Toddlers as social actors in the Swedish preschool

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University

Abstract: This thesis focuses on interaction among young toddlers during their second year of life in a Swedish preschool. The overall aim of this thesis was to explore interaction, communication and the creation of friendship between the young children during self initiated play activities. In addition, this thesis presents the background of Early Childhood Education in Sweden, which may serve as an extended context for the study.An ethnographic study was carried out in a toddler unit with 15 children. Six one year old girls and boys were in focus during the observations for nine months. Participatory methods, photos, fieldnotes and videorecordings, were used for the data collection.The theoretical framework for the study is built on phenomenology, the view of the child as a social person and a child oriented perspective. The overall findings support a theoretical perspective where the young toddlers are seen as social actors, with social competencies. Their play invitation strategies, as well as their play enactment and play-closing moves, were mostly found to be based on nonverbal communication such as movements, gestures, voice quality and facial expressions. The competencies of attunement, taking others’ perspectives and turn-taking were found in play among the young toddlers, and they also showed negotiating skills while playing.The findings also show how young toddlers make friends. During their second year of life, they monitor and pay attention to individual peers, displaying intentionality and agency by spontaneously greeting their peers, by offering play invitations, and by helping peers. Mutual awareness, joint attention, shared smiles, coordinated movements, as well as other types of synchronized actions are seen as parts of nonverbal elements in emerging friendship.The findings in this thesis support an understanding of young toddlers as social persons in the preschool, engaged in consistent interest and attention towards each other while playing.

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