Culture could be defined as everything one does on a day to day basis, from languages one may speak, clothes they wear, food they eat and music they listen to. But there are no other aspects of a person’s culture which are not always visible to other people until they communicate with each other, there could include a person’s religious beliefs, their customs and traditions, and also their values. In order for early childhood educators to understand and respect the culture differences of the children and families by using the early childhood services, it is important for teachers to discuss these differences with children and their parents, also reflect on their own cultural heritage. By becoming aware of their own culture and that of others through self-reflection, educators can then begin to evaluate why they do things a certain way, and how this may affect their interactions with other people (New Zealand Tertiary College, [NZTC] 2013).
The treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, New Zealand effectively became a bicultural country; it was an agreement between Maori tribes and Birtish Crown to uphold the cultural heritages of both parties. “To honor this agreement and the spirit in which it was made, early childhood services need to include the Maori dimensions in all areas of their teaching program. This could include recognition and respect for certain Maori Tikanga (customs) for example, not allowed to sit on the tables or any surface which food will be placed upon and having a regard that food is for eating not playing with, (although play dough is seen as acceptable in some areas as it is made with the specific purpose of play). If early childhood education centres are unsure about a particular custom, then they should hold discussions with local Tangata Whenua as to the correct methods to use.” (Penrose, 2000).
Since the signing of the treaty/te tiriti there have been many other migrants to New Zealand from different parts of the world, each bringing with them aspects of their own unique culture. For many of these families in recent years, early childhood education centres may have been one of their first real experiences of a culture that may be different from their own, which may lead them to feeling of uncertainty and stress. It is really important therefore that early childhood educators work in partnership with these families and show a real interest in their culture. Educator can achieve this by asking these parents and families question about their country of origin, what other languages do they speak at home, and their customs and traditions in regards to child rearing practices, and what they as a family celebrate. By asking simple question, and including these aspects into their program, educators will then show these families that their culture and indeed