Children are running wild in the mud, climbing high into trees and playing with knives, but no one is telling them off. We are looking at life in kindergarten… Danish-style.
If you’re the kind of parent who keeps a close eye on your kids in the playground, Denmark’s forest kindergarten will come as a rude shock – they do things differently here. Johan says he’s watching from a distance. So what happens if he thinks the children are doing something dangerous? “I sometimes close my eyes, because I know I have to stop something, but I can also stand and watch it a little bit first because I think it’s exciting. And I can understand why they do it,” he says.
Whether he’s throwing rocks into the fjord with a bunch of enthusiastic three year-olds, or abseiling down a muddy slope with some determined five year-olds, Johan clearly gets a vicarious buzz from their juvenile thrill-seeking. “It’s not dangerous in my opinion. And if you don’t get a little bit of danger, what’s life worth living? Everybody needs a little bit of kick sometimes.”
At the heart of what makes Danish kindergartens so special is one word – pedagogy. In Denmark, and in many other parts of Europe, ‘pedagogy’ is an everyday word for something that’s much more holistic than ‘teaching’. It’s something that applies from cradle-to-grave – anyone in Denmark working with young children, or the mentally ill, or the elderly, requires a university degree in pedagogy.