Play Design to Promote Cultural Diversity and Social Inclusion: Enhancing Immigrant Children's Experiences in Finnish Early Childhood Education Centers

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Bachelor's thesis
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Bachelor's Programme in Design
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The rising number of immigrants in Finland has increased cultural diversity in Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC) centers. Immigrant children new to Finnish ECEC centers encounter difficulties due to cultural barriers, such as a lack of language skills, which affects their social skills and acceptance by non-immigrant groups, leading to their exclusion from peer groups. This study explores play design to promote cultural diversity and social inclusion of immigrant children. While there are studies in Finnish exploring culturally inclusive practices in Finnish ECEC, no English language studies examining those practices were found. Given the limited literature on the fundamental principles of play design, this study aims to research effective practices in Finnish ECEC and investigate how to design play activities that promote cultural diversity and social inclusion of immigrant children. Considering the literature gap, this study's literature review introduces cultural inclusivity and the role of play in Finnish ECEC, examines eight culturally inclusive practices that are successful worldwide and presents fundamental principles of play design. In order to answer the research inquiries, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five ECEC educators and three Play designers. The interviews with ECEC educators revealed three challenges facing immigrant children in Finnish ECEC centers: joining peer groups due to a lack of language skills and adaptation problems, a lack of culturally representative materials, and racism. Moreover, eight practices were identified in Finnish ECEC to promote cultural diversity and social inclusion of immigrant children. However, according to the ECEC educators, there is a need to improve tools that promote cultural diversity and social inclusion, materials that represent diverse cultures, and practices that are not superficial. Moreover, the ECEC educators mentioned that to overcome immigrant children's challenges during play, the ECEC educators should divide children into culturally mixed groups, guide their play, and provide them with culturally representative play tools. On the other hand, the interviews with Play designers revealed three elements that need to be considered when designing for children's play: involving children in the design process, age-appropriateness of play, and distinction between play and playfulness. The Play designers also mentioned that in order to promote cultural diversity and social inclusion, play activities should include social interaction and negotiation, consider cultural barriers, involve immigrant children and families, and increase children's motivation. The outcome of this study is three play activities designed based on the literature and interview findings to promote cultural diversity and social inclusion of immigrant children in Finnish ECEC centers. The play activities were designed to prevent the challenges facing immigrant children by making culturally inclusive tools a part of everyday life in ECEC centers and promoting cultural diversity and social inclusion of immigrant children in an engaging way. Due to time constraints and ethical considerations regarding children's involvement in the design process, the play activities were designed without their input. However, future steps of this study may involve prototype testing with children, which could lead to further modifications in the play activities.
Chun, Namkyu
Thesis advisor
Veselova, Emilija
immigrant children, early childhood education, culturally inclusive practices, play design, cultural diversity, social inclusion
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