The Human Family

I was having a conversation with a coworker recently about supporting children who come from different family configurations. I told him that I really enjoyed using multicultural play sets, or block people, to allow the child the opportunity to build a model of his own family in dramatic play. Even though many of the play people produced commercially come in racial family compositions, I like to get them all and allow the child to mix and match and create her family as close as she can. The make-up of the American family in 2009 has no one model. Families may have a father and mother, bi-racial members, single-parent households, gay parents, grandparents, foster parents, and the list could go on. Our job as early childhood educators is to validate and support every child in our care. Regardless of our own background or value system, we must realize that the child is the most important part of our classroom. Our support and validation is critical to help the child become well-adjusted and resilient.


9 responses

  1. Thank you for recognizing this really important issue! As a marriage and family therapist who has worked extensively with children in foster care, as well as a member of a family with gay parents, I applaud your awareness and sensitivity and wished every teacher shared it! Even children in divorced families (let alone those in foster and/or gay families) come home in tears after the painfully unaware teacher uses a standard "family tree" project template.

  2. I absolutely love this idea. It is interesting to me how narrow minded I found myself being as I read this idea. I might have thought of using clay models of the child's own race but I love how you include all varieties for the child to choose for herself. There is such a variety of families that it is important for those who work with children to make sure that all children feel accepted. No child should ever feel that her family is excluded.Jennifer W.TL 1010

  3. I love the idea of using the family figures for children to make up their own configurations! Obviously everyone has loved this as they are sold out at Discount School Supply. I'd really like to get two sets of each to use with my college course on families.

  4. I am so glad more educators are finally realizing that there are some many different family make-ups in our society. We have recently purchased several sets of multicultural people for preschool. I love to watch the children play with the people and put all the different sets together in their play. We have also implemented using multicultural learning programs on our computers in the classroom.

  5. So often people get wrapped up in families. They look at the home life instead of focusing on the child. Children come from so many backgrounds and cultures we need to focus on them first. The childs culture and background is attributes and influence its not the child. I like your idea about using the block people for dramatic play.

  6. I think this is a great idea. Children need to learn that they are exactly as they should be from a young age. The last thing children need now is criticism for having a "different" family. The American Dream has changed, and there's nothing wrong with that. –Lauren Beatty: ICAL extra credit

  7. I really like this because children come from so many different backgrounds involving all the criteria you mentioned. At rowland hall one of the classrooms had a lot of play dolls. Many of them were of different racial backgrounds. Some of them were grouped with each member of the family as a different race. I was impressed by that and liked the idea which is why I commented on this post. Children need to learn how to adapt and understand different living situations from their own and know how to respect and accept them. -Catie Blaine. (Teaching and learning ex.cred.)

  8. I found some really neat new wooden picture puzzles that show multi ethnic families in "positive interactions." they've been a big hit in my class to spark discussion on family configurations. here's the link:

  9. Thanks for the link. After visiting a day care that has these figures, I've been trying to find a place that sells them.

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