”Hovedkroppe, porcelænsdukker og mudderbørn. Pædagogers forståelse af dansk daginstitutionspraksis”.

Jensen, J.J.
VIA University College, Århus.


The purpose of this study is to increase awareness of how Danish early childhood educators understand good pedagogical practices and fundamental values in educational efforts with regard to the UK and Hungary as representatives for different welfare models and perspectives on children.



Based on the early childhood educators’ discussions and perceptions, the study identifies three different approaches taken in daycare centres in the three countries. In the UK, a preschool-approach prevails in daycare centres, in Hungary a family and care approach prevails, and in Denmark an approach that involves the child prevails.


In the British preschool approach, it does not seem important to involve children in everyday activities (e.g. meals) that are not part of a learning activity. In contrast, in the Danish daycare centre, and in the eyes of the early childhood educators interviewed, everyday activities are integrated in the planned learning activities and are not seen as in-between situations with no pedagogical content. In this study, the emphasis on everyday activities in the self-perception of early childhood education in Denmark reflects the perception that days cannot be broken down into different situations and activities that can be designated to specific staff on the basis of their academic training. In the holistic approach favoured in Denmark, everyday activities (such as mealtimes, helping the child go to the toilet or blow their nose) are seen as an integrated and important part of the pedagogical efforts.


In the three films, the planned everyday activities are performed in very different ways, reflecting the different perspectives on the carer/educator profession in the three countries. In the British approach, the early childhood educators see the planned activities as being far removed from their own understanding of ‘good’ activities. In the UK film, one planned activity is followed by another and the entire group of children participate. This way of organising the day leads to the adults addressing the children in an imperative tone; some of the early childhood educators even find it commanding and authoritarian. According to the educators, in the film this is reflected in the hesitant, passive and disciplined children whose opinions and initiatives seem to bear no importance. In the Hungarian film, greater emphasis is placed on children being self-reliant. However, seen from the perspective of the Danish early childhood educators, too little focus is placed on being together in a shared community, the resources available in such a community, and on allowing for flexibility in everyday activities. The Danish early childhood educators' understanding of their own professional approach to these activities stand in contrast to both the British and the Hungarian film, in that they see these activities as central to learning, however they state that such activities should always allow room for the children’s own initiatives and interests. The Danish early childhood educators believe that children should be allowed to take the initiative, voice their opinion and make objections, even when performing an activity planned by the adults. According to the study, this reflects the early childhood educators’ perception of children as individuals who can, will and must do something.



The study is based on qualitative data collected through focus group interviews, in which the participants were shown three films that show the everyday practices of a daycare centre in Denmark, the UK and Hungary, respectively. The films serve to spark a discussion among the participants about teaching practices as well as reflections on these practices. They also serve to raise the participants’ awareness of what they find are important pedagogical qualities in their own practice. The films were made in connection with the European research project Care Work in Europe that was carried out as a joint project with researchers from the UK, Hungary and Denmark, and the team of researchers in each country chose which daycare centre would be the focus of their film. Each film lasts approx. 30 minutes and includes different everyday situations (e.g. saying goodbye and hello, planned activities, indoor and outdoor play, going to the toilet).


The empirical material in the sub-study consists of focus group interviews with a total of 18 Danish early childhood educators split into five focus groups: one focus group with the two early childhood educators in the Danish film and four focus groups with four early childhood educators each. There were two more focus groups: one with three Danish researchers and one with two teachers from the bachelor degree programme in social education. Three of the focus group interviews with the early childhood educators were conducted in connection with the sub-study. The remaining interviews were all conducted in connection with the project Care Work in Europe.



Jensen, J.J. (2014). ”Hovedkroppe, porcelænsdukker og mudderbørn. Pædagogers forståelse af dansk daginstitutionspraksis”. VIA University College, Århus.

Financed by

The Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators’ research pool.