Participation and Gender in Circle-Time Situations in Preschool.

Emilson, A.
Johansson, E.
International Journal of Early Years Education, 21 (1), 56-69.


The purpose of this study is to examine the factors important for Swedish and Norwegian children's ways of participating in, and opportunities at, circle time in daycare centres as well as the role of their gender in this connection. The study examines how children's participation is communicated to boys and girls, respectively, and the gender-related patterns that arise in the adult-child interactions at circle time.


The study finds that early childhood educators place great emphasis on and value in circle time situations and these are viewed important for strengthening the sense of community. At the same time, the study finds that there is a conflict between collective and individual needs.

The study shows that the individual child's participation in circle time depends on the child's own willingness to take initiative and on whether the early childhood educator encourages the child or the group as a whole to take part actively. By engaging actively in the pedagogical activity (e.g. story time), the children can influence the activity.

However, the study also finds that girls more often take an active part in circle time and are more comfortable with the situation, whereas boys adopt a more passive role. The study also finds that even though the children are expected to take part and behave in certain ways at circle time, the children take part on their own terms and control their own degree of participation.

Finally, the study suggests that there is a tendency that masculinity constitutes a norm, on the basis of which femininity is assessed and valued. For example, during story time, this is expressed by an early childhood educator describing the female figure in the story to be particularly good because she can drive a car, and thereby implicitly expressing that being able to drive a car is primarily a masculine property. However, this last result should be interpreted with caution, as it is only based on one of the institutions studied. Furthermore, the study suggests that it is difficult to prove gender patterns in the interaction between children and adults.


The data material consists of video footage of adult-child interactions at circle time in Swedish and Norwegian daycare centres. Six groups of children aged 1-3 years and their early childhood educators took part from each country (a total of 121 children, 56 of whom were boys and 65 girls as well as 40 early childhood educators). Each group of children was filmed four times during circle time, which together generated 48 circle time situations corresponding to 840 minutes of video footage.


Emilson, A. & Johansson, E. (2013). Participation and Gender in Circle-Time Situations in Preschool. International Journal of Early Years Education, 21 (1), 56-69.

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