Anti-bias Tool




The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale  (ECERS) measures child care quality from a global perspective. The ECERS ranks 37 aspects of a child care program on a scale from one to seven.  A score of one reflects inadequate care, or care that does not meet basic custodial needs. A score of three reflects adequate care that meets custodial needs and also meets some developmental needs. A score of five reflects care that meets custodial and developmental needs and also demonstrates positive interaction between caregivers and children. A score of seven indicates a high quality child care program that meets basic custodial needs, demonstrates developmentally appropriate practices in policies and programs and encourages positive interactions between caregiver and children, amongst children and staff, between staff and parents, and between the centre and the community.


The needs of ethnocultural and special populations are addressed in the ECERS but the scales have been seen as lacking in their ability to support and promote the anti-bias approach in a pro-active way. This tool was developed in an effort to fill that gap and provide child care operators with a resource that would support the anti-bias approach to caring for and educating young children.


The ECERS provides a series of "Notes for Clarification" alongside its scale items in order to provide further information to raters. The Notes section elaborates on qualifiers like “adequate” and “sufficient”. The Notes section is ideal for interpretation and illustration of specific issues.


The following "Notes for Clarification" section will correspond with the sub-scales of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, (ECERS), the Infant and Toddler Environment Rating Scale, (ITERS), & the School Age Care Environment Rating Scale (SACERS).  It might be used as a companion to the Scales and can be applied to all age groups and settings with modifications. The ECERS, the ITERS, and SACERS share common categories of measurement in their sub-scales.  For the purposes of this paper, the following categories, common to all the scales, are identified:


           Interactions (Staff/Child, Staff/Parent/Family, Child/Child, Child & Family/Community)

           Health & Safety/Basic Care

           Space, Furnishings and Display for Children


           Activities (Fine and Gross Motor, Learning and Creative)

           Adult Needs (Staff and Parents/Families)

           Curriculum/Program Structure


How To Use


The purpose of this companion document is to provide operators with a tool to assess their program as it relates to addressing diversity and providing an anti-bias curriculum and approach for the children and families it serves.  In preparing to conduct a complete ECERS evaluation,  the operator may supplement her review with consideration of the special needs of ethnocultural children and children with disabilities in her program. 


Anti-bias program delivery is recognized to exist on a continuum.  Some operators will recognize the descriptions and may feel equipped to rate their program against them, others will find this discussion very new.  The objective is to raise awareness and keep in mind that a range of children attend early childhood programs in Ontario and all are valued, reflected and respected in their child care programs. 


It should be noted that no one at the Frank Porter Graham Development Centre has reviewed or approved this anti-bias tool. This is one early childhood person’s interpretation of how anti-bias measurement/assessment might be measured while also using the ECERS tool.


The Categories


Interactions Staff/Child, Staff/Parent/Family, Child/Child, Child & Family/Community


Research shows that the interaction between staff and child is the most critical factor related to quality in child care.  High quality interactions are:


            -           developmentally appropriate

            -           responsive, positive, stimulating

            -           not controlling, restrictive, harsh or detached.


In high quality interactive environments that respect and reflect the diversity of the children and families in its program, adults respond quickly and directly to children's needs, messages and questions.  Adults are able to adapt their responses to children's differing needs, styles and abilities.  A number and variety of opportunities for children to communicate are provided. 


Health and Safety/Basic Care/Personal Care Routines


These are routines that are associated with the comfort, health, safety and well-being of the children.  This includes activities related to diapering, toileting, grooming, personal hygiene practices.  Care routines related to diversity include the ability to respect a child's cultural norms while introducing Canadian norms and respecting regulations, for example, health and safety issues may arise and differences between accepted practices of a culture and legislative requirements. 


Space, Furnishings and Displays for Children


The availability, maintenance and arrangement of space, furnishings and display that are regularly used with children are important in the discussion of addressing diversity.  Furniture, storage shelves, and display space necessary to provide personal care and an educational program have a vital role to play.




The use of materials, activities and teaching interactions that can support and facilitate children's communication skills regardless of ability and/or primary language. This category includes the child's and family’s socio-economic status (SES) and their class, status in the community (landed immigrant, refugee). 


Activities (Fine and Gross Motor, Learning and Creative)


Learning activities and materials should be concrete, real, and relevant to the children and reflect an understanding and acceptance of their personal histories and their world outside of the child care program.


Adult Needs (Staff and Parents/Families)


The provision of space, equipment and accommodations for the adults in the early childhood environment, including teachers, parents and other family members.  Staff have personal comfort needs and professional needs.  Parents/family members have personal needs for reassurance and inclusion, as well as information and skill development needs to help assist them in their parenting role.


Programs/centres recognize that people other than the parents "parent" the child.  Extended family members are included in parenting education and/or information events and in sharing news/information about the child's day. This is especially relevant in Aboriginal communities.


Curriculum/Program Structure


Curriculum/Program Structure as it relates to an anti-bias approach is key.  Everything that happens to children when they enter the child care program is curriculum.  Therefore, as well as separating out pieces like "personal care" and "gross motor activities", it is important to note and ensure that transition times as well as structured activities are examined for which framework they are delivered in.


Overriding Consideration


Not all practices are appropriate to include in the activities of the child care program.  Some families needs and/or expectations may be too difficult to implement.  Addressing diversity and measuring the cultural sensitivity of the child care program is a balance between respecting each child's individuality and the needs, both regulatory and practically, of the child care program.  Operators, board members, and staff need to be aware of practices that may conflict with Canadian law and policies.  This enables the child care program to adapt, include or exclude the family’s request, with explanation, where possible.







-           entrances to the child care centre/program are welcoming to all children and families

-           signage is appropriate and understandable to all families, including ESL families, e.g. important notices are translated and/or adapted

-           Aboriginal opening and closing ceremonies are integrated where appropriate.



-           nursing mothers are accommodated

-           food is acknowledged as an important component of many cultures and religious celebrations

-           various ways of eating are modelled and practised

-           negative comments about food are handled sensitively and appropriately

-           prior to snack/meal time, consideration and modifications are made for children with food allergies, lactose intolerance, dietary regulations, religious and cultural requirements

-           leftover food is used in future preparations (example, may be composted).



-           meditation, yoga and other relaxation methods may be used in nap/rest time

-           modifications are made for individual children based on their needs.



-           family expectations of toileting and toilet training are respected and reinforced by the program (example, preferences for cloth or paper diapers are honoured)

-           adaptations are made for children whose families teach washing rather than wiping, using only one hand for toileting.


Personal grooming

-           all children are complimented on appearance

-           children's questions and comments about skin colour, hair texture, physical features, dress, etc. are responded to openly and in a manner which facilitates understanding and respect.




-           images accurately reflect people's lives, both working and being with their families are displayed

-           images of women and men are shown doing jobs in the home and jobs outside the home

-           women and men are shown doing a variety of jobs, including factory work, hairdressing, sales, doctor, teacher

-           images of elderly people are shown doing different activities

-           images of differently abled people of various backgrounds are shown at work and with their families

-           images of diversity in family styles are shown, single mothers and single fathers, extended and inter-generational families, same-sex parents, interracial families, differently abled families.




-           children are exposed to a variety of languages, including sign and Braille

-           multi-lingual books are available

-           books in the child's native language are available

-           books reflect the lives of people from a range of racial and cultural groups and include people with disabilities and from all classes

-           books used are free of cultural, racial, gender and other stereotypes

-           visual props are used to balance shortcomings or enhance context of books

-           staff pick up on verbal and non-verbal communication of all children and respond similarly with girls as with boys,  with differently abled children as with abled children, with children of all colours, cultures and classes.


ACTIVITIES (Fine and Gross Motor, Learning and Creative)


-           all children are offered encouragement to use of gross motor equipment (girls as well as boys, abled children as well as children with disabilities)

-           staff provide adapted opportunities for children with disabilities to interact actively and independently with materials and with other children

-           children's cultural and individual learning styles are respected by the program and staff adapt activities.




-           tan, brown and black paper, paint, collage materials, play dough and skin-tone crayons are available

-           natural materials are used to make art

-           children's art is used for functional as well as decorative purposes

-           scissors and other art materials are adapted for use by children with disabilities and other special needs

-           all children are encouraged to express themselves through art (boys as well as girls, abled children as well as children with disabilities).




-           all children are encouraged to express themselves through music/movement (e.g., boys as well as girls, abled children as well as children with disabilities)

-           children are exposed to and learn songs and simple dances from a variety of cultures

-           musical instruments reflect a wide range of cultures

-           music selection is varied in rhythms, instruments, and language.




-           pictures and photographs of all types of homes and buildings in the community and in the world are displayed

-           girls are encouraged as much as boys to play with blocks

-           children with disabilities are encouraged as much as able-bodied children to play with blocks.


Dramatic play


-           dolls and materials represent both sexes and a variety of cultural groups and job roles

-           play products used display multi-lingual labels reflecting the languages of children

-           props used reflect the ethnocultural reality, not just the dominant culture

-           props expand the child's understanding of cultures by suggesting alternative methods of cooking, eating, cleaning

-           props support the notion of a variety of people's lifestyles and jobs, including their work so briefcases as well as purses and tool boxes as well as typewriters are available

-           boys and girls are equally encouraged to participate in dramatic play activities.


ADULT NEEDS (Staff and Parents/Families)


-           parents/families share in decisions about their children's care and education

-           parents/families observe and participate in the child's program

-           staff establishing and maintain contact with parents/families

-           family members other than parents are welcomed in the program

-           appropriate translation and interpretation is available for meetings and for written communication

-           communication occurs in forms other than exclusively written, recognizing the functionally illiterate

-           meetings are held at times that meet the needs of the family schedules, dietary requirements are considered and adapted

-           program refers families to other appropriate social services, including those who are able to work with them in their own language

-           bulletin boards for parent use and information are accessible in language and physical location.




-           staff provide adapted opportunities for children with limitations to allow active and independent interactions

-           programs provide for a wider range of developmental interests and abilities than the chronological age range of the group would suggest

-           staff are prepared to meet the needs of children who exhibit interests and skills outside the typical developmental range.




Bob Franklin, Ed. The Rights of Children.Basil Bakwill, 1986.


Gyda Chud and Ruth Fahlman. Early Childhood Education for a Multicultural Society.  Pacific Education Press, 1985.


Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force.  Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for empowering young children.  NAEYC, 1989.


Sue Bredekamp, Ed. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth through Age 8.  NAEYC, 1986.


Bernice Weissbourd and Judith Musick, Eds.  Infants:  Their social environments.  NAEYC, 1981.


Darla Ferris Miller.  First Steps Toward Cultural Difference:  Socialization in Infant/Toddler Day Care.  Child Welfare League of America, 1989.


Wolery, Mark and Jan S. Wilbers, Eds.  Including Children with Special Needs in Early Childhood Programs.  Washington, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Research Monograph Volume 6, 1994.


Canadian Council for Multicultural and Intercultural Education, Multiculturalism and Education, University of Toronto.  Multiculturalism/multiculturalism. Vol. XIV, Nos 2/3 (1992).


Darla Ferris Miller.  First steps toward cultural difference:  Socialization in Infant/Toddler Day Care.Washington DC: Child Welfare League of America, Inc., 1989.


Ontario Ministry of Education and Training.  Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity in School Boards:  Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation 1993.  Toronto, 1993.


The Roeher Institute.  Quality Child Care For All:  A Guide to Integration.  Toronto, 1992.


Mallory, Bruce L. and Rebecca S. New, Editors. Diversity and Developmentally Appropriate Practices:  Challenges for Early Childhood Education.  New York:  Teacher's College Press, 1994.


Anti-Racism Protocol.  Ministry of Community and Social Services, Toronto Area Office.  1994.


Cech, Maureen. Globalchild: Multicultural Resources for Young Children.  Ottawa, 1990.


Graeme, Jocelyn.  Hand in Hand:  Multicultural Experiences for Young Children.  Toronto:  Addison-Wesley Publishers Limited, 1990.


Hall, Nadia Saderman and Valerie Rhomberg.  The Affective Curriculum:  Teaching the anti-bias approach to young children.  Toronto, Nelson Canada, 1995.


This anti-bias tool was written by Z. Sonia Worotynec c. 1992.

Contact the author at