Children’s explorative activities in kindergarten playgrounds: A case study in China and Norway.
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSørensen, H. V., & Birkeland, Å. (2020). Children’s explorative activities in kindergarten playgrounds: A case study in china and norway. I M. Hedegaard & E. E. Ødegaard (Red.), Children’s exploration and cultural formation (s. 47–63). Springer International Publishing 10.1007/978-3-030-36271-3_4
Nordic countries have historically emphasized play in early childhood education to a higher degree than China. However, recent educational reforms have reformulated its importance in early childhood education. In this chapter, we discuss young children’s activities in the playground as a basis for conceptualising diverse conditions for children’s exploration and cultural formation. Prevailing assumptions in the Nordic countries seem to indicate that children’s free play facilitates exploration, whereas teacher-structured activities limit children’s exploration and agentic position. The aim of the article is to challenge these dichotomies through examples from Chinese and Norwegian kindergartens, and to contribute to a conceptualisation of children’s activities in the playground as exploration. The research takes a cultural-historical approach to human development as a dialectical process in which humans constantly and actively interact with their surroundings. We investigate children’s participation in the activity setting of the playground organized by kindergarten teachers in one kindergarten in China and one in Norway to examine varieties in conditions for children’s explorative activities in kindergartens. Our findings illustrate the influence of weather conditions on the activity settings. Despite major differences in climate and the institutional and societal level, kindergarten teachers’ dialogical engagement with children is crucial for children’s exploration. These findings led to an elaboration of Hedegaard’s model (2012) of child development in a personal, institutional and societal perspective by adding the perspective of climate and air quality that is central for children’s explorative activity.