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Exploring the unique diversity of ‘family’

May 15, 2023
4 minute read

Every child’s family is unique and different in its own way.

For the children in your setting, ‘family’ can mean anything from the people they live with, extended family such as grandparents, their nursery family, or even the community they live in. All these ‘families’ have a crucial role to play in developing and creating the person a child grows up to be.

In your setting you will have children from a multitude of backgrounds and types of families, and it is therefore important to celebrate that every family is unique and special. Exploration of the topic ‘My Family’ helps a child to understand their own identity.

Your team will also be from different backgrounds and will also view what a family is, in different ways. It is important that your team do not impose their ideas of family onto the children, and do not make assumptions when talking to the children about their family. Open ended questions, giving children time to think and express their thoughts and feelings, and safe, non-judgemental support from the adults and their peers, are essential. To ensure this, it is helpful for your team to know the backgrounds of their key children in advance of the topic, and to share this sensitively with the rest of the team.

So how do we explore the diverseness of families in our nursery?

My Family Box

An effective topic starter is to ask your children to fill an empty shoe box with photos and items from home that hold significance to them and their family. The children can decorate their box with their name and drawings in any way they choose to represent themselves.  These can either be shared individually with their key person or in small groups. This is a lovely activity for children who are not yet settled into nursery, shy children, or children who have limited English or are working on their talking skills. In small groups, children can also develop their speaking, listening and conversation skills.

Small World and Role Play

A focus on these areas of provision is a natural way to open conversations about family and explore different family dynamics. Observing the different roles children take, the type of play they engage in and the language they use, will all reflect their experiences of family life. It is important in these situations that adults take a step back and follow the children’s lead and their interests in these areas.


Cut out blank templates of people and have them available for children to draw, stick and paint on, to create the people who they consider to be family. This would make a fantastic display in your nursery; creating a talking point and helping to develop relationships with the parents and carers of the children who see it on arrival or collection.


Books always add depth and value to any topic for children, but they are very important in this topic to explore the diversity of families beyond your setting. Sharing books during group times, individually, or having them available for children to look at independently, will help them to recognise that all families are different. They might even recognise themselves and their family in the book, thus reaffirming their sense of self.

Sense of self

To help children to understand their own identity, you could make a book about your nursery family. Include a picture of each of the adults who work at the setting and a self-portrait or photo of each of the children. This could be displayed at child height, so that they can access it independently and enjoy looking at all the familiar faces together.

And finally, don’t forget pets, they are often a crucial part of family life! Maybe they could bring you a picture of their pet to show you if they have one. Who knows this could even spark a new topic idea for interested children!

How do you celebrate the diversity of families in your setting? We’d love to hear your ideas! And while we are talking about diversity, you might enjoy our blog Celebrating faith in the early years.

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