By Nastaran Beik Pourian, Teaching Assistant KG2 Orange
"The sense of self or personal identity is an essential part of childhood development. This development is a vital process observed through various activities and relationships in everyday life, at home, in the community, and in kindergarten. Therefore, identity can be described as the structure, building, and reconstruction of children through their interactions with parents, teachers, peers, and others (Brooker, 2008, p.6). In our Kindergarten classes we went on a journey discovering our identity by looking at 'My physical self', 'Myself and my abilities' and 'My connection to people and places'.
My physical self
"Young children are so sensory-driven" (Rescheke, 2020)." Awareness of their own bodies for young children is the first phase of developing their identity. Self-image in early childhood development encompasses mental pictures of details such as their hair, the clothes they wear, their skin, face, and many more. When they see their own image in a mirror and start to distinguish themselves from their peers' images, they are getting a broader idea of identity. Through the concept of 'my physical self', children are also able to develop certain standards and ideals that can help them in accepting themselves and others. For instance, by the end of this phase, children for example realise that our hair colour doesn't determine that we come from a specific region.
Myself as my abilities
'My Physical Self' is closely related to 'Myself as my abilities'. Self-esteem is based on abilities while still accepting ourselves. As stated by Ciorciari (2021), children between 5 to 7 years old can develop new cognitive abilities that allow them to describe their abilities, ranging from academic to physical and social domains. They can express what they enjoy playing and what they are physically capable of doing (e.g., "I am good at football" or "I am not good at swimming"). This means that children are able to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses while understanding that they are still worthy and valuable.
My connection to people and places
"Young children are aware of their own cultural identity and the ethnic group they belong to" (Vandenbroeck, 2000). Consequently, they can describe their cultural identity by discussing their celebrations, events, family, cuisine, traditional clothing, and home languages. One of their favourite activities often involves sharing their home language(s). We also helped creating a school-wide language celebration by developing language profiles.
Last but not least, as early years educators, we should consider that children are vulnerable. Therefore, helping them develop positive identities and a strong sense of belonging is vital. This will empower children to develop a confident self-identity and group identity while fostering a positive understanding of their rights and the rights of others.