Considering how much time most children spend in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions, the psychosocial dimensions of ECEC institutions and children’s well-being represent a growing research area within the ECEC field. This paper presents results from a study where children’s experiences of subjective well-being and opportunities for participation in ECEC institutions were explored. Research on children’s own perspectives about their well-being has mainly been conducted among children older than those of preschool age, and therefore this study aimed at highlighting the voices of 4-6-year-old children regarding how they experience their lives in ECEC institutions. Quantitative data was collected through conversations with 171 Norwegian 4–6-year-old children based on an electronic questionnaire. The results indicate that even though many children experience a high degree of well-being in Norwegian ECEC institutions, approximately one-third of them experience a medium level of well-being and close to one out of ten experience a low degree of well-being. The results show that the physical environment, the toys/equipment, the common activities and the opportunity to have an influence on where to move, what to do and with whom are of crucial importance for children’s well-being in ECEC institutions. This also includes children’s opportunity to oppose the staff and negotiate and choose activities that differ from those that the staff select.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bae, B. (2009). Children’s right to participate–challenges in everyday interactions. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 17(3), 391–406. doi:10.1080/13502930903101594.
Ben-Arieh, A. (2008). The child indicators movement: past, present, and future. Child Indicators Research, 1(1), 3–16. doi:10.1007/s12187-007-9003-1.
Clark, A., Kjørholt, A. T., & Moss, P. (Eds.). (2005). Beyond Listening. Children’s perspectives on early childhood services. Bristol: University Press.
Dolk, K. (2013). Bångstyriga barn. Makt, normer och delaktighet i förskolan. Stockholm: Ordfront.
Fattore, T., Mason, J., & Watson, E. (2007). Children’s conceptualization(s) of their well-being. Social Indicators Research, 80(1), 5–29.
Fattore, T., Mason, J., & Watson, E. (2009). When children are asked about their well-being: towards a framework for guiding policy. Child Indicators Research, 2(1), 57–77. doi:10.1007/s12187-008-9025-3.
Fine, G. A., & Sandstrom, K. L. (1988). Knowing children: Participant observation with minors (Qualitative research methods 15th ed.). Beverly Hills, California: Sage.
Foley, K. R., Blackmore, A. M., Girdler, S., O’Donnell, M., Glauert, R., Llewellyn, G., et al. (2012). To feel belonged: the voices of children and youth with disabilities on the meaning of wellbeing. Child Indicators Research, 5(2), 375–391. doi:10.1007/s12187-011-9134-2.
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Grieg, A., Taylor, J., & MacKay, T. (2007). Doing research with children (Vol. 2). London: Sage.
Hagen, T. L. (2015). Hvilken innvirkning har barnehagens fysiske utemiljø på barns lek og de ansattes pedagogiske praksis i uterommet. Nordic Early Childhood Education Research, 10, 1–16.
Harter, S., & Pike, R. (1984). The pictorial scale of perceived competence and social acceptance for young children. Child Development, 55(6), 1969–1982.
Huntsman, L. (2008). Determinants of quality in child care: A review of research evidence. Ashfield NSW: Centre for Parenting and Research.
Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. C. (2013). Flourishing across Europe: application of a New conceptual framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research, 110(3), 837–861. doi:10.1007/s11205-011-9966-7.
James, A., & Christensen, P. (2007). Research with children perspectives and practices. London: Routledge.
Kallestad, J. H., & Ødegaard, E. E. (2014). Children’s activities in Norwegian kindergartens. Part 2: focus on variations. Cultural Historical Psychology, 10(2), 86–94.
Kjørholt, A. T. (2004). Childhood as a social and symbolic space: Discourses on children as social participants in society. Trondheim: NTNU.
Kjørholt, A. T., & Seland, M. (2012). Kindergarten as a Bazar. Freedom of choice and new forms of regulation. In A. T. Kjørholt & J. Qvortrup (Eds.), The modern child and the flexible labour market. Exploring early childhood education and care. London: Palgrave.
Koch, A. B. (2012). Når børn trives i børnehaven. Århus: Syddansk Universitet, PhD thesis.
Kyttä, M. (2004). The extent of children’s independent mobility and the number of actualized affordances as criteria for child-friendly environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 179–198.
Løvlie, L. (2013). Kampen om barndommen. In A. Greve, S. Mørreaunet, & N. Winger (Eds.), Ytringer om likeverd, demokrati og relasjonsbygging i barnehagen (pp. 15–26). Fagbokforlaget: Bergen.
Mashford-Scott, A., Church, A., & Tayler, C. (2012). Seeking children’s perspectives on their wellbeing in early childhood settings. International Journal of Early Childhood, 44, 231–247. doi:10.1007/s13158-012-0069-7.
Neill, S. R. S. J. (1982). Preschool design and child behaviour. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 23(3), 309–318.
NMER. (2005). Act no. 64 of June 2005 relating to kindergartens (the kindergarten act). Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.
NMER (2006/2011). Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens, issued 1. March. Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.
NMER. (2010). NOU 2010:8 Med forskertrang og lekelyst. Systematisk pedagogisk tilbud til alle førskolebarn. Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.
Nordin-Hultman, E. (2004). Pedagogiske miljøer og barns subjektskaping. Oslo: Pedagogisk forum.
Østrem, S., Bjar, H., Føsker, L. R., Hogsnes, H. D., Jansen, T. T., Nørdtomme, S., et al. (2009). Alle teller mer. En evaluering av hvordan Rammeplan for barnehagens innhold og oppgaver blir innført, brukt og erfart. Tønsberg: Høgskolen i Vestfold, Barnehagesenteret.
Roberts, H. (2008). Listening to children: and hearing them. In P. Christensen & A. James (Eds.), Research with children. Perspectives and practices (pp. 260–275). New York: Routledge.
Sandberg, A., & Eriksson, A. (2008). Children’s participation in preschool—on the conditions of the adults? Preschool staff’s concepts of children’s participation in preschool everyday life. Early Child Development and Care, 180(5), 619–631. doi:10.1080/03004430802181759.
Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009a). Affordances for risky play in preschool—the importance of features in the play environment. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36, 439–446.
Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009b). Characteristics of risky play. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 9(1), 3–21.
Seland, M. (2009). Det moderne barn og den fleksible barnehagen. En etnografisk studie av barnehagens hverdagsliv i lys av nyere diskurser og kommunal virkelighet. Trondheim: NTNU.
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. doi:10.1177/1463949114567272.
StatisticsNorway (2014). Kindergartens, 2013, final statistics. https://ssb.no/en/utdanning/statistikker/barnehager. Accessed 28 Nov 2014.
Storli, R., & Sandseter, E. B. H. (2015). Preschool teachers’ perceptions of children’s rough-and-tumble play (R&T) in indoor and outdoor environments. Early Child Development and Care, 1–15, doi:10.1080/03004430.2015.1028394.
Sylva, K., Melhuish, E. C., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Taggart, B., & Elliot, K. (2003). The effective provision of pre-school education (EPPE) project: Findings from the pre-school period. London: University of London.
Thoilliez, B. (2011). How to grow up happy: an exploratory study on the meaning of happiness from children’s voices. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 323–351. doi:10.1007/s12187-011-9107-5.
U.dir. (2015a). Barn og ansatte i barnehager i 2014. Oslo: The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.
U.dir. (2015b). Barnehagespeilet. Tall og analyse av barnehager i Norge. Oslo: The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.
UN (1989). The convention on the rights of the child. In U. Nations (Ed.).
Vassenden, A., Thygesen, J., Bayer, S. B., Alvestad, M., & Abrahamsen, G. (2011). Barnehagenes organisering og strukturelle faktorers betydning for kvalitet (Rapport 2011/029). Stavanger: International Research Institute of Stavanger.
Waller, T., & Bitou, A. (2011). Research with children: three challenges for participatory re-search in early childhood. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19(1), 5–20.
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research funded this project. A special acknowledgement goes to the project manager, Åse Bratterud, at the Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Sandseter, E.B.H., Seland, M. Children’s Experience of Activities and Participation and their Subjective Well-Being in Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care Institutions. Child Ind Res 9, 913–932 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-015-9349-8
- Subjective well-being
- Early childhood