Identity construction in early childhood education- Beatriz Zapata Ospina

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Childhood education must consider children as social individuals with rights, instead of passive receptors of products and services. This view implies the recognition, resignification and participation of children to contribute with their multidimensional/integral development and to the construction of their identity as a person, and social and cultural being. Only if children develop as social beings will they be able to establish themselves as individuals with rights. This is an ongoing process based on the relationships they establish with others, the environment and the culture.

This process of relationships and interrelationships is a key driver in the development of every human being, since it is precisely during childhood that we are more open and motivated to learn. Therefore, if the child has a socialization and learning process that is rich in experiences and interactions, his chances of a better identity construction will improve, giving him the necessary tools to face his everyday life safely and confidently, with its challenges and difficulties.

Identities in early childhood are built on children’s experiences as subjects, in relation to others, and they give meaning to their own life story. These identities are built and assign attributes that work as symbols in culture and which are legitimized in children’s relationships with peers.

Experiences, with their mediations and interactions, play a key role in the development of children, in the learning process, and, therefore, in the construction of their subjectivity;  hence, it is necessary to analyze the conceptions of modernity that emphasize reason and language to give way to emotions, feelings, to the voice of children, so they can build their own life story as subjects of rights and empathic beings and can establish ethic, moral and political relationships with the world.

The construction of subjectivity in children implies overcoming the rational individual sought by modernity: the emphasis on the development of reason (intelligence, cognitive potential), a position that standardizes its development, establishes universal ideas and does not allow for diversity and plurality. “This perspective is constituted in an obstacle to understand the complexity of the subjective processes, their historical and cultural mediations, their particularities and their diverse faces of human and social expression.” (Alvarado, 2009)

The experiences that children have in the different contexts they inhabit (home, school, community) allow the setting of the ego, which initially has a self-centred perspective of the world but as it expands through interactions, it finds social meanings, the reference point for the setting of an “us”. 

In their interactions, children establish links, they relinquish, negotiate, commit. Their interactions with their families, teachers, means of communication and their peers are built through social devices that help them start to comprehend their reality and give meaning to the relationships they establish, to the discovery of objects and to cultural appropriation in diverse contexts. 

In this sense, early childhood education is called upon to deconstruct the hegemonic notion that every child as a subject follows the same development and learning patterns and processes. It is urgent to recognise that every child is a unique being with its own development pace, likes, preferences, abilities and needs that are determined by their family, social and cultural context and the conditions in which they live, which are constituted by endless particularities. “There is no permanent and essential nature of childhood. The identity of childhood is defined differently in each culture, space in time, political climate, economic stage, social context” (Hatch, 1995, as cited in Grieshaber & Cannela, 2005, p.198).

Immerse in their identity is children’s singularity, which is identified in the way they name and define themselves and is built from their experiences and interactions, hence the importance of allowing children to observe the world, act on their own ideas and feel everyday situations in their own way, which contribute to the construction of their life story. This is why the construction of identity during early childhood is related to how children can or cannot participate in the processes that determine their life and their development.

Diverse environments and interactions are fundamental in order to facilitate the structuring of life meaning and the self-perception of children as diverse, autonomous, engaged, confident human beings. Diversity is seen as an inherent condition in human groups; each child has their own way of thinking, feeling and acting. It is linked to differences in abilities, needs, interests, maturation, sociocultural conditions, among others. This calls for a recognition of one’s own development, free of labels, in order to promote proactive recognition since childhood.

The variety of environments in which children live, the diverse conditions in which they develop and the singularities in their personalities and learning processes urge early childhood education to implement flexible curricula that allows for pedagogical strategies that stem from and recognise diversity. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to break from the traditional educational models, which center around the acquisition of knowledge, and move towards a model centered around children as holders of knowledge and multiple abilities.


Alvarado, S.V. (2006). La formación de subjetividad e identidad ético-políticas en la primera infancia.

Grieshaber S. & Cannella, G. (2005). Las identidades en la educación temprana. Diversidad y posibilidad.  México: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Naciones Unidas y CEPAL. (2016). Agenda 2030 y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible. Una oportunidad para América Latina y el Caribe.

Beatriz Elena Zapata Ospina, Bachelor’s degree in Preschool Education. Master in Education. 30 years of experience in education institutions in administrative and academic processes in early education; experience in professional education program management, practices and pedagogical formation in childhood education bachelor’s degree. Experience as a professor in early childhood teacher training programs, master in education, pedagogy courses for teachers. Researcher, methodological and conceptual consultant of research and curricula design in childhood, childhood education and public policy. Speaker at regional, national and international events. Published books, chapters and articles related to early childhood and childhood education. Consultant for organizations and national and international universities in education and policies for early childhood.

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