Barnehage - Dylan is so excited to finally start Barnehage in March.(some great information on what Friluftsbarnehager is)

Dylan is so excited to finally start Barnehage in March.

Friluftsbarnehager -  The barnehage is a 5-minute drive from us and can probably walk there in the spring/summer if we cut through the farms.

The Norwegian word barnehage describes different types of provision for children from
one to six years of age, such as day nurseries, kindergartens and pre-schools. They all
have an educational agenda.
The word Friluftsliv is more than simply outdoor activities or outdoor recreation. The main
motivation is the experience of nature, and the philosophy is to take care of the

Some great information I found to share with you - 

Children Playing in Nature 121
ChildrenPlaying in Nature
Karen MMarie Eid Kaarby
In this paper, I want to focus on barnehager, which when in the wild environment, are
known as Friluftsbarnehager. Firstly, I will define the concept Friluftsbarnehage. Secondly
I will discuss the observation of children’s play out in wild environment and how nature
influences children’s play. Finally, I want to point out how nature influences the quality of
children’s play. 
The Norwegian word barnehage describes different types of provision for children from
one to six years of age, such as day nurseries, kindergartens and pre-schools. They all
have an educational agenda.
The word Friluftsliv is more than simply outdoor activities or outdoor recreation. The main
motivation is the experience of nature, and the philosophy is to take care of the
Friluftsbarnehager Outside iin tthe WWild EEnvironment
The Norwegian Ministry of the Environment currently focuses on  friluftsliv as a
recommended educational way of working in barnehager and schools (Parliament Report
nr. 39, 2000-2001). The arguments for this way of working are related to both ecology
and health. A child who learns to love the countryside will wish to preserve it. He or she
will understand the importance of biological diversity. It is also assumed that these
children will keep on using the outdoor environment for physical activities in their adult
life. The Framework Plan for Day-Care Institutions (Ministry of Children and Family Affairs,
1996) formulates objectives such as “developing positive attitudes and practical skills”
related to nature and outdoor activities. There is growing documentation stating that
increased physical activity, and particularly outdoor physical activity, can prevent diseases
related to modern lifestyles. 
During the last ten years, a large number of friluftsbarnehage have been established in
Scandinavia, particularly in Norway. In Norway, there is a loose National curriculum, a
framework, stating objectives and aims for educational work in  barnehager.
Friluftsbarnehager must follow this national curriculum and the general principles of
management of “barnehager”. They do this through mainly outdoor activities all day,
every day, year round. This motto from one  friluftsbarnehage shows their philosophy:
“Everything you can do indoors, you can do outdoors, but not the other way around.”
According to their programs, two different areas seem to be common. The first is122 Questions of Quality
developing knowledge about the environment and experience of nature. The second is to
focus physical activity and motor development by using nature as an arena for play
(Lysklett, 2003).
The researchers Borge  et al. (2003) presented three ideas underpining the
friluftsbarnehage. Firstly, they see them as a part of the strong bonds between nature and
Norwegians, and Norwegian’s tradition of preferring outdoor leisure activities. They
assume that parents want to give their children the opportunity to experience outdoor
activities and to develop positive attitudes to outdoor and wild environment. The second
idea is that of “a happy childhood.” They say that the majority of parents believe that
“happy children are children playing outdoor most of the day, irrespective of season and
weather.” (Borge et al., 2003:606) The last point is the parents’ option to choose this type
of barnehage for their child because of the increased number of these friluftsbarnehager.
Borge et al. (2003) estimate that about 5 per cent of all day-care children in Scandinavian
countries experience such outdoor life in friluftsbarnehager. 
Høyland (1999), supported by The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, evaluated the
quality of  friluftsbarnehager, and her results show that wild environments and outdoor
life are positive arenas for learning. Friluftsbarnehager represent more flexibility. There
are more possibilities for physical activities, mastery experiences, knowledge about the
natural environment and environmental consciousness in these institutions.
Fjørtoft (2001) in her doctorate thesis documents that children develop better physical
skills when they are given opportunity for outdoor activities from an early age.
How ddoes tthe EEnvironment IInfluence CChildren’s PPlay?
According to a post-graduate thesis (Klepsvik 1995), staff in Fruluftsbarnehager reported
that children’s play is more creative, and they play better in the wild environment
compared to ordinary playgrounds. My main question is: How does the outdoor
environment influence children’s play? 
Fjørtoft (2001:111) notes that “the central concept guiding children’s examination of their
environment is that of “affordance’.” Gibson’s (1979) concept of  affordance was
developed to describe how compositions and layout of surfaces constitute what they
afford. The affordances of the environment are what the environment offers to the
children. Heft (1988) elaborated the concept of  affordances further and explained
environmental features as functions for play. Children perceive the functions of the
features in the environment, and they intuitively use them for physical challenges and
play. They perceive what the environment affords them. Heft (1988) argued that the
functional approach corresponds to the relationship of children to their environment.  TheChildren Playing in Nature 123
diversity of the outdoor environment gives the children a lot of possibilities. Different
features like cliffs and rocks, slopes and heights, and a mixture of woodland with a high
diversity in vegetation, all have a functional meaning for children. For example, a tree
with branches suitable for climbing will be perceived as climbable. If some of the
branches also are big enough to sit on, the tree can be perceived as both climbable and
as a base for social play. The tree therefore affords opportunities both for climbing and
playing. A key point made by Gibson (1979) is that  affordances correspond with each
individual; to the size of the body, strength, the skills, courage and fear. 
My RResearch PProject OObserving CChildren PPlaying OOutdoors
My research project is based on a Qualitative approach (Sparkes 1992; Hammersley and
Atkinson, 1992). During Autumn 2003, I visited two groups in two different
friluftsbarnehager that spent most of the day outdoor in the forest. I stayed with them for
twelve days from late August to December. I watched children play, wrote some notes and
finished my log later on. I videotaped children’s play when they were happy for me to do
so. The tape was transcribed and analysed together with the log. First, I tried to observe
the whole group because I wanted to get a general idea of how children behaved. Then
I kept on observing different groups of children in their play and play at popular features. 
Both friluftsbarnehager alternated different places, camps, out in wild environment. The
only facility at the camp was the fire. Some camps were near the main  barnehage
building, while some were nearly an hour’s walk or a short bus journey away. My
observations have been discussed with and confirmed by the staff and my colleagues.
How ddid tthe CChildren PPlay?
Each camp had different natural features, such as different woodland, a grassy field, a lot
of cliffs and really big rocks.  On coming to the camp, some children started to play
immediately and some stayed with the staff at the camp. The latter group could find a
knife and start whittling or help in building the bonfire. One of the staff always had to
stay by the fire. One of the Barnehager also prepared a hot meal for the children by the
fire every day at noon. The children who immediately started to play, were either focused
on where to play and had made arrangements for play before they arrived at the camp,
or they went around looking for facilities and playmates before starting real play. 
Physical AActivity PPlay
Physical activity play was prominent most of the time. I saw a lot of activities which were
repeated in the context of exercise play (Pellegrini and Smith, 1998). The activities could
Climbing up very steep hillsides and sliding down again;
Climbing up and jumping down from big rocks or small cliffs;124 Questions of Quality
Climbing in trees;
Throwing javelins or cones;
Shooting with bows and arrows;
Rolling on the ground;
Balancing on stones, fallen trees etc.;
Whittling a stick.
I will argue that all these activities were based on what the environment afforded and
the functional significance of the surroundings (Heft 1988). Children are aware of how
steep a slope must be to be able to slide down, and they explore different ways of sliding
down according to their fear and ability. When climbing, they find their own ways up,
fitting their strength, height and skills to the task. They intuitively examine what nature
affords them, and they stop climbing when it becomes too dangerous for them. All the
elements listed above were also seen as a part of role-play. 
The environment with its natural features constituted a scene for role-playing. They were
a mother and children, a mouse or a cat family moving around looking for something to
eat, running away from a threat or whatever the dramatic adviser (always one of the
children) told them to do. On their trips, they sought the natural features that could give
different challenges. They moved around through shrubs, crossing rock-strewn slopes, up
and down hillsides while speeding up and down, often fleeing. The one in front perceived
what the environment would  afford her. Sometimes her movements were too
complicated for some of those who followed, but they never mentioned or commented
on the behaviour. The play had the elements of running effectively around and dealing
with obstacles. I observed this kind of play in both institutions. In one, this play belonged
to a group of girls, but sometimes boys were involved. In the other, both boys and girls
participated almost all the time.
Some boys’ play had a different content. They were pirates, workers on a spacecraft, car
drivers, Robin Hood or Harry Potter. Their play was more vigorous and their movements
more dynamic. Often they also carried sticks with them, and sometimes there was an
element of fight, either verbal or physical. I never saw them participate in the mother and
child play, and they seldom allowed girls to participate in their play. The advanced
climbers found their spacecraft or their castle at the top of a tree suitable for climbing.
Big branches afforded opportunities for sitting, balancing, swinging and rocking and all
these elements were found in the play. Another element was the fight, and even a fight
can take place in a tree, if the tree is suitable. I watched different kinds of fights in the
trees. The fights were very much verbal and as soon as the intruder was a real danger,
they surrendered, climbed down, or negotiated a solution.Children Playing in Nature 125
In the role-play the elements of  nature were used in different ways. The shrubs and trees
were transformed into houses, cars, garages, spacecraft, castles and whatever.
Implements such as switches for lights, door openings, rocket launchers, steering wheels
etc. were always found and used by the children in their play. Stepping-stones, for
example, function as an entrance for a house, stepping from stone to stone became an
important element of a mother and child play. A windfall where the wind had blown
down trees could be a scene for a role-play. Like staying in trees, staying at windfalls
demanded balance and strength. The windfall gave opportunities for those who did not
want to be quiet during a part of the role-play. If the tree or the windfall afforded it, some
children were balancing, hanging, swinging or turning somersaults when the dramatic
adviser told them to be in a car, in a plane or at school. They played their individual
exercise play parallel, but within the role-play.
Go EExploring
Another distinctive type of play was the number of expeditions that set out to discover
something. In the autumn, spiders’ webs were easy to find and they were attractive to
some of the boys who challenged themselves to kiss the spiders’ webs. Other exciting
features were small caves, and stories were made up about who might have lived there.
A dead mouse, a cocoon, a snail roused from its winter sleep in a warm hand, are all
examples which were found and brought back to the camp to be shown the to staff and
Traditional PPlay
The last type of plays was chase and catch play, hide and seek and different singing
games. Most of this play was started by children themselves, but once during the day,
adults could start a game and very often the whole group participated. Different variants
of chase and catch and hide and seek were popular, and sometimes the children started
those games on their own. The ground, with its elements of vegetation and rocks made
those games more challenging than if played on a flat ground, and emphasised the
impact that the outdoors can have on children’s play. 
I found that physical activity play was the prominent activity in these friluftsbarnehager.
The children were more or less physicaly active all the time. The key elements of the
exercise play (Pelligrini and Smith, 1998) were functions of different features in the
environment, and the play had different characteristics according to the different
surroundings. Where elements such as good climbing trees, windfalls, steep hillsides and
dense bushes were available, these elements were included in nearly all the role play.
Physical skills and body control seemed to determine the child’s participation more than
age (Kaarby, 2004). 126 Questions of Quality
Quality aaccording tto tthe NNorwegian Barnehage
A program for Quality improvement in “barnehager” has just come to an end. The
preliminary conclusions are of great interest from the point of view of friluftsbarnehager.
The conclusions state that quality in the Norwegian  barnehager first and foremost is
characterized by:  
“A positive environment with a high level of well-being for the involved groups;
Emphasizing play and variety of activities;
Emphasizing outdoor activities and experience.” (Søbstad, 2004: 68)
These characteristics correspond with the main focus of the general framework plan for
barnehagen which is on social interaction and play. Because quality is both relative and
normative it is meaningful to talk about a special Norwegian Quality in  barnehager
(Søbstad, 2004). 
How tthe WWild EEnvironment IInfluences tthe QQuality oof CChildren’s PPlay
Quality can be understood as the meaning or value a phenomenon has to those who are
involved (Dahlberg  et al., 1999; Søbstad, 2004). I have tried to describe how the wild
environment influences children’s play and, from my point of view, gives value to play. I
have tried to describe how nature was a dominant element in all kinds of play, and how
children perceive functions of the environment and use them (Heft, 1988). Because of the
seasons, the landscape has different characteristics and affords different functions during
the year. These different features give various options and great diversity. The creativity
children showed when transforming objects was conspicuous. While some will say that
the environment simply serves the play, another way of looking at it is to ask how the
environment created the play, how a feature invited just that particular kind of play. 
Nearly a hundred children in six barnehager were asked what they preferred doing, and
ninety-eight per cent answered running, jumping and climbing (Søbstad, 2004). All these
activities are what children in  friluftsbarnehager do all the time, as described earlier in
this paper. The possibilities that nature gives for vigorous gross motor moments are of
great value for children involved. 
According to Pelligrini and Smith (1998), physical activity play has developmental
functions in proportion to endurance and strength. From a health perspective, there is
now a focus on children becoming more and more sedentary. The fact that children, when
given the opportunity to play in outdoor surroundings, are physically active nearly all the
time, shows that children enjoy being physically active. It seems like they are more
engaged, involved and socially included in play outdoors (Klepsvik, 1995).Children Playing in Nature 127
As I see it, another benefit for children is the many and various impressions which the
wild environment gives. The four seasons and all sorts of weather make the same
surroundings different each time. Being outdoors all through the year, children are much
more aware of those shifts, and the different sense impressions they provide. The
experience of nature is one of the basic qualities of friluftsliv. Practical experiences from
different situations give children fundamental knowledge, and in the  barnehage they
have the opportunity to share the experience linguistically and to interact based on these
shared experiences.
Borge, A., Nordhagen, R. and Lie, K. ( 2003). The Child in the Environment: Forest Daycare Centers Modern Day Care with Historical Antecedents,  The History of the Family,
Volume 8, pp. 605-658.
Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. and Pence A. (1999). Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education
and Care. London: Routledge Falmer.
Fjørtoft, I. (2001). The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: The Impact of
Outdoor Play in Pre–Primary School Children: A Landscape for Learning. Early Childhood
Education Journal, Volume 29, No. 2, pp. 111-117.
Gibson, J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (1992).  Feltmetodikk Grunnlaget for Feltarbeid og
Feltforskning. Oslo: Ad Notam Gyldendal.
Heft, H. (1988). Affordances of Childrens’ Environments: A Functional Approach to
Environmental Description. Children’ Environments Quarterly, Volume 5, No. 3. 
Høyland, M. (1999).  Natur “Barnehager” i Vestfold, Rapport og Problemnotat,
Fylkesmannen I Vestfold.
Lysklett, O., Emilsen, K. and Hagen, T. (2003). Hva kjennetegner natur- og
“Frilufts”Barnehager.”” Barnehagefolk, Volume 4, pp. 78-85.
Kaarby, K. (2004). Children Outdoor in the Nature. Paper presented at European Teacher
Education Network Conference in Portugal, February 2004.
Klepsvik, K. (1995).  Friluftsliv i Barnehagen. En Kvalitativ Undersøkelse Barnehagens
Innflytelse på Barns Friluftsliv. Oslo: University of Sport.128 Questions of Quality
Ministry of Children and Family Affairs (1996). Framework Plan for ”Barnehager.”
Parliament Report: St. meld., nr. 39 (2000-2001). Friluftsliv White Paper to Parliament.
Pellegrini, A. and Smith, P. (1998). Physical Activity Play: The Nature and Function of a
Neglected Aspect of Play. Child Development, Volume 69, No. 3, pp. 577-598.
Sparkes, A. (1992). The Paradigm Debate: An Extended Overview and a Celebration of
Differences, (in) Sparkes, A. (Ed.). Research in Physical Education and Sport – Exploring
Alternative Visions. London: Falmer Press.
Søbstad, F. (2004). Mot Stadig Nye Mål. Trondheim: DMMH’s Publikasjonsserie 01/04


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