Date: 15-04-2021

Playful Learning – Collaboration on Transition from Kindergarten to Primary School

The Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators (BUPL), project partner in InTrans, is involved in a LEGO Foundation’s program in Denmark. By engaging academics, professionals, municipalities, children and parents, the program seeks for playful learning to become an integral element in children’s transition from kindergarten to school. Read below how.

LEGO is well known for producing bricks for children’s play, building and construction. LEGO Foundation is another part of the company financing projects and research about play. One of its programmes is on Communities of Learning through Play with initiatives in Mexico, South Africa, Ukraine and Denmark.

In Denmark, the initiative is divided into three projects:

  1. Research on playful learning by giving grants for PhD studies.
  2. Financing pre-service and in-service training opportunities for pedagogues and teachers on playful learning in transition from kindergarten to school.
  3. Financial support for local development of playful learning transition in practice in six municipalities.

The Phd studies and the training of pedagogues and teachers are organized together with the University Colleges whereas the local projects are a mutual project of the Foundation and Local Government Denmark (the public employer for kindergartens and schools), involving  pedagogues, teachers and heads, as well as parents and local administrators for the period 2020 to 2023. In each municipality two kindergartens and two schools are cooperating on developing mutual understanding, methods and practice on Playful Learning. An Advisory Committee includes social partners (BUPL) and the parents association.

With a total budget of EUR 10,8 million, in the long term, the results of the project shall inspire other municipalities to implement playful learning as an integral element in children’s transition from kindergarten to the first three grades of primary school.

The rationale of the project is that the pedagogical approaches in kindergartens and schools are quite different – children’s right to free play is essential in the kindergarten whereas teaching in subjects is fundamental in school – so transition is often a big change and challenge to children’s life.

The project on playful learning is aimed at promoting the importance of play for children’s development and learning across the two worlds of kindergarten and school.

Therefore, the project on playful learning is aimed at promoting the importance of play for children’s development and learning across the two worlds of kindergarten and school. The idea is that playing is vital to development of children’s creativity and an experimental approach to lifelong learning and thus playful learning shall be an integrated part of the teaching in schools. 

The criticism to the concept of playful learning is the risk of reducing play to an instrument for learning and teaching and become a smarter way of schoolification of kindergarten. Organizing play around learning in a kindergarten might affect the value of natural and spontaneous play in early childhood.

Learning is imbedded in playing but play is much more than that. Play is a unique and independent part of a child’s life and community. Play is a fundamental right for children, play is fun, and play in itself is meaningful for a child’s experience of well-being. 

In relation to the InTrans project, it will be interesting to follow how the Danish pedagogues and teachers are going to collaborate in practice on playful learning. Are they able to overcome the current educational approach? Will it become an example of how to make child-friendly, warm and inclusive transitions? We hope to be able to see the answer to these questions in person during the planned InTrans study in Denmark in Spring 2022.

Children in Denmark attend age-integrated ECEC centers from 1-5 years of age. Children transit to primary school the year they turn 6. The first grade is called the kindergarten-class and the class teacher is a pedagogue with the same education as their colleagues in the ECEC centers. After one year the children go to grade 1 and are met by teachers. Most children in the kindergarten-class and the first 2-3 grades also attend a pedagogical after-school service – even run by pedagogues. So in general there is a close cooperation between the pedagogues and the teachers in the years of transition – but still with different pedagogical views upon play, teaching and learning.

Read more about the project here.

Author: Stig G Lund, Senior Adviser at BUPL, Denmark