The time children spend engaged in activities in their everyday life is related to well-being and learning at present and in the future, and can be described as one aspect of participation with attending the activity as the second dimension. The time children spend engaged in preschool activities is related both to child characteristics and environmental characteristics. Certain environmental characteristics promote engaging experiences better than other both for children with typical development and children in need of special support.

The aim of this project is to investigate the role of preschool environment characteristics on participation and engagement for children with and without a need for special support. In Sweden most young children, from the age of 2, spend a great part of the day in the universal preschool for all children, and their experiences in activities in the preschool environment is part of their everyday life. In spite of this, knowledge is missing about children’s participation and engagement in the everyday life of preschool. We need more knowledge about facilitators and barriers for participation and engagement. This knowledge is of special value for children in need of special support. Are they active and engaged in the preschool environment? Do they receive support for engagement and participation in the preschool environment?

PEPI is part of long-term international collaboration between the CHILD research environment and researchers in Portugal, South Africa, the U.S. and Australia. In the first study the preschool practices, teacher-child interactions, and interactions between children in preschools in Sweden, Portugal and the U.S. are in focus. The study evaluates the within-country relevance of two classroom observation measures primarily based on a behavioral count approach focused on teacher and child behaviors, and examines preschool practices as they reflect each country’s Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) goals organization, and educational philosophies. This study is followed by a study focusing on how preschool teachers and children spend their time in preschool setting the stage for child engagement and learning in Sweden. Systematic observations of children and teachers were performed showing that indoor and outdoor free play were the main activity settings and that children interact as much with other children as with teachers. Findings are discussed in relation to the preschool curriculum and future research needs. Continued work is focused on the pattern in children’s activities in preschool related to child characteristics, participation in the family environment and how demographic structures are related to the preschool environment.

Project leader: Eva Björck