How to explain inclusion to children

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How to explain inclusion to children

We are all different and children soon realize this. The other is not like me in all respects, yet knowing how to be together and not excluding anyone is an essential lesson for life.


  • What is inclusion for children
  • How to educate for inclusion in the family
  • How to teach inclusion to kindergarten and primary school children
  • How to explain inclusion to middle school children

What is inclusion for children

"Education to respect others begins when children begin to observe the behaviors of people close to them at home and outside the home" begins the expert. Here's what it means to educate for inclusion according to age groups:

  • Nursery. Very young children do not perceive diversity as a problem so much and tend to focus on the things they have in common. This does not mean that the theme of inclusion does not arise, on the contrary: "It is more generally the presence of the other in oneself (and not specifically of the different) that challenges them: inclusion at this age is starting to integrate the other from me in a horizon that is very self-reported ».
  • Primary school. Negotiation and good coexistence with peers is an educational goal that accompanies the whole kindergarten, which works on the definition of common rules, spaces and games. «Children must first know their own inner world and then that others also exist, each with its own emotions and forms of behavior. And these emotions sometimes match, sometimes they are different or even opposite to their own ".
  • Elementary School. In primary school, this preparatory training for adult life and more sophisticated forms of inclusion (for example with respect to differences in nationality and political or religious beliefs) is strengthened: "Up to elementary school children rely on teachers and educators in the growth process and accept with less critical sense the rule of inclusion ".
  • Middle and high schools. At lower secondary school, on the other hand, awareness of the differences between themselves and others increases: "Children are beginning to recognize diversity more and more and this is where the strings of previous work are drawn: inclusion is no longer a dictate to follow but something that must be part of the way of being of the boys ".
Read also: Montessori, 5 tips to encourage inclusion in multicultural contexts

How to educate for inclusion in the family

The family is especially essential for the emotional development of the child, which begins in the very first months of life.

  • Train their empathy. Talk about your emotions to convey that they too are free to do so with you, and that you will take seriously what they say and feel. «The classic evening communication is perfect for exchanging the emotions and feelings of the day. "What do you think Mom did at work?"; "Today I had a fight with a colleague" is an excellent exercise because it is a very practical way to show the communication of feelings and to get out of their self-referenced point of view, thus training their empathy ».
  • Don't be afraid of negative emotions. It is therefore at home that one learns to include all emotions within oneself, without being afraid of negative emotions such as sadness, disappointment and frustration that often block parents more than their children: «Do not live them with anxiety and do not let them avoid them. The goal is to make your child understand that all the emotions he feels are fine, all parts of himself are fine. Entering into relationships with others in an open and tolerant way will thus be easier ».
  • Don't sweeten fairy tales. Integrating even tiring emotions into oneself is an excellent step and fairy tales have the function of bringing children in the right way even to the most difficult and "rough" parts of life. "Use fairy tales, especially the classic ones, without sparing the hardest parts of the children: each of us has a bad part that must not be removed from the mind and ignored".
  • Don't throw away broken toys. «For a child, a broken toy is never to be thrown away, but it becomes something else and they often take even greater care of it: therefore you too do not throw them away, indeed try to treat them with greater attention. For the little ones it is the best way to accept all forms of diversity ».
  • Donate toys with them. Also educate them to give something of their own. «Let them choose some toys to give as gifts, why they choose it and to whom they would like to give them. Choose a few games and accompany them along the way, explaining to them who they will go to: this is a way of integrating the existence of other people into their thoughts, without having direct experience of it ".
Read also: How to educate children for diversity

How to teach inclusion to kindergarten and primary school children

  1. Explain things truthfully. Children observe a lot and immediately recognize diversity, which is something that deviates from their own subjective norm. «Already someone with glasses is different and the question" Why? "Arises spontaneously in them. To these questions, do not get defensive and do not judge it as discriminatory: children ask to know, out of curiosity, without value judgments. Also use metaphors like "Nature makes colorful flowers differently and meadows are more beautiful. It is the same with people." The children register the difference, elaborate it and go on calmly ».
  2. Work in heterogeneous groups. Mix age, gender and ethnicity to do group work in which everyone is valued for their contribution. And don't keep groups fixed.
  3. Use food. The meeting between different cultures and ethnic groups takes place through food, a need and a pleasure that unites all men and women. "Tasting different foods, appreciating their flavor and also the care that each one has put into preparing them for the others is a splendid metaphor of welcome".
  4. Books and fairy tales. Read fairy tales from different literatures and enrich the corner of books in the classroom and at home. “It is easy to find differences and similar elements in these writings. I also suggest reading de for elementary school "The wolf's gaze" by Giancarlo Ferron (ed. Biblioteca dell'Immagine, 2022) ".
  5. The spontaneous game. All games that have predefined rules help, because children tend to exclude each other, not wait their turn or get in line. "Spontaneous play, however, is just as important, because self-regulation is necessary: ​​children are forced to work independently, without direction from outside".
  6. Classmates who struggle harder do not slow down the class. Let's dispel the myth that foreign pupils with little knowledge of the language or peers with learning disabilities slow down the class schedule: "It is a misconception that parents often fall into, but in reality studies show that peer education is effective : children, if called to help a companion, learn themselves much better and acquire greater ability to re-elaborate concepts and explain them. A child is much more interested if he interacts with a peer. This is why, all the more reason, the person to be literate should not be treated as a problem but as an element to be integrated in order to work together ".
  7. Invite comrades home. All children have preferences and we must not insist that they be friends with everyone, but "let us urge them to have a certain openness in inviting them home, in doing so we foster an attitude of welcome towards others".
Read also: How to give rules to children

How to explain inclusion to middle school children

  1. Beware of language. Lower secondary school is a stage towards a greater knowledge of the world and of social dynamics, which is why it is important to focus on the language used: «At this age, language becomes more explicit and the tendency to comment increases. Educate them to avoid discriminatory ways of expressing themselves and make them understand what weight words can have ».
  2. Point out the consequences of the actions. The ability to put themselves in the shoes of others is a slow process: «From the age of 11, children begin to understand what others feel, but this still does not make them able to censor themselves and change their behavior according to this greater empathy: they understand, for example, that a boy is upset in the face of an offense but they make fun of him anyway. Work on this ability to transform their perception into concrete action ».
  3. Books on inclusion. Having kids read sharpens their thoughts by making them more complex. “It is easier to talk about oneself from books or films. I recommend Italo Calvino's trilogy "The Half Viscount", "The Rampant Baron" and "The Non-existent Knight" and Fredric Brown's science fiction story "Sentinel".
  4. Film about inclusion. "In addition to" Wonder "I recommend" Jojo Rabbit "which talks about inclusion and discrimination, but also the TV series" Stranger Things ", which talks about different worlds: science fiction is a way to discuss it in an unconventional way, because it deals with the in an affordable way and sets the stories in an indefinite place that makes us lower our defenses thus making us more receptive ».

The interviewee

Elena Bear he is Pedagogist of the Studio Rossini Urso (together with colleague Elisabetta Rossini). She is the author of numerous books dedicated to parenting, including "Parents must be reliable, not perfect" (Edicart Editions, 2022) and "Dudù and the magic torch" (Edicart Editions, 2022). All their books can be found at this link. On March 8, 2022 they will be speakers at the online event "The talent of women" organized by the municipality of our city.

  • children education
  • inclusive teaching
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