“You can sit here if you want.”
“I like your headband.”
“Your handwriting is really nice.”
These welcoming phrases are just some of the ways young children make other children feel accepted, seen, and appreciated. Knowing that they have a place in the room amongst their peers does wonders for their self-confidence, emotional security and overall behavior.
A welcoming environment is far more conducive to learning than one where a child feels invisible or ostracized. Plus, it creates a foundation for children to develop emotional maturity, understanding, and acceptance as they grow older.
Social Emotional Learning was at the heart of our brainstorming sessions when we created our You Belong Campaign in 2021. Amidst the unnerving and unending pandemic, You Belong was a stepping stone towards unity for us as not only as a brand but as a community dedicated to the education and emotional well-being of young children around the world.
This year, our mission of inclusivity grows ever more important.
You Belong is an important message that encompasses the values of the Miniland brand and all who support it: the Children who Play, the Teachers who Teach, the Parents who Guide, and the stores who work with us. The initiative is centered on our core values of inclusion, tolerance, empathy, collaboration and acceptance.
At the heart of You Belong are core statements that can be easily incorporated into your classroom mottos:
Whoever you are, whatever you look like, wherever you’re from: with Miniland:
All are Welcome. All are Accepted. All are Included.
All are Respected and treated with Kindness.
To continue to support you as the invaluable educator you are, and to show our appreciation for the lengths you go to every single day to make each child feel accepted and seen, we are sharing important information (and giveaways!) with you throughout the months of April and May to celebrate our 2022 You Belong initiative.
We will be sharing:
Tips: Hosting Guest Educators to share their tips on creating a more inclusive classroom environment, as well as their top Miniland picks.
Acceptance & Inclusion: Collaborating with select educators to help inspire creative ways to help make your students feel accepted and included.
Giveaways: Sponsoring MAJOR Giveaways to honor Teachers like you who are doing incredible things to foster inclusivity and acceptance in the classroom.
To kick off You Belong, here are our tried and true Inclusive Classroom Tips:
1.Perform a Diversity Audit: Before you tear down your posters and start packing things away, make a list of what you see and don’t see in your classroom. A simple walk around your room or inventory check on your virtual desk to jot down which cultures, identities, ethnicities and positive messages you have represented through your décor, bookshelf and materials will help you identify how well you’re doing in representation. Are you showing various ethnicities in your materials, toys and games? Do you have any examples of messages for the differently abled? If you’re comfortable, you could even ask a friend to come and join you and make notes themselves. Sometimes it helps to have another set of fresh eyes to take stock.
2. Review your Curriculum: Take a look at what you’ve taught your students this year, and see how can you improve upon topics of inclusivity into your curriculum next year.
One of the best ways to teach inclusivity, acceptance and kindness is through a strong dose of Social Emotional Learning. Combine physical play with corresponding online components, like our Teach & Play resources. By providing direction on assignments and lessons that encourage students to celebrate their identities and learn more about the identities of their classmates, you’re creating an open forum where students feel seen, safe and appreciated.
3. Start each day with a POSITIVE Message: During your Morning Meetings, include topics that focus on positive interactions and respectful representation. You can discuss topics like:
- Kindness Counts: “I want us all to wave our hands in the air for Alex and Molly this morning! Yesterday, Molly helped Alex pick up his pencils after they fell out of his pencil box, and Alex said thank you! It is so important and special to help people when you can. It can be a little thing or a big thing, and the best part is, it will make someone’s whole day!”
- Compliment Time: “Let’s go around the circle and say something nice about the person sitting next to our right side. Joey, you can start us off by saying something nice about Emily!”
- Families: “Do you know what is so special about all of us? We all look different, act different, and have different families. Isn’t that great? Let’s take some time this morning to celebrate what each of our families look like. Let’s break up into three groups and play with our Family Diversity Blocks to make up our very own families. At the end, I’d like each of you to tell us all about your special family!”
4. Honor Special Days & Holidays: We all know how fun it is to celebrate “themed” days both nationally and internationally . It seems as though there is a day for everything! From World Autism Awareness Day to Mexican Independence Day, there is literally a day to celebrate anything you can imagine. Celebrations are a great way to educate and stimulate positive thoughts about cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities. You can celebrate and discuss the history and background of ethnically diverse days to your students by playing games from the specific culture you’re celebrating or learning about the types of foods that culture eats.
5. LISTEN and think before YOU speak: Though your students might think the opposite, teachers don’t always have all the answers (shh!). Take the time to educate yourself by listening, to yourself and to others. Ask yourself if you have any cultural biases. If you have any preset or engrained attitudes towards any type of group or person. The work starts with you. Use this as an opportunity to listen to the little ones in your classroom. Give them a voice and show them you hear them. You have the power to affect change for generations to come by setting an example.
Beyond the exciting Giveaways and valuable information, we hope You Belong resonates with you as you embark on another year of opportunity to make a difference in your students’ lives.