Reflections of a practitioner
I have used roleplay successfully both in a setting with very few children from minority ethnic backgrounds and in a more mixed setting.
The first time I used the approach was in a school where there were very few children from minority ethnic backgrounds. Our learning theme was around celebrations and we were looking at the Hindu festival of Diwali. I suggested we made the roleplay area into a Hindu child’s home. I began by taking the Foundation Stage children in small groups and reading a story about a Hindu child preparing for Diwali.
We then went into role to visit the Hindu child’s house to help prepare for Diwali. We prepared food, using the play food resources, talking about the ingredients we would use and those we would not use because a Hindu family wouldn’t eat them. We roleplayed Puja, including feeding the Goddess Lakshmi before feeding ourselves. Then we left the house and ‘came back’ into the setting by saying our own names.
This procedure was repeated with each group of children. Once all the children had experienced this supported play, I withdrew and observed from a distance, ready to step in if necessary. I observed a Foundation One child who had always seemed very quiet and unsure about new experiences, working on her own in the roleplay area.
She prepared food, looking at each ingredient and adding only some to her bowl, observing the dietary rules we had discussed and then fed Lakshmi before feeding herself.
The next time I used the approach was in a school with a higher proportion of children from minority ethnic backgrounds and this time it was linked to an exploration of the Eid festival. In this setting I had the benefit of a bilingual TA who is herself a practising Muslim and before carrying out the activity we discussed it fully, in order to ensure I did not unwittingly do anything to cause offence.
Again I began by reading a story, this time about a Muslim child celebrating Eid. We had 3 Muslim children in the setting at the time and they responded well to this recognition of their experience. I found some simplified quotations from the Qur’an to make a book for the children, which was placed in the roleplay area along with a range of other resources to make a Muslim home.
Once again I worked with each child in the roleplay area, ensuring they understood the importance of where the Special Book was placed. Observing the children in play showed that they were able to recall and to demonstrate respect for this Special Book.