Engaging Children in Around the World Play


Children are absorbing culture, customs and practices from birth, and incorporating this into their play. From songs and music to role playing, making food and dress-ups, they’re led by their curiosity and making connections to the world they see around them. So how can educators and parents help them learn about their own and other cultures through play?


Children learn to develop their curiosity and make connections with the world around them. In particular, cultural exploration plays a significant role in shaping young minds and fostering a deep appreciation for diversity. Exposure to diverse cultures nurtures empathy and broadens worldviews. When children are exposed to different customs, traditions, and ways of life, they begin to understand that there are countless perspectives and ways of being in the world. This exposure helps them develop empathy as they learn to appreciate and respect the differences they encounter. By interacting with individuals from various backgrounds, children learn to navigate cultural differences, communicate effectively, and form meaningful connections. These skills are invaluable as they grow older and interact with people from diverse cultures in their personal and professional lives.


Learning about other cultures can also help children by:

  1. Promoting Cultural Awareness: Engaging in cultural play exposes children to various customs, traditions, and languages from different parts of the world. It helps them develop an understanding and respect for different cultures, promoting inclusivity and tolerance.

  1. Enhancing Social Skills: Cultural play often involves interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds. A study from The Australian Journal of Early Childhood suggests that children with diverse cultural exposure have better social skills, such as communication, cooperation, and empathy. Children learn to appreciate and value different perspectives, which is crucial in a globalised world.

  1. Developing Cognitive Skills: Through cultural play, children gain knowledge about different countries, their geography, history, and languages. This exposure enhances their cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and memory retention.

  1. Language Acquisition: Cultural play provides an opportunity for children to learn and practice different languages. Whether it's through language flashcards or interactive games, children can develop basic language skills and become more comfortable with diverse linguistic experiences.

  1. Expanding Creativity: Cultural play encourages children to explore and express their creativity. They can engage in art and music activities inspired by different cultures, allowing them to embrace diversity and develop their artistic skills.

  1. Building a Sense of Identity: By engaging in cultural play, children can establish a connection with their own cultural heritage. They learn about their family traditions, language, and history, which helps in building a positive sense of identity and self-esteem.

  1. Fostering Global Citizenship: Cultural play nurtures a sense of global citizenship in children. They learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of the world and the importance of respecting and valuing cultural differences. This mindset prepares them to be responsible global citizens in the future.


What does cultural play look like?

Cultural exploration can be as simple as learning songs and dances from different cultures, or playing musical instruments that children may not have seen before.

Other ways to include cultural play might include:

  • World map puzzles: Introducing children to puzzles using maps can help them learn about different continents and countries, and build their understanding of geography. Finding different countries can open up discussions on backgrounds, foods, weather, flags and national dress.

  • International cookbooks: Borrowing international cookbooks from the library can open up a culinary world tour for children. Cooking recipes from various countries allows them to explore different cuisines while learning about the cultural significance of certain ingredients or dishes.

  • Build a diverse doll collection: Role-playing with dolls from different backgrounds fosters global awareness and understanding. Children can create stories and scenarios that reflect the diversity of our world, promoting inclusivity and acceptance.

  • Embracing cultural celebrations: Learning about, and celebrating different cultures, such as NAIDOC week, Lunar New Year, Eid, Diwali and World Children’s Day.

By incorporating these play ideas into everyday activities, parents and educators can help children see their own roles in a diverse society and start to build curiosity and respect for other cultures.


Fostering understanding of First Nations cultures

Fostering an understanding of First Nation’s cultures is embedded in the National Quality Framework, with an emphasis on building cultural competence. Cultural competence is the ability to ‘understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures.'

Embedding Indigenous cultures into play might look like watching shows on ABC Kids such as Little J and Big Cuz, listening to First Nations stories, lullabies and songs, or playing with culturally appropriate toys, such as the KIYA Indigenous doll.

Throughout the year, there are many opportunities to get children involved in celebrations and events to promote an understanding of First Nations cultures, such as Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC week and Indigenous Literacy Day. Local councils will also have their own events and programs, such as bush playgroups and festivals that children and families can take part in to learn more about local languages, customs, stories and connections to the local environment.

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning." - Fred Rogers

Shaping a Generation that Values Diversity

Culturally-rich play and celebrations educate children beyond entertainment. By exposing children to different cultures through engaging activities, we provide them with invaluable learning opportunities.

We're crafting a generation that understands and values global diversity, ensuring a united future. As children embrace different perspectives and traditions, they learn empathy, respect, and inclusivity. This foundation will shape their worldview as they grow into adults who value diversity in all its forms.

By actively participating in cultural exploration alongside children, parents and educators play a crucial role in fostering a generation that values diversity. Their involvement amplifies children's learning experiences and helps them develop a lifelong appreciation for inclusivity.

As we celebrate the richness of our own cultures and learn about others, we inspire young minds to become global citizens who contribute positively to an interconnected world. Let us continue to embrace the beauty of cultural diversity and shape a future where every child feels included and valued.



ABC Kids listen. (n.d.). Little Yarns. [Audio podcast]. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4fMJvxdO0v2Z28ZjMXXxYS

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. (n.d.). AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia. https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/map-indigenous-australia

Australian Institute of Family Studies. (2000). Child care in cultural context: Issues for new research (Research Paper No. 22). Melbourne. https://aifs.gov.au/research/research-reports/child-care-cultural-context

Dorset Council Child Care Services. (n.d.). Why is it good for children to learn about other cultures? https://www.dorsetccc.com.au/why-is-it-good-for-children-to-learn-about-other-cultures/

Early Childhood Australia. (2019, August 1). Exploring Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The Spoke. https://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/exploring-indigenous-ways-knowing/

Early Childhood Australia. (n.d.). Introducing culture and diversity in a monocultural classroom. The Spoke. https://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/introducing-culture-and-diversity-in-a-monocultural-classroom/

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2017, December). Supporting language: Culturally rich dramatic play. Teaching Young Children, 11(2), 14–15. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/dec2017/supporting-language-culturally-rich-dramatic-play

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. (n.d.) https://www.naidoc.org.au/

The Spoke – Early Childhood Australia’s Blog. (n.d.). Promoting cultural competence in early childhood. https://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/promoting-cultural-competence-early-childhood/

The Spoke – Early Childhood Australia’s Blog. (n.d.). Supporting cultural diversity. Be You. https://beyou.edu.au/fact-sheets/relationships/supporting-cultural-diversity

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