De yngste barnas nonverbale sosiale handlingsreportoar: slik det utvikler seg og kommer til uttrykk i norske barnehager

Nome, D. Ø.
Doktoravhandling. Universitetet i Agder.


The overall purpose of this dissertation is to examine how young children who have not fully developed a verbal language explore and try out different ways of being social in a Norwegian institutional context. The term "social" refers not only to children in their relationships with other children or adults, but also in their relationships with objects and the institutional framework and routines as well as the children’s bodily expressions, sounds and rhythms.


The first article of the dissertation shows how young children try out ways of being social that open up for more stable and exclusive relationships with peers and social phenomena such as friendship and conflict. The author points at the kindergarten as a distinct institutional context consisting of ownerless things and places of which the children constantly have to acquire temporary ownership, and this affects young children's social try-outs. Overall, the analysis shows how children use both things and actions such as private objects, invitations home and putting their heads close together and whispering in an attempt to create a more private relationship in the otherwise open, public space of the kindergarten. According to the author, such actions with social meaning and the children's private objects become a valuable resource in the group of children, which the children use actively, and which gives the children power to establish and maintain exclusive, private relationships with limited access for others.

In the second article, the author shows how objects such as small toy animals, DUPLO blocks and toy cars have a great significance for young children's possibilities to make social experiences in the kindergarten. In other words, the article illustrates the social meaning of small objects in the kindergarten, i.e. things that the children have in their hands and that extend their bodies, and thereby provide the children with specific possibilities to act in the room, but also specific limitations. The study shows that objects serve as entrance tickets for participation in activities with a specific content that is in some way built into the objects, and that the objects contribute to providing the children with various forms of movement in the room. Objects disturb, distract and interrupt ongoing activities and thereby create room for new social try-outs, and the hierarchical order between the objects contributes to expressing the social order in the group of children. Thus the objects provide the children with different possibilities for positioning. The author suggests that the children's choice of objects, the position of objects and the rules for using the objects help determine what social experiences the children make in the kindergarten.

Finally, the author shows in a third article how young children use musical expression in the form of sound and rhythm using objects, voice or body to create shared experiences of meaning, but also to take new initiatives within the group of children. The study shows that young children often use sounds without words and rhythm as a way to invite peers to join an activity, and that children's sounds are inseparably connected to their expressive bodily movements. According to the author, the children literally sing and dance their way into participation with others. This happens as a rhythmical shift between blending in with the group and being singled out. According to the author, both shifts exist reciprocally as conditions for each other. Therefore, the results indicate that sound and rhythm play an important role in the children's attempts to keep an activity going and to keep the group of children together. Sounds and rhythms are used to develop a sense of togetherness among the children, but can also serve as a child's possibilities to "take the stage" and thereby be singled out. According to the author, these results indicate that young children's social life in kindergarten exists independently from verbal language, but that young children's participation in the kindergarten's social life depends on sounds and expressive movements.


The data was collected from two kindergartens (barnehager), in which the author carried out ethnographic field work for a total of two months. A total of 28 children aged 2-3 years and ten employees (four kindergarten teachers (pedagoger), four special skills employees (fagarbeidere) and two student teachers (lærlinge)) took part in the study. The author conducted video observations of free play and other activities initiated by children and participatory observations of activities initiated by adults such as meals and circle time. The dissertation includes four articles investigating the study's research problem on the basis of various theoretical perspectives such as Actor-Network-Theory (ANT), theory of communicative musicality and Hannah Arendt's concept of human action. One of the articles is a theoretical and philosophical discussion rather than an empirical study and is therefore not included here.


Nome, D. Ø. (2017). De yngste barnas nonverbale sosiale handlingsreportoar: slik det utvikler seg og kommer til uttrykk i norske barnehager. Doktoravhandling. Universitetet i Agder.

Financed by

National Parents’ Committee for Kindergartens and Lower Secondary Education (FUB/FUG)