One-to three-year-old children’s experience of subjective wellbeing in day care.

Seland, M.
Sandseter, E.B.H.
Bratterud, Å.
Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 16(1), 70-83.


The aim of this study is to contribute perspectives of, and knowledge about, what promotes subjective wellbeing in Norwegian children aged 1-3 years in day care, and in which situations and contexts toddlers experience wellbeing in day care.



The study identifies two main categories in connection with children's wellbeing in day care: social relations and concentrated play and exploration alone. Moreover, the study expands the social relations to include three sub-categories: positive child-adult relationships, community and positive child-child relationships. Overall, the results show that 1-3-year-olds in day care experience enjoyment and wellbeing when devoting themselves to social interaction with other children and adults, and when they are deeply concentrated in play and exploration alone. The authors conclude that an important factor to children's wellbeing is that the staff is able to create a space with a high level of responsivity and sensitivity towards the children. Moreover, children's wellbeing depends on whether they are seen, understood and recognised as autonomous individuals with own intentions, needs and preferences. Their influence on situations thereby contributes to their wellbeing at the day care institution. Furthermore, the authors conclude that the study’s observation method can contribute and develop new perspectives on children's wellbeing. Finally, the study confirms previous research that underlines the importance of social relationships for children's wellbeing. The study also expands the concept of wellbeing by including categories such as involvement, deep concentration and flow.


The study is based on observations of 18 children aged 15-38 months in nine day care institutions (barnehager). The observations lasted 2 x 30 minutes per child, and were based on the researcher's experience of the child's expressions, e.g. enjoyment and wellbeing when interacting with other children and/or adults. These signs include smiles, laughter, movement, eye movement, bodily expressions, facial gestures, language and nonverbal expressions. The observation method aims to emphasise the perspective and experiences of the child (phenomenological analysis) by including the perspective and sensibility of the observer. The observations were subsequently transcribed and coded in order to divide the different signs into enjoyment and wellbeing. This results in a categorisation and sub-categorisation of the situations and contexts in which children experience wellbeing.


Seland, M., Sandseter, E.B.H. & Bratterud, Å. (2015). One-to three-year-old children’s experience of subjective wellbeing in day care. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 16(1), 70-83.

Financed by

The Ministry of Education and Research in Norway