ICDI is happy to share the ‘Toolkit on inclusive community-based ECEC’, a new resource for practitioners in any non-formal setting for children 0-8 years old interested in strengthening inclusive education. With this Toolkit, practitioners will be able to promote play-based activities that are suitable for all children, organise the play and learning environment and groups relationships in an inclusive way, and work with caregivers in a respectful and effective way.
At the beginning of 2021, ICDI conducted a research study (Kernan and Cortellesi, 2021) together with Škola dokorán, ICDI’s longstanding partner and national coordinator of the TOY for Inclusion programme in Slovakia. The programme runs Play Hubs, which are non-formal and non‑targeted high‑quality inclusive ECEC spaces. In them, children and families are welcomed to play, meet and take part in creative and social activities. They bring together children under eight and their families, especially Roma, migrant and socially disadvantaged families. The Play Hubs organise play-based activities designed to support creativity, increase confidence and develop social and verbal skills, all of which help to prepare children for formal education. The study was conducted in two Play Hubs in Slovakia, one in Spišský Hrhov and Roškovce, it revealed a need to support inclusive non-formal education by enhancing the already prominent role of the local Play Hubs and their staff.
Children with disabilities may encounter various barriers to play. The lack of policies supporting active play and the non-prioritization of play in educational settings make the possibilities for them very scarce. Play often occupies a secondary role when compared to educational or therapeutic activities. Furthermore, children with disabilities may face greater barriers to accessing high-quality educational settings, due to the lack of accessible play areas and toys.
Inclusive education requires the use of varied strategies and techniques to ensure equal participation of all children to advance their development. Due to its nature and qualities, play forms part of flexible, child-centred and participatory/experiential educational strategies for celebrating diversity in education. Therefore, the challenge for practitioners is to design comprehensive teaching practices that can create opportunities for children to boost their agency, curiosity, and enjoyment. This way, teaching would support meaningful learning and child well-being.
This Toolkit addresses this need and hopes to increase access to materials with a child-centred approach for Play Hub staff and teachers. The Toolkit also provides easy-to-use and easy-to-adapt materials that practitioners can use in educational settings.
The Toolkit is divided into two main documents. First, the Handbook of inclusive community-based ECEC, which has four chapters. The first chapter introduces the concept of playful learning and provides knowledge on how to organise the physical environment for inclusive activities. The second chapter focuses on strengthening cooperation between the home, schools and other services. The third chapter emphasises how to support parents through guided activities and how to engage fathers. The last chapter offers guidelines for practitioners on how to deal with domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, in case they face these issues.
Additionally, the Toolkit includes more than 30 Activity Cards to be used by practitioners in the Play Hubs and any other non-formal service to promote inclusive formal and non-formal education with young children (0-8 years old) and their parents, paying special attention to children with disabilities and special needs.
The Handbook can be downloaded for free in English at the ICDI website. Translations in Ukrainian and other languages will be available and shared with the general public soon.