Children’s exploratory activities in the kindergarten playgrounds: A Case study in China and Norway

Hanne Værum Sørensen, Åsta Birkeland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingContribution to book/anthologyResearchpeer-review


In this chapter, we discuss the varying cultural-historical concepts surrounding young children’s activities on the playground as a basis for conceptualising children’s exploratory activities. The goal is to understand how different conditions influence children’s exploration in outdoor activity settings. The Nordic countries have a historical tradition of emphasising play in kindergarten curriculum and practices. In contrast, China has traditionally placed a lesser emphasis on the role of play in early childhood education; however, recent educational reforms have reformulated the importance of play in early childhood education. Through examining case studies from China and Norway, the societal, institutional and human conditions that encourage or discourage exploration in school children are explored. These findings can also contribute towards conceptualising children’s activities on the playground as exploratory activities.
Leontiev (2005) argued that human development must be understood as a dialectical process in which humans constantly and actively interact with their surroundings. This perspective forms our framework for observing and conceptualising children’s activities on the playground. Our research is based on child development from a cultural-historical approach, and we draw on Hedegaard’s concepts of development as an individual, institutional and societal process. By observing children’s exploration on the playground, we investigate children’s participation in different activity settings, whether organised by teachers or by children themselves. The analysis of case studies from one kindergarten in China and one kindergarten in Norway represents one methodological approach for understanding the differences in play between distinct societies and in the conditions that encourage or discourage exploratory activities in children.
Translated title of the contributionBørns explorative aktiviteter på børnehavens legeplads: Case studier i Kina og Norge
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren’s exploration and cultural formation
EditorsMariane Hedegaard, Elin Eriksen Ødegaard
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationCham
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-36270-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-36271-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • children and youth

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