’Children’s clans’; social organisation and interpretive reconstruction as aspects on development of peer-groups in outdoor play

Jørgensen, K. A.
Ethnography and Education, 13(4):490-507.


The aim of the study is to investigate how children’s self-organised communal play is made possible by the environment and nature around them. The investigations aim to shed light on how natural landscapes and places are used by children to organise communal play, and how groups and social structures arise in children’s play.


A general conclusion was that active use of natural landscapes and nature sites was important regarding the diversity of the play and how the children established peer groups and social structures through play. The environment had an openness, as there were no constructed landscapes or playground materials that could be used in a specific way. This openness inspired creativity and innovation in relation to the social interaction between the children. The children created ‘clans’ in which they interacted with each other, and developed social structures. The meaning of the play was shared and developed through interaction and unity among the children. Easy access to different types of materials and locations enabled the ‘clans’ to divide the area up, act side by side, and to be active in the play’s construction of meaning. Furthermore, discussing the meaning of the location was a common theme of the play. This type of play is also relevant regarding the development of democratic practices.


The study limits itself to specific settings: a kindergarten emphasising that children should be outdoors. The collection of data was strategic: the author selected those groups that spent most of the institutional life in kindergarten outdoors in nature-dominated areas. The children were observed for 30 days over a period of 10 months. The fact that the observations were conducted in different seasons and under different weather conditions made it possible to investigate how the weather and seasons affected the children’s play. A total of 34 children, divided into two groups, participated in the study. The study was conducted at two different topographic locations that had different types of vegetation. One location was in a forest, and the other on an island. Data collection consisted of observation of the children, in addition to informative conversations with the children while playing, where the actual play was the topic of the conversation.


Jørgensen, K. A. (2018). "’Children’s clans’; social organisation and interpretive reconstruction as aspects on development of peer-groups in outdoor play". Ethnography and Education, 13(4):490-507.