Celebrating Lunar New Year.

Tokenism and a 'Tourist' Approach to Diversity in Early Childhood Education
What does it mean? 

In early childhood education, a 'tourism' approach to diversity refers to a superficial and tokenistic way of including different cultures in the curriculum. Reference Vicki Hargraves, Education Hub NZ

Are you already planning activities for 'Chinese New Year'?

Firstly, It's important to use the more inclusive term 'Lunar New Year', as this Spring celebration is not only for people of Chinese descent, but also for Koreans, Vietnamese, Mongolians, and people from East and Southeast Asia.

Let’s continue to reflect, ponder and challenge practice.
The 'tourism' approach typically involves showcasing festivals, foods, and music from specific cultures, without really understanding or integrating them into everyday practices.

For example, planning activities for the Luna New Year (red and gold rice-filled tuff trays) what significance does this have? 

To create a more immersive and diverse approach, early childhood educators are encouraged to involve families in decision-making. Let families share which cultural celebrations and practices are important to them, and incorporate these preferences into the activities and environment of the setting. This helps ensure an authentic representation and a sense of belonging for everyone involved. By reflecting upon our approach to diversity and involving families, we can make early childhood education more meaningful and inclusive for all.

Cultural relevance ?

In the first half of this article I introduced the terminology of ‘cultural tourism’ and encouraging educators to mindful awareness of a tokenistic approach to festivals.

This post was originally on Face Book and it prompted much interest and even further explanation and discussion. It got me thinking about how I had shared the idea and did it do enough to explain fully ?

Always seeking to find out more, I was delighted to come across the term ‘cultural relevance’ and ‘cultural responsiveness ‘ and I wanted to share with you continued thoughts and an opportunity for continued reflection.

Cultural relevance and cultural responsiveness instantly resonated with our beliefs within The Curiosity Approach® pedagogy.  Inspired by the curriculum of New Zealand and how this “Early Childhood system has embraced the idea of translating their bicultural aspirations into Early Childhood Environments. Helping educators find a strong identity for themselves and their centres” D Curtis

We want to create places that reflect the children who play there and to encompass the incorporation of varied cultural perspectives, practices, and values into the learning environment and embrace a world of equality for all.

As mindful educators it’s our responsibility to recognise and celebrating the cultural identities of children and their families, educators and create an inclusive place, space and a supportive atmosphere.

Historically, early childhood education has often unwittingly adopted a superficial multicultural approach, to diversity! Perhaps focusing on holidays, festivals, and traditional dress without addressing the deeper cultural implications.

At The Curiosity Approach we push back on themed activities Eg for Lunar New Year. Traditionally this might of seen educators follow a topic or theme? Setting up a Chinese takeaway role play. As you can appreciate this does not effectively promote a meaningful understanding of Chinese culture and can actually widen the gap, leading to misunderstanding and stereotypical views and opinions.

Image source unknown, no disrespect or copyright infringement intended.

Maybe this is something that’s was part of your planned activities this year or previously? We hope this article prompts discussion and reflection, questioning WHY?  Let’s dig deeper and find out what Lunar New Year actually represents and how can we ensure cultural relevance ?

Pioneers such as Carole Brunson Day and Lilly Wong Fillmore have emphasised the limitations of a superficial approach and advocated for a more profound understanding of cultural relevance in education.

To move away from superficial multiculturalism, early childhood educators must authentically engage with cultural relevance. This involves going beyond surface-level representations of diversity and delving into the historical, social, and personal aspects of different cultures. Sounds tough, but actually it’s important to understand more and broaden our own understanding of cultures, beliefs, religions and backgrounds.

As previously suggested be that curious educator, ask your families, parents, carers and wider community. Find out more !

Authentic engagement requires educators to develop cultural competence, actively listen to diverse perspectives, and continually integrate culturally relevant materials and activities into the curriculum. ( not just a box of resources that comes out once a year or the same planned crafts time and time again. )

Let’s mindfully reflect on the yearly tradition of printing of signage and pdf downloads, does this do ENOUGH to truly respect and reflect cultural diversity and the celebration of Lunar New Year? 

Cultural relevance in early childhood education contributes to the creation of inclusive learning environments, where all children feel valued and represented.

By incorporating diverse cultural perspectives into the curriculum, educators can help children develop empathy, respect, and a sense of belonging. (This is a strand of the Te Whariki curriculum )

Challenges and Opportunities?

While embracing cultural relevance in early childhood education is essential, it also presents challenges. Educators may face barriers such as limited resources, institutional resistance, and perhaps our own cultural biases?

Let’s face it we only know what we know! When we know more, we can do more.

These challenges also present opportunities for professional development, collaboration with diverse communities, and the creation of innovative teaching approaches that reflect cultural relevance.

“Culturally responsive approaches emerge from an understanding of families’ backgrounds, connecting families’ cultural heritages to the setting and creating more equitable opportunities for both children and families.

Children’s cultural backgrounds are drawn on to determine teaching approaches, selection of materials and environments, and interactions with children and their families.

Cultural responsiveness looks different in different contexts and will be constantly adjusted to meet families’ and children’s needs.

Hope you enjoyed this post. I recognise it may need deeper discussion, reflection and perhaps pose more questions than answers. But through constant dialogue, reflection we are making greater strides forward in ensuring equality and inclusion for all. 

Further reading and reference given to


🔹 https://www.himama.com/blog/te...

🔹 https://theeducationhub.org.nz...


Let’s rethink the Chinese takeaway as an activity for future Lunar new years ⬇️


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