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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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1.3 Bad clothing or bad weather?

This section will consider different cultural contexts – that of Norway and Denmark. First, watch this short video ‘Kindergarten – The Nordic Way’ where a child recounts the sensations, emotions and practices experienced for some young children in one Norwegian kindergarten. As you watch, consider the factors that allow this kind of pedagogy. Would you see this in your own cultural context and if not why not? For example, you may want to consider health and safety rules and whether this kind of practice would be allowed. Others may wonder if children in their care would have appropriate clothing – or indeed if the adults would also.

Kindergarten – The Nordic Way. (The Open University is not responsible for external content.)
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Activity 2 Parenting in Denmark

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

You are now going to read a description of Elisabeth’s (name anonymised) experiences when she spent some time living in Denmark as a new parent. Her country of origin was England so she was interested to compare parenting practices between the two countries. Read her comments and then have a go at answering the questions below; you can also find them in your Learning journal (which you may have downloaded in Activity 1).

At first I imagined that parenting styles would be very similar to those I was used to, however, there were some key differences, some of which I had difficulty getting used to and there was certainly a pressure to parent in a ‘certain Danish way’. Some of this was around the use of dummies and when to stop breastfeeding but there was also an expectation that young babies would sleep outside during the day even in very cold temperatures. Most apartment blocks in Copenhagen were designed with spaces for prams outside so that babies can sleep there. If I didn’t put my daughter outside, someone would knock on my door to check everything was okay. It really is a whole different approach. My mum and my friend back in England, who was a health visitor, were both very scared that my children would get cold if I left them to sleep outside. But to be honest the Danes all have these lovely big buggies and lovely baby duvets, so they were well set up for their cultural norm in the freezing winters!

Now have a go at answering these questions:

  • Why do you think that parenting attitudes to letting babies sleep outside may differ in different cultural contexts?
  • Parents depend on health professionals for advice to help them look after their children in the best way. Why might this professional advice differ if offered by a professional in different cultural contexts?
  • If you were in Elisabeth’s position what do you think you would do? Why?
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You may have responded to these questions in a variety of ways. For example, you may think about air pollution or how practices which are considered safe in one context may not be in another. In some contexts, parents or carers would worry about ‘stranger danger’, or insects and other animals. The professional advice given to parents of new babies will be very much informed by context and it is important to note that practices cannot be easily ‘cut and pasted’ from one context to another. However, it is useful to look at other practices to see what we can learn from them. Elisabeth decided to wrap herself up as warm as her daughter and sit outside with her coffee while her daughter slept. When she moved back to England, she also did this with her subsequent children as she could see the benefits; and you will look at these benefits more closely in the next section.