food transport on the environment.

Take photographs of the children.

For some children, the shop or supermarket will be familiar to them. Let them tell their story and show others around.

You will know when the children are ready to leave and walk back to the setting or childminder’s home.

A supermarket visit could also have a science focus. Focus on how food is grown. Purchase onions, garlic and ginger to find how long before green shoots appear and then they can be planted either in the setting garden or in indoor pots. Root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots also sprout when left.

Buy the ingredients for tactile play and kitchen science experiments, such as cream of tartar, baking soda and vinegar, ingredients for bread or cream for making butter.

Explore different packaging and look at the materials used, are they fit for purpose?

Buy white flowers to take back to the setting and add ink to the water to observe the water move through their stems, the capillary action.

Go to the fish counter and choose a fish for the children to examine closely back in the setting. This needs to be done with the guidance of an adult. Children could learn to name the parts of the fish and experience touching the scales.

Visits out of the setting or the childminder’s home offer rich opportunities for develop children’s talking and listening (communication and language). Visits are physically demanding for very young children, using their whole bodies to walk, get onto and off a bus or train and building their stamina (physical development). Young children may be familiar with self-check-out and the use of cards to pay (expressive arts and design). Having real money will be a new experience for many children (mathematics).

Other activities

Over the period of a year, plan for as many different visitors as possible to come into the setting, but also for the children to visit their place of work.

Visits to cafes that offer foods from different parts of the world.

Invite performers into the setting who sing and play music from around the world (make sure you carry out the appropriate checks).

Ideas for how to bring cultural diversity into the early years.

What other nurseries and childminders are doing

“Everyone knows us in the community because we are out there going for walks, throughout the year. It’s good for the children and it’s good for the outside world to see them.”

Julie, childminder, Ilkley

“We ask families for some holiday photographs, which we print off, laminate and use as a resource. These resources spark lots of talk between the adult and children as well as between the children themselves.”

Cathey, Nursery Manager, London

“This Christmas we asked every family to bring one tree ornament for the Christmas tree. It was wonderful. We had decorations from all over the world and every child knew which one was theirs.”

Mandy, Naturally Learning, Truro


  • Diversity describes differences in age, culture, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation.
  • In Britain, there is diversity in all local communities.
  • From a very early age children have formulated attitudes towards other children and families different from their own.
  • Make sure your setting reflects the diversity in Britain and includes frequent visits out into the community and welcomes visitors into the setting.
  • Making sure that adults in the setting respect diversity supports children to develop their understanding of a diverse world.
  • A child’s understanding of diversity in the world develops as they learn about the natural and built environments around them, as well as what they learn about the wider world.
  • Children need to be supported to become technologically aware in the setting and on visits. They need to learn to keep themselves safe.

Next steps

  • Think about your knowledge and understanding of the diverse world. Consider where you are most confident and where you know your knowledge is less secure. Research these areas.
  • Consider if your setting reflects a diverse world. Check your resources for diversity. For example, do dolls and small world figures reflect the diverse world.
  • Try singing songs in different languages. Set yourself the challenge of learning a ‘hello’ song in as many different languages as possible.
  • Check your books to make sure they reflect a diverse world. Identify any gaps and start to fill these. Include self-made books that reflect the diversity of the local community.
  • Plan some visits over the year, to make sure there is a variety as well as going back to places that are popular with the children.
  • Review your curriculum to ensure you cover the requirements in the EYFS for this area of learning.