If a statistic could be found representing the number of early childhood services that name their rooms after Australian animals it would be included here, but unfortunately the data doesn’t exist. In my experience I would estimate it would be high—around 80 per cent, at least. Often there are online posts in early childhood forums asking for advice on this decision and the typical response is to point people in this common direction. However, in early childhood there is a consistent theme throughout our research, ideas and practice: promoting a positive self-identity in young children. The Early Years Learning Framework’s (DEEWR, 2009) Outcome 1 is ‘Children have a strong sense of identity’ (p. 20). It is something we should be embedding into our culture at any early childhood service. Another practice which is frequently discussed with great importance is ‘intentionality’. One has to question whether rooms named after animals is a decision that has stemmed from deep thought in regards to children’s developing self-identity.
KidsMatter Early Childhood (2014, p. 8) recognise that ‘a child’s first few years of life are crucial in developing a sense of identity’. Yet how often does one walk in to an early childhood service only to hear an educator call out ‘Come on Emus’. It happens all the time, and it is a natural instinct which is difficult to avoid. We recognise the importance of calling children children not kids because a kid is a baby goat. So why is it acceptable to call a group of children by their room name which, in most cases is an animal? Additionally, is there any relevance in those children’s lives to these animals? In most cases, there probably isn’t. So how do these stereotypical names support a strong sense of identity in children?
Room names, like any other decision we make in early childhood should resonate with intentional thinking. Avoiding room names that encourage educators to address children as something which they are not is paramount. In order to create a strong self-identity, children need to connect with their world in a meaningful way. Bringing their local culture into the service environment is one way of doing this. We can also create a sense of belonging by collaborating with families. Selecting room names for your service can be an opportunity to do both. Ask the parents and any other stakeholders for their input—collaboration will ensure a meaningful decision is reached. Further to this, suggest bringing the local culture into the service and wait for the ideas to pour in—people are often quite connected with the area in which they live and will feel engaged with a process that represents this. However we choose to make this decision, the point is that we should do so with intention. Young children are constantly making connections and developing their understanding of the world, so it is important we support this process as thoughtfully as possible.
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.
KidsMatter Early Childhood. (2014). Connections with the National Quality Framework: Developing children’s social and emotional skills. Canberra, ACT: KidsMatter Early Childhood.