Culturally Sensitive Child Care

 by Janice Barnett, Infant/Toddler Specialist

Culture is the fundamental building block of identity. Through cultural learning, children gain a feeling of belonging, a sense of personal history, and a security in knowing who they are and where they come from. A child’s family background shapes early cultural experiences. Families hand down beliefs, attitudes, and ways of acting. These rules for living come from one’s ethnic, regional, and religious heritage. Although the many cultures of the world evolve and change over time, each one passes down to its children recognizable and meaningful rules for living.

The following are keys to providing culturally sensitive child care:

  • Provide Cultural Consistency

Child care should be in harmony with what goes on at home. The child will sense the connection between child care and home and feel secure.

  • Work Toward Representative Staffing

Try to employ caregivers who are of the same culture and who speak the same language as the children served.

  • Create Small Groups

With small groups, caregivers have a manageable number of cultures to relate to and will have the time to truly know the family.

  • Use The Home Language

Using the home language strengthens the connection between home and child care and supports the child’s identity with his or her home language. If this is not possible, caregivers need to be extra sensitive in order to respond appropriately to children’s messages. All information should be translated into the family’s language and an interpreter should be available to ensure ongoing communication.

  • Make Environment Relevant

The environment and materials of the child care program should reflect the children and their cultures.

  • Uncover Your Cultural Beliefs

By exploring your own background, you can see the roots of some of your child care practices.

  • Be Open To The Perspectives Of Others

Quality child care can be done in more than one way.

  • Seek Out Cultural and Family Information

You do not need to be experts in all cultures but you do need to be knowledgeable in the culture of the family you are serving.

  • Clarify Values

Communication is essential.

  • Negotiate Cultural Conflicts

Listen and come to an agreement that takes both people’s values into consideration.


*Information provided by the West Ed Center for Children and Families and California Department of Education.