Infant and toddler teachers as transmitters of culture


Joan TestFollow


What role do infant and toddler teachers play in transmitting their culture? Symbolic and cultural mediation approaches suggest children learn how to be members of their culture through social interactions and that this process begins at least by 9 months of age if not from birth. In previous cross-cultural studies of early childhood programs, teachers' practices seem to reflect and be a part of their culture's system of meanings. Some would say that cultural values are a type of hidden curriculum. This article examines practices in American infant and toddler child care contrasting them with Swedish infant and toddler child care using a symbolic and cultural mediation approach in order to understand the ways that infant and toddler teachers are involved in transmitting their culture in the United States and to some extent in Sweden. The United States is a highly individualistic culture, while Sweden has a particular mix of individualistic and group-oriented values. These differences can be seen in how teachers react when toddlers have disagreements over possession of a toy. In the United States teachers emphasize a child's right to possession if the child had the toy first, whereas in Sweden children are encouraged to feel solidarity with those who have less. In addition, daily activities, the structure of children's groups, and the physical design and placement of child care centers are examined as aspects of child care programs through which American and Swedish teachers of infants and toddlers transmit their culture to young children.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Document Type





child care, culture, infants, teacher, toodlers

Publication Date


Journal Title

International Journal of Early Childhood