CHILDREN’S ENVIRONMENT IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: Pedagogical work with children’s environment and perspectives

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Danish Legislation prescribes that children’s environment in Early Childhood Education (ECE) is evaluated and enhanced as an integrated part of curriculum work. Children’s perspectives must be included in the efforts. During the last 10 years, pedagogues have endeavoured to include children in evaluations of physical, psychological and aesthetic environmental dimensions of education. The present study aims to elucidate how professionals and children co-operate in order to develop children’s environments and study the impact of children’s perspectives on pedagogy and children’s processes of ‘bildung’.
Children’s environment is conceptualized with reference to Muchow’s theory and environmental study from 1935. Her key idea was to study children’s spaces by means of children’s perspectives and life praxis, and she combined observation with cartographies and essays produced by children, considering the actor-oriented aspects of socialization processes. Children live, experience and attach to their life space, they have to have a spatial image of their environment that they go to in their imagination and then transfer that image to the map.
We refer to modern childhood sociology that considers children as active participants and worthy of social study in their own right, but also call upon the fact that Danish ECE pedagogy has evolved from theories and methods dating back more than 100 years, e.g. inspired by Montessori (1917), to whom a vital teaching tools was close observation in order to acknowledge the child, recognize his or hers intentions and support natural unfolding.
The study is inspired by phenomenology and reflective life world research, defined as ”an empirical research approach that allows the phenomenon to guide the research by an open and bridled attitude” (Dahlberg et al. 2008). An ethnographic field study is carried out in two ECE institutions involving participant observations and focus group interviews with professionals and children. Our approach is narrative, which we understand both as a phenomenon and a method (Clandinin 2013). We engage in dialogues with children and pedagogues regarding their stories of children’s environment and our informants are invited to participate throughout - also in the process of analysis.
Preliminary findings from interviews with pedagogues point to a dual attention to children’s environment as either a number of pedagogical tools and demands of documentation that origin in the society outside the pedagogical institution or an integrated awareness in the pedagogical culture with roots back to the last century when the first ‘kindergartens’ were established inspired by Montessori’s and Froebel’s pedagogical ideas.
Pedagogues practice with reference to a dual concept of ‘bildung’ and navigate towards personal development of the individual child as well as neoliberal management mechanisms with focus on objectives and competencies. They mention space and material conditions, psychological dimensions and, to a lesser extent, aesthetical dimensions such as play and artwork when they asked to describe the best child environmental practice. Children’s perspectives on their environment still are to be investigated.
The study offers knowledge regarding children as active participants in a Nordic ECE culture with educated staff and a long tradition of inclusion of children’s perspectives.
Original languageDanish
Publication date24 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2017
EventNordic Educational Research Association 45th Congress: - Learning and education – material conditions and consequences - Aalborg Universitet, København, København, Denmark
Duration: 23 Mar 201725 Mar 2017
Conference number: 45.


ConferenceNordic Educational Research Association 45th Congress
LocationAalborg Universitet, København
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