Children's play activities and social relations in nature and kindergarten playground

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Children’s outdoor playtime in Nordic preschools is usually seen as an important break from more structured activities. It is leisure time and an opportunity for the children to engage in self-initiated free play activities with friends, while the kindergarten teachers supervise. Play and social relations are crucial for young children’s well-being and development (Vygotsky, 1966). Previous research indicates that outdoor time facilitates physical activities (Fasting, 2015; Fjørtoft, 2001; Sørensen, 2013), and that playing in nature inspires children’s creative and complex play (Grahn et al., 1997; Fasting, 2015), as well as playing across age and gender (Fasting, 2015, Fjørtoft, 2001; 2004). This study examines children’s self-initiated play during outdoor playtime in nature and on the kindergarten playground, employing the interaction-based observation method (Hedegaard, 1990; 2008a; Sørensen, 2019). The empirical material from seven days in the kindergarten during autumn 2015 and spring 2016 consist of four hours of video observations of the group of 12 four-year-old children’s activities in nature and on the kindergarten playground and interviews with two kindergarten teachers. Two examples of different play situations with focus on the social situation of child development (Bozhovich, 2009; Hedegaard, 2008a; Vygotsky, 1966) are presented. The findings indicate that children’s play in nature tends to be more creative and inclusive than play on the kindergarten playground; that kindergarten teachers’ interactions with children tends to be more participating in nature than on the playground, and that children are sensitive to the demands from the kindergarten teacher and tries to catch the ‘right’ discourse of the dialogue. The author argues for increasing children’s time in nature because of the positive effect on children’s social relations and cultural formation.
Translated title of the contributionBørns leg og sociale relationer i naturen og på legepladsen
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren’s Cultural Formation through Outdoor activities
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021


  • children and youth

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