The value of risky play at natural outdoor environment to develop children s relationship

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1 Erika Lisset León Castro The value of risky play at natural outdoor environment to develop children s relationship Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Erasmus Mundus joint degree International Master of Early Childhood Education and Care (IMEC is collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology and University of Malta. Spring, 2012 International Master of Early Childhood Education and Care Faculty of Education and International Studies Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

2 Preface This master thesis represents the end of my full participation for two years in the postgraduate program International Master in Early Childhood Education and Care (IMEC). Since the beginning, I had strong curiosity for play at outdoor environment in Norway. Through the time, new experiences and knowledge about play shaped interesting queries in risky play. Finally, the last stage of this program gave me the opportunity to explore more about this theme. Thanks to all the professors in Norway, Ireland and Malta who wisely guided this multicultural student group. I feel so grateful for have met my supervisor Karen Marie Eid who supported thesis project. It was a meaningful experience work together and share ideas, knowledge and experience from different cultural context. She definitely deserves a thank you for her commitment and all the constructive feedback she has given me. My father, mother, sister and brother have been fundamental to conclude my studies abroad. I would like to express an especial thank you to my family who trusted on my dedication, passion and desire to excel in this master program. My life has positively changed during these two years. My fellow students and friends have enriched my life with unforgettable experiences. Finally, I wish to thank all the participants into my research such as early childhood practitioners and the preschool children who made possible realize my ideas. Oslo, August 2012 Erika Lisset León Castro 2

3 Abstract This study examines the value of risky play to develop children s relationship. Risky play is analyzed in natural outdoor environment in a Norwegian kindergarten. As inductive research, this study suggests the hypothesis; risky play affords opportunities to develop positive children s relationship. The research seeks to answer how does risky play in natural outdoor environment become an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship? The study follows the line of interpretivism paradigm and qualitative approach. The design of this investigation was inspirited by micro-ethnographic research approach due to limit of time. The participants were a group of children from 3 to 5 years old with previous experiences in risky play at outdoor environment. The investigation employed naturalistic observation approach for data collection and informal conversations with the staff. The interpretation and analysis of this research were based on children s gestures, bodily movement, sounds and short verbal expressions as consequence of researcher limit knowledge of Norwegian language. The investigation found four main factors communication and peer s interactions, self-efficacy and children s participation in risky play. Finally, I have noticed that risky play becomes an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship when challenging situations into play are solved by these four factors. 3

4 Contents PREFACE... 2 ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION RESEARCHER BACKGROUND CHOICE OF TOPIC THE PURPOSE OF THE RESEARCH STRUCTURE OF THE MASTER THESIS THEORETICAL APPROACH VYGOTSKY S SOCIAL CULTURAL THEORY Play as support of children s interaction in Zone Proximal Distance CHILDREN S SOCIAL COMPETENCE Importance of communication in peer s relationship Importance of children s participation in peer s relationship Learning social skills between peers through playing Social competence in Norwegian Kindergartens MEANING OF RISKY PLAY INTO NORWEGIAN CONTEXT Risky play as positive social connector between young children Peer s influence in risk-taking METHODOLOGY RATIONAL FOR THE PARADIGM AND RESEARCH APPROACH Interpretivism Qualitative research ETHNOGRAPHY SAMPLING THE DATA COLLECTION Participant observation Informal conversation with pedagogical leaders and assistants ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS Research with children Consent and confidentiality RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION COMMUNICATION AND PEER INTERACTION Communication between children Building self-efficacy through peer s interaction during risky play CHILDREN S PARTICIPATION IN RISKY PLAY Negotiation, agreements, making rules between children Equal opportunities for all during risky play ECEC practitioners participation in children s risky play LEARNING SOCIAL SKILLS THROUGH RISKY PLAY

5 4.3.1 Learning democratic values SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND FINAL REMARKS MAIN FINDINGS FURTHER RESEARCH REFERENCES APPENDICES APPENDIX A: LETTER FROM THE NORWEGIAN SOCIAL SCIENCE DATA SERVICES APPENDIX B: CONSENT LETTER APPENDIX C: GATEKEEPER LETTER

6 1. Introduction 1.1 Researcher Background My professional background is in Pedagogy Sciences with a degree in Educadora de Párvulos translated to English which means Preschool Teacher. I am an Ecuadorian citizen with eight years of experiences working in kindergartens with different groups of children from 1 to 5 years old. One of the reasons for organizing children in different groups according to ages is due to theories from Piaget, Vygotsky and Brunner which are mostly based on children s maturity and age. These theories strongly influence in early childhood education and care (ECEC) system in Ecuador, as well as teachers training. I am part of an International Master Program in Early Childhood Education and Care (IMEC) taken place in three European institutions such as; HIoA (Norway), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland) and University of Malta (Malta). During this master, I have found differences in ECEC field between Europe and Ecuador. Ecuadorian preschool education is mainly related to learning which differs from European countries, especially Norway, where education is strongly connected to care, play and learning. These three components will support children s all-around development (Framework plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens, 2011). The combination of my professional background and knowledge acquired during the master program, improve my viewpoint on ECEC field. Therefore, I am interested to explore the meaning of risky play and its values, benefits and consequences into children s relationship. 1.2 Choice of Topic The concepts of, risk-taking, challenges, safety and risk were no part of my professional vocabulary because they have a negative connotation in the Ecuadorian context. These concepts belong to risky play arena. I am not expert in risky play, but I have experience and knowledge in children s learning and development, as well as children s relationship which is the area of interest of this research. Risky play is a kind of play, where thrilling and exciting forms are present in children during this way of play, also involve a risk of physical injuries (Sandseter, 2007). In addition, risky play has the potential to develop positive attitude and personality trait which highly 6

7 influence in children s relationship (Tovey, 2007). One might think that risky play could influence not only in children s physical development, but also in children s social competence. Both factors are developed during play which is important for children s learning and development Since my first impression about risky play during visiting kindergartens in Oslo- Norway, I decided to explore in depth more about this topic. As an ECEC practitioner in Ecuador, I see a wide difference of meaning and value about risky play. I firmly believe that this type of play is an interesting topic to study from the lens of western culture and re-create a new concept of risky play using valuable theories and experiences from Scandinavian culture. The main topic of this thesis is the valuable benefits of risky play in children s relationship. 1.3 The Purpose of the Research The purpose of my research is to understand how risky play provides opportunities to develop positive children s relationship in kindergarten, studying this behavior in natural outdoor environment. Moreover the research seeks to answer: How does risky play in natural outdoor environment become an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship? I chose do my observations of risky play in natural outdoor environment, due to offers more opportunities for risk and challenging situations (Knight, 2011). Furthermore, activities in natural outdoor environment are predominant in Norwegian lifestyle. Consequently, the natural environment will provide more relevant results to my research. 1.4 Structure of the Master Thesis This master thesis is structured in five chapters; Introduction, Theoretical approach, Methodology, Findings and discussion and Conclusions. Introduction This chapter presents an overview of my professional background which influences in the decision to select the topic of study. Furthermore, I will present the aim of this research and briefly introduce the research question which help to follow the main argument of this investigation. 7

8 Theoretical approach It contents literature review which has influenced my research. This main chapter consists in three main topics; Vygotsky social cultural theory, children s social competence and meaning of risky play into Norwegian context. First, I will analyze Vygotsky s social cultural theory and two elements of his theory; Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD) and play. Both elements influence in children s interaction and in their learning and development process. Second, children s social competence will be uncovered. Some aspects such as communication, peer interaction, children s participation, and development of social skills are examined in a context of play. These aspects are part of children well being, as well as their learning and development. Finally, risky play will be explored into Norwegian context. I will look for the meaning of risky play and then find out why is valuable for children s relationship. Methodology This section describes and discusses the reasons for my choice of methods, sampling and research tools. Hence, I will use participant observation as research method which includes video recordings, photos and field notes. I will provide examples about children s interaction during risky play in two settings: natural outdoor playground and in the forest. These examples will intent to support the value of risky play in natural outdoor environment to develop children s relationship. The last part of this chapter will explain ethical considerations of doing research with children involved into Norwegian context. Findings and discussion This chapter presents my research findings to show the result of my observations. These findings will be expressed in five scenarios of risky play in natural outdoor environment. These scenarios were carefully selected with the purpose of answer the research question. Consequently, I will interpret and discuss the results using previous theoretical approach in combination with my research interpretation and observations. Summary of findings and final remarks Finally, in this chapter the main findings are summarized and some suggestions on further research are mentioned. 8

9 2. Theoretical Approach I will discuss three main topics that contribute and support my research. First, I will introduce Vygotsky s social cultural theory with the objective to provide an overview of the place of Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD) and play. Both influence in children s learning and development. ZPD is the distance between what a child can do with help or without it. During this distance the intervention of children and/or adult is essential for learning. On the other hand, play provides opportunity for natural interaction between children-adult or child-child. Vygotsky s theory will support the relevance of play in children s relationship. Afterwards, children s social competence will be analyzed through the lens of play. Social competence is considerate as the relation between peer in good manner across different situation (Framework plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens, 2011 Framework plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens, 2011). The interrelation of communication, peer s relationship, children s participation and learning of social skills are explored in an intention to understand how play provides opportunities to develop children s social competence, in especial children s relationship. Finally, I will study the meaning of risky play as pedagogical resource/opportunity to promote positive relationship between children. Risky play could be understood as the play where children feel fear and joy at the same time, with probabilities of physical injuries. Risky play is examined into Norwegian context, as part of this context, natural outdoor environment influences children s risky play. Risky play, as manifestation of children s play, possible will provide meaningful experiences to develop children s relationship, thus learning. I will attempt to connect the three topics to support my research. Hence, Vygotsky s theory will confirm the relevance peer s interaction during play in children s learning, then children s social competence will analyze why peer s interaction is important for children s holistic development and learning, highlighting children s relationship; finally, risky play will support that children s relationship could be developed through this kind of play, rescuing its valuable contribution to children s learning. 9

10 2.1 Vygotsky s Social Cultural Theory ECEC practitioners have the task to create a proper connection between knowledge and acquisition in children, as a preschool teacher I might think that play is a great way of connection between actual knowledge and new knowledge. I will analyze Vygotsky s social cultural theory with the aim to understand how peer s interaction contributes to learning. Vygotsky s socio cultural theory supports the importance of social interaction as the canal to develop knowledge (Daniels, 2001). The transmission and acquisition of knowledge happens in three levels, according to Nelson (cited in Daniels, 2001) who reflects knowledge organization based on Vygotsky s theory, the first level is a direct experience without presence of language, second level use of language in particular community and finally this knowledge has to be mastered as an abstract system. The process of internalization of knowledge is a transformation which comes from the social interaction to the individual (which I will refer as the child) through language and experiences. This social interaction happens into the Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD), which is the distance between the actual developmental level and the level of potential development where the adult guidance or collaboration of capable peers helps the individual solves the problem and succeeds to the next level of learning (Vygotsky, 1978). From the educational perspective, the issue in Vygostky socio cultural theory is the connection between nature knowledge and the form of acquisition. Nature knowledge could be expressed as spontaneous or scientific concepts while form of acquisition is understood as empirical learning or theoretical teaching (Daniels, 2001). However, the issue is how to connect knowledge and acquisition to facilitate development choosing the proper tools, techniques, pedagogical methods and intellectual operations which are vital in the ZPD. It might be pertinent mention Ivic s (cited in Daniels, 2001) reflection about teaching system in schools, as an introduction of the role of ZPD and play to support social learning. He claims that schools do not provide a complete teach system of knowledge, or they do not incorporate in school s curricula the tools and intellectual techniques and finally, schools do not offer a setting for social interaction which helps to construct knowledge. This is thinking from the 80 s, but actually I believe there still some schools in Ecuador with lack of spaces or opportunities for social interaction. In contrast, the Norwegian kindergartens attempt in all the possible ways create spaces/opportunities for children s interaction, also the Framework 10

11 Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens (2011) reflects some aspects of Vygotsky s thinking related to play to support learning Play as support of children s interaction in Zone Proximal Distance I will consider the role of Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD) in learning as first point of analysis; it will provide an overview the value of play during learning process, especially in social interaction in which this research is focused. Play is a broad topic to explore; therefore I will only analyze play as pedagogical way to support learning. The distance between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help is defined as Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD). My experiences as ECEC practitioner have showed me some scenarios where adult s interaction into ZPD becomes in a crucial part during children s learning process. For example, sometimes parents want to help child s learning during all process and also teachers feel the pressure from parents to help their child in every moment of the activity. These adults attitude limits children s potential to know what they can do by themselves or with help. However the case in Norwegian kindergartens is different; parents, ECEC staff and children are truly active agent of education in Norway. Adults respect children s spaces and opportunities for their learning. My question in this topic is what does the appropriate time for adult or capable peers intervention to support child s learning? The author Merce (2010) who suggests that the appropriate time for adult intervention may be after children s fail to complete the task independently, also she believes that some factors as culture, age, environment might influence in adults intervention at ZPD. Another Vygotskian author suggests that the most beneficial time for teachers to facilitate ZPD during play must be during planning stages, and at the end of play, also monitoring during play and do interventions with a touch of sensitivity (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). ECEC practitioners in Norway are aware about children s participation in planning their learning activities; moreover Play has a fundamental place in Norwegian kindergarten curriculum. Those factors let adults and children know about their role during learning. It may be difficult observe peer s intervention in ZPD during school structure activities from western countries, but what does happen at play time? What does the value of play in Vygotsky s theory? How do capable peers support others in learning process? 11

12 Play from the Vygotskian approach is a pre requisite for formal logical process and characterized by 3 elements: create imaginary situation, define roles and must involve language (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). These elements are essential during play to support child at the highest level of the ZPD. For Vygotskian, the value of play is expressed as children s maturaty of their functions specifically setting limits on behavior, symbolic understanding and practicing planning and self-regulation. Furthermore, capable peers support others during play, through interaction in mixed age groups (Bodrova & Leong, 2007), as for example in the case of Norwegian Kindergarten that organizes children in groups from 1-3 and 3-5 years old. If there are no older children to play, adults may have to provide activities or suggestions to help children in the transition of maturation (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). As I mentioned in the previous chapter, children are organize by group of the same age in Ecuadorian kindergartens, it could means there is less probabilities of learning through older capable peer. They have opportunity of interaction with mixed ages during recess time at playground. Therefore, ECEC practitioners, in Ecuadorian context, intent supply this absence by doing activities such as counting, drawing, cutting, pasting or playing in small groups where the capable peer support others in their learning during school activities. Finally, I would like to conclude this section with a reflection from the expert in risky play Sara Knight (2011) argues that: Children move outwards from their caring adults a step at a time as they learn to play with other children and to understand other adults as children s social competences grows, so they are ready to have less adult structure and further-removed supervision (p. 99) Play allows children s social interaction which is fundamental for their learning. Through play, children develop skills such as imagination, language and ability to understand others that contribute their social competence. If children have a strongly base in social competence, it could be that they can solve problems and look for strategies with less adult s intervention and more support from their peers. In this form children s could develop relationship between them. On next section I will uncover the importance of children s social competence in peer s relationship. 12

13 2.2 Children s Social Competence The last section provides an overview about Vygotsky s thinking about play and the role of teachers and peers at ZPD, also the strong meaning of play in preschoolers and significance for children s social learning. However, in this section I will expose some literature about communication, peer s relationship, children s participation and learning of social skills in preschool ages during play, marked by Norwegian context. My intention is understand why social competence, mainly children s relationship, is important for learning Importance of communication in peer s relationship Children use play to communicate their feelings, thinking and ideas to others. Corsaro s (2003) thinking to make clear the importance of play in children social learning, he argues that kids are more concerned with playing than making friends, and anyway, you make friends by playing with other kids- as many as you can. (p. 69). However, play could be understood as natural way of communication between child-child, child-adult and peers. Children use play to express and experience emotions and feelings about themselves and their world (Landreth, Homeyer, & Morrison, 2006) using non-verbal and verbal communication. Many authors agree that non-verbal communication is strongly present during infancy and gradually disappear with language acquisition; I agree with Torppa s (2009) believes that non-verbal communication is present during all stages in life which actually never disappear and sometimes our actions have more value than words. According to Torppa (2009) admits that non-verbal communication is the language of relationship (p.1), the way to treat others is the sign to show respect or disrespect, like or dislike, acceptance or be not rejected. Non-verbal communication is mostly related with facial expressions, gestures, eye-contact, space (standing close or stand offish ), body language, time (such be in rush) and paralanguage which means the color of our voice (Torppa, 2009). Consequently, children must develop effective non-verbal communication skills to understand correctly the meaning of it into peer s group. Verbal communication is mostly related to vocal language. The meaning is straightforward. You instantly know what the other person is thinking and voicing. Verbal communication means transmission of a message directly from one human to another; in the case of children, they need organize their behavior in relation to people s wishes, desires, plans and preferences (Butler, 2008). However, just like non-verbal communication, emotion 13

14 will accompany the verbal communication. To make sure an effective verbal communication is vital the presence of a communicator and listener, both interactions will help to understand the correct meaning of their thinking or feelings on words. Verbal language such as rhymes, chants, songs, conversations, collaborative talk engage children in an ongoing social process with other and set of relationship between communicators. Verbal communication is a necessary tool in peer s relationship. But non-verbal communication is proof of strength, security, and testing limits. Both types of communication must work as complement of each other. However, peer s relationship is basically composed by language, and behavioral routines, the place of verbal negotiations and debate are primordial in peer s interactions (Corsaro, 2005). From Vygotskian view, language is considerate as fundamental for development. One might think that the capable child use language to support or guidance his/her peer. Through collaborative talk and share understandings both children are developing new steps in their knowledge. In order to, some authors (Corsaro, 2005; Landreth, Homeyer, & Morrison, 2006) argue that children use language as part of their play which impact directly in their learning Importance of children s participation in peer s relationship. It is clear that language is vital for children s interaction but also primordial for participation in their peer culture. Peer culture is defined as establish set of routines, activities, values and concerns that children contribute to peers during interaction (Corsaro & Eder, 1990). It might be that children s play provides opportunities for negotiations, making rules, agreements, and discussion which are important for children s belonging of peer culture. The sociology Corsaro and the psychologist Vygotsky have something in common in their arguments like children as active participants and language as social connector. Hence, communication and social participation (Corsaro, 2005) will help children to succeed in their learning. In the same thinking, Vygotsky theory point out social interaction and peer s/adult s participation as essential into ZPD to reach the next level of knowledge. According to Corsaro (2005) suggests that children s participation starts since early infancy and as consequence of their language limitations, adults use the assumption as if (expression used by Corsaro). Over time, this adult s attitude provokes a full children s participation in cultures routines. While Vygotsky (cited in Corsaro 2005) admits that 14

15 children use language as a tool to participate in culture, it means that children interpret and make sense of their culture through peer s interaction. I think the main issue in this arena is adults attitude in front of the opportunities where children can participate as social agents. However, Norway has developed many strategies to support children s participation in different scenarios. Since 2003 the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was established into the Human Rights Act by Norwegian Parliament (Kjørholt & Liden, 2004), consequently it has a strongly and seriously meaning for children s rights and participation into Norwegian Society. Thus, the case in their Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens (2011) states They shall have the right to participate in accordance with their age and abilities also The children s views shall be given due weight according to their age and maturity (p. 15). Norwegian Kindergartens and their staff are aware of children s rights and participation into society, as for example when staff listen to and attempt to interpret children s thoughts or feelings through their body language, aesthetic expressions and eventually verbal communication (Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens, 2011). Finally, the degree of participation and right to participation are put in practice according their age and level of function of the child, that is a strong reason for facilitators to create and plan activities where children experience a sense of belonging and community Learning social skills between peers through playing Social skills will facilitate positive children s relationship, getting as result a strongly social competence which is essential for children s learning. Social skills or pro social behavior is term used by physiologists, which refers to moral conduct into cultural context (Mussen, Conger, Kagan & Huston, 1984). Social skills include helping, caring, sharing, rescuing, protecting, donating and others more (Krantz, 1994; Cole & Cole 1996; Mussen, et al., 1984). Children s understanding and sometimes feeling another person s emotion is denominated as empathy. Empathy is the key to develop or decrease such social skills (Damon, 1983). There are evidences from some researchers which indicate that parents are the main models to promote social kills in children, also indicate that the quantity and quality of emotional support children received from parents are important for child s understanding of 15

16 others (Krantz, 1994; Burleson & Kunkel, 2002). However, Vygotsky s thinking is based in the conception of learning through others/group collaboration, it means that there is a high probability that peer and child could be seen as provider. Therefore, recent researchers have found that children,since early years, are provider of emotional support (Burleson & Kunkel, 2002), that child seen as provider must possess knowledge of non-verbal and verbal communication skills which help to understand other s peers message, motivate to aid distressed other. The child s ability to provide emotional support will impact in social acceptance into peer culture. The researcher Dunn (cited in Burleson and Kunkel, 2002) admits that there is strong evidence that the ability to recognize and understand feeling and emotions from others facilitate initiative and preservation of positive peer relationship, also this statement is expressed in The Norwegian Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens, Some authors (Aasen, Grindheim & Waters, 2009) believe that kindergarten and outdoors environment are the optimal place to promote social skills or democratic values such as equality, solidarity, respect, tolerance, justice, and so forth. Therefore, there is a possibility to think that risky play in natural outdoor environment promotes social skills which are primordial in children relationship Social competence in Norwegian Kindergartens Norwegian kindergartens believe that positive experiences in children s social competence will impact further in their society, preventing the development of problem behavior such as discrimination and bullying. These experiences are built during play, which is my reason to see risky play as opportunity to develop positive children s relationship. The framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten (2011) supports children s interaction through play, which both are essential for their development and learning. Experiences and emotions lived during play will shape children s attitudes, values and confidence in themselves and in other people such as their peers. On the other hand, staff participation is fundamental in children s social competence, they must promote respect, acceptance, confidence and trust to children. This safety environment impacts in children s learning quality. 16

17 The Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens (2011) defines social competence as interacting with other people in a positive manner in different situations (p. 30). This interaction must cross over children s age, gender, ethnic background and ability level; furthermore children s interaction must be equal in opportunities to participate in meaningful activities. The wording positive manner means that the children interact with others with joy, humor, kind, mood, flow and motivation. Even if my research study is focused on risky play in natural outdoor environment, the main area of interest is children s social competence, specifically children s relationship. Thus, I consider relevant bring out the importance of social competence into Norwegian context where the research is taking place. 2.3 Meaning of Risky Play into Norwegian Context Risky play is frequently analyzed from physical and sport area focusing mainly in body, movement and health. Although, risky play could be examined from social field; children develop a variety of social experiences and skills in interaction with their peers and adults during play. Therefore my intention is explore the pedagogical meaning of risky play into children s social arena. Norwegian kindergarten use play as powerful way of learning (Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergartens, 2011). I might think that children are learning significant experiences through risky play. Furthermore, the law establishes in the Kindergarten Act. 64 (2005) that Kindergartens shall provide children with opportunities for play, self-expression and meaningful experiences and activities in safe, yet challenging surroundings (p. 1). Risky play might be understood as children s play that implicates high speeds, great heights, manipulate harmful tools, rough and tumble play, be close to dangerous elements and get or be lost (Sandseter, 2007) in an intent to feel fear and joy at the same time. Some researches (Tovey, 2007; Sandseter, 2010; Knight, 2011) demonstrate that children during risky play create a balance between fear and pleasure, this combination of feelings provoke that children test their limits. A clear example of children s risky play could be when players swinging with high speed, or when children sliding from great height and with high speed. The actions of swinging and sliding do not represent risk while the factors of speed and 17

18 height measure the level of risk. If we carefully observe children s play behavior during playground, it will be possible indentify risky play in children. During risky play, children have opportunities for testing boundaries, challenges, emotional and physical risk taking, and exploring risk with probability of resulting physical injury (Sandseter, 2010, Little & Eager, 2010). Risky play, in some cultural contexts such as in Ecuador, is related to dangerous, hazardous, risk and unsafe for children while in Norway, kindergartens considerate risky play as opportunity for physical-motor development in combination with cognitive and social learning. As I previously mentioned, Norwegian kindergartens strongly support play as the best way of children s learning. Furthermore, the law suggests that children must have opportunities for play and meaningful experiences in challenging surroundings. Risky play provides challenging and meaningful experiences, especially in natural outdoor environments (Rivkin, 2006). Impact of nature outdoor environment on risky play Risky play mostly happens at outdoor environments such as playgrounds, forests or another open area. Outdoor environments offer children a high qualitative and quantitative amount of opportunities to explore, experiment and the sense of freedom to try things out (Tovey, 2007; Rivkin, 2006). Degree of challenges, risks and affordances of outdoors environment provide quality to children s play, while natural elements, weather conditions and physical surface offer quantity of experiences during play at outdoors environment (Thigpen, 2007; Eid, 2004; Little & Eager, 2010; Moser & Martisen; 2010). The meaning of outdoor environments and safety change from context to context. For example kindergartens in New Zealand have strict policies about safety related to physical playground (Bundy et al., 2009). The natural elements such as rocks, stones, grass, ponds and so forth are replaced by artificial elements like plastic furniture which look like a climbing rock, artificial grass or artificial ponds. They protect children from injuries but also children have fewer probabilities to explore the meaning of risk and challenges. In contrast outdoor environments are part of the Norwegian culture, parents and kindergarten staff support children from early ages to have more meaningful learning experience and to get optimal opportunities for developing positive attitude in front of problems, challenges and tasks in natural outdoor environment (Aasen et al., 2009; Little, 2009). Both contexts set up the meaning and influence of outdoor environment in children s learning experiences and the possibility to contribute children social competence. 18

19 Pedagogical leaders interaction during risky play Pedagogical leaders allow risky play at Norwegian kindergartens with intention to provide enriching learning experiences to children. Risky play could happen inside or outdoor environment, but mostly happens at outdoor environments. Pedagogical leaders and assistants understand the influence of a challenging outdoor environment in children s learning, thus they do not remove any kind of natural element from the outdoor environment to make it easy or less risk. If there is not risk, there is not learning or funny activities (Little & Eager, 2010; Bundy et al., 2009) The Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens (2011) proposes some goals on body, movement and health learning area which pedagogical leaders will try to ensure to children, it states develop a positive self-image through physical achievements have positive experiences of varied and all-round movements and challenges develop an understanding and respect for their own and other people s bodies, and for the fact that everyone is different (p. 35) To reach these goals, the framework plan (2011) also suggests (staff must) facilitate and provide inspiration for safe and challenging physical games and activities for everyone, regardless of gender and physical, psychological and social circumstances facilitate physical play and activity that breaks with traditional gender roles, allowing girls and boys to participate in all forms of activity on an equal footing (p.35-36). Norwegians are aware of the impact of equality in genders in the society, especially social and economic spaces. Since Kindergartens states equality in gender, the ECEC practitioner create opportunities for all children to participate in different activities and breaking traditional gender roles (Gender equality in Kindergartens, n.d., para. 5). During risky play, pedagogical leaders and assistants show positive attitude which support children s participation during risky play. Pedagogical leader and assistants have the role talk to kids about safe and risk hence, children will explore and understand the meaning of risky, risk-taking, challenges and safe at play context (Tovey, 2007). Staff must develop three aspects to engage with children during play. Pascal and Bertram (cited in Tovey, 2007) suggest Sensitivity, stimulation and autonomy (p.128). Although, risky play provides challenging situation does not only for children, also for practitioners. Teachers must show a solid attitude and trust in children s potential during 19

20 risky play, this attitude could be developed through the three aspects mentioned by Pascal and Betram Risky play as positive social connector between young children Some authors (Knight, 2011; Sandseter, 2010; Tovey, 2007; Bundy et al., 2009; Little & Wyver, 2009; Little & Eager, 2010; Greenfield, 2003; Gleave, 2008) believe that risky play is beneficial for children holistic development, however I attempt to focus in social competence arena. Some literature reviews suggest that risky play is positive for: Children understanding of safety in front of new challenging situations, in other words risk competence (Eichteller & Holthoff, 2009). Children tasting sense of freedom and joy in a real environment. Adults see children as competent (Tovey, 2007). Children manage a balance between fear and joy, called by Sandseter (2010) scary-funny. Children s thinking becomes more creative and innovative (Bundy et al., 2009). Build children s confidence to take control of risk in play (Gleave, 2008). Extend children s limits and potential (Eichteller & Holthoff, 2009; Little & Eager, 2009; Sandseter, 2010). Build children s attitudes of self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-reliance and independence (Gleave, 2008; Knight, 2011) Learning to manage risk and adventure develop team working skills, motivation, concentration and perseverance (Greefield, 2003; Tove, 2007; Little & Eager, 2010) Risky play provides opportunities for children to make choices, negotiate, and interact with peers developing democratic learning (Aasen et al, 2009; Little & Eager, 2010). There are valuable key points which support risky play in children s social learning. It might be that risky play is highly recommended to prevent bulling and antisocial skills among peers (Framework Plan, 2011). In fact, risky play is a natural part from children s play which is important for children holistic development. I think risky play is intimately connected to 20

21 social play, as other authors (Tovey, 2007, Sandseter, 2007, Bundy et al., 2009) suggest intimately connection to free play, outdoor play, physical play and pretend play. Social play categories into risky play Social play is characterized by interaction with others children. Social play must invite to engage others in playful activities, children during social play is able to regulate emotional arousal, and keeps the skills necessarily to initiate interaction with others (Coplan, Rubin & Findlay, 2006). Children develop social and language skills among peers (Trawick-Smith, 2006). Therefore children will understand peers perspectives, develop empathy and understanding of cooperation, negotiation, and solve conflicts trough sustained shared thinking (Tovey, 2007). Social play constructs of social participation, social competence, compromise active conversation between children and negotiating play roles and game rules. Social participation means treating playmates as collaborators in the group, and not like objects. Children also learn to persuade peers in play. Also children develop a sense of belonging to the group, this influence in their security and acceptance. Patern s (cited in Coplan et al., 2006) studies about early social participation defines two categories of social play: associative and collaborative play. The first is related to children interaction but there is no collaboration, while the second is associated to group play that follows a common goal (Johnson et al., 1987) However, social play maturates through a process where the child feel the desire to share his play. In that case, it is important understand that social play begins with solitary play, follow by parallel play and reaching the two high level mentioned before, associative and collaborative play (Johnson et al., 1987). Aasen, Grindheim & Water (2009) argues democratic values are seen as recognition of the equal worth of all humans; equality between sexes, solidarity, respect for life, tolerance, justice, truth and honesty children s learning of democratic values is best achieved through informal learning situations, such as those that occur in outdoor play in Norway (p. 5). I reflect on it, that children learn about democratic values and social skills in concrete situations that happen during peers interaction, outdoor play as well as risky play are situated in a free environment where children feel freedom to build their learning. Social play could be considerate as strong base for children social competence during risky play. Risky play provide scenarios full of challenges and risk where the social support 21

22 between peers is a factor to be successful in the game; on the other hand children who decide play alone during risky play, could be considerate as a moment to be concentrated and focused to reach the goal Peer s influence in risk-taking Little (cited in Tovey, 2007) defines risk as any behavior in which there is uncertainty about the success or failure as result. This behavior provokes in children the feeling of trying something they had never done before, pushes out boundaries, feelings of being close to out of control (Sandseter, 2007; Budy et al., 2009; Little & Eager, 2010; Little & Wyver, 2009). Personally, I suggest that risky play cannot be judged as positive or negative, everything depend of the choice that we decide and their outcomes. Every day we face risky and challenging situations, but we learn how to cross over those situations which help us to grow up. The meaning of risk is socially constructed, it is no realistic; it is based only in perceptions. Risk taking is not only about taking physical risks, children also take social risk. Physical risk taker does not mean that he is a competent social risk taker as well, but they are connected (Tovey, 2007). The authors Morrongiello and Lasenby-Lessard (cited in Gleave, 2008) argue Risk taking is a combination of individual characteristics such as age, sex, behavior, family factors, and social situation factors like oral influences from peers (p. 9). I think that peers s influence positively in taking risk, although there are studies (Little & Wyver, 2010) which demonstrate that peers influence in risk taking could be negative or does not have a high impact in children s taking risk. The Zone Proximal Distance (ZPD) plays a relevant point during children s risky play. ZPD is the space where capable child influences, motivates, helps, and collaborates to his/her peer to solve conflicts or difficulties during play, as in this case during risky play. Peers might influence in emotional and physical risk-taking behavior, there is evidence (Burleson & Kunkel, 2002) of how children can support emotionally to their peers, this emotional support is developed during children interaction at play time. Developing self-efficacy in children Self-efficacy is a factor that influence in personal attitude which helps do a confident decision making (Heinstrom, 2010). This attitude pushes out children s persistence and succeeds in any activity. Self-efficacy is not related to feel good about yourself instead is 22

23 related to believe that you are good doing something ( Self-efficacy, n.d.). A Child, in front of risky situations during play, can decide to do it or not do it, but the previous experiences will provoke that he/she chooses a decision. Self-efficacy is based on previous experiences where the interaction between the child and the surrounding environment formed his/her believes about certain situations. Therefore, adults can cultivate self- efficacy in children during challenging activities. Challenging activities such as manipulate dangerous tools and understand the function of them, climbing trees till top and while children are extending their limits and potential, sledding with speed at the same time as kids understand the meaning of risk, and so forth are great examples where children can rely on their strengths when facing challenges. Some authors (Greefield, 2003; Tove, 2007; Gleave, 2008; Little & Eager, 2010; Knight, 2011) describe risky play as an excellent contributor to grow positive attitude in children, such as self-esteem, self-reliance, motivation, self- efficacy and others. The newspaper of the National Association of School Physiologists (NASP) in United Stated of America published in its web site (www. Nasponline.org) an article about Self-efficacy (n.d.). It shows how self- efficacy is developed in children and youth. Four factors are fundamental to build a strong self-efficacy, such as mastery experiences, observing others, direct persuasion by others and mood. Although, I would like add one more factor, flow. Mastery experience is important for children because they will experience a sense of mastery and this will reinforce their self-efficacy, unlike when a child attributes success to external factor, for example thinking that he gets luck to complete the task and not because he feels that he can do it. Observing others will contribute to assimilate that the child can achieve a goal because others did it. Also the first factor mentioned above will influence is his decision. In order to this, I might assume that Vygotsky s social learning theory highly influences in this level. Children s interaction provokes situations where they can model form each other, as part of their learning. I will discuss this factor in the fourth chapter where more evidences will explain the influence of peer s relationship in their learning. Direct persuasion by others consists in the influence of practitioners, parents, peers into children s beliefs about what they can do. Direct persuasion could be done by strong messages that others sent to the child. Oral messages strongly impact in children risk-taking (Gleave, 2008). 23

24 Flow and mood will enhance children to have positive experience and built a perception of efficacy. Children s positive experiences are developed by the influence of flow during play. Flow is the point of balance between ability and challenge (Heinstrom, 2010) where children feel a strong desire to complete the activity with a positive outcome. Children change their feeling from fear to joy. I might think that risky play provides challenging opportunities where children can develop self-efficacy (Greefield, 2003; Tove, 2007; Gleave, 2008; Little & Eager, 2010; Knight, 2011) that will help them to face situation with a positive attitude. If children feel experience positive emotions, they will enable to look for more solutions which enhance their abilities to face challenging situation ( self-efficacy, n.d.). The four factors are fundamental to develop self-efficacy in children which will impact in their learning during play, as risky play as well. Even my research is focused on Norwegian thinking about risky play and its meaning in children s learning, this American publication share some similarities about self-efficacy, but not in risky play. However, risky play and self-efficacy in children are intimately related (Greefield, 2003; Tove, 2007; Gleave, 2008; Little & Eager, 2010; Knight, 2011). Finally, some references (Tove, 2007; Gleave, 2008; Heinstrom, 2010; Little & Eager, 2010; self-efficacy, n.d.) suggest that adults are principal characters to enhance self-efficacy in children, but there are evidences (Burleson & Kunkel, 2002; Eichteller & Holthoff, 2009) that children can contribute to develop self- efficacy in their peers. 24

25 3. Methodology 3.1 Rational for the Paradigm and Research Approach This study is aimed to investigate the value of risky-play in natural outdoor environment that provides opportunities to develop positive children s relationship. The area of interest is on children s social competence which includes children s relationship and the focus of perception comes from the angle of risky-play. As inductive research, this study suggests the hypothesis; risky play as an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship. Meaningful and positive learning experiences for young children are possible in risky-play. The following investigation is to understand how risky play provides opportunities to develop positive children s relationship in kindergarten, studying this behavior in natural outdoor environment. The specific research question in this study is; How does risky-play in natural outdoor environment become an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship? The verbs understand, explore and observe do reference to a qualitative research, in fact the goal seeks to explain events and actions through the eyes and in the words of the people involved (Edwards, 2001; Denscombe, 2007) Interpretivism One of the major paradigms found in the early childhood field is: Interpretivism which explains how people make sense of their circumstances. Kuhn cited by Hughes (2007) explains the difference between paradigm and theory, being the first strongest and more complex than theory, because is the interrelation among beliefs, methodology and criteria of validity. Paradigm is a frame to see the world and organize it into a coherent whole, our choice of paradigm influences how the researcher sees the focus of study. The interpretivist knowledge is not only waiting to interpret the world outside, also is ready to make sense of a social or material circumstance within a cultural framework which influence researcher behavior. For example, my cultural framework, as a researcher, is different from the sociocultural framework where the study is conducted. As ECEC 25

26 practitioner with experience working in kindergarten in Ecuador, my beliefs about risky play and learning have different angle of understanding from Norwegian culture. Risky play is not conceived as positive in Ecuadorian education system, thus ECEC practitioners reject this kind of children s play. Kindergartens in Ecuador have developed many regulations to provide safety during play time. However, my participation in master program in three European countries, help me to understand from different angle the positive side of risky-play. During my visits in Norwegian kindergartens or barnahage, it aroused my curiosity for risky-play. I could not believe that children are allow to climb fences or walls, explore the sand, mood, stones using their mouth and body, or swinging ropes without protection. After a year in Norway, my perspective about risky-play is totally opposite, that is the reason to use interpretivist paradigm in this thesis. Therefore, my social world has been created and recreated, then my actions and believes will recreate a new meaning to understand the world in here (Hughes, 2007). The role of the researcher in the interpretivism paradigm is to make sense, negotiate and recreate meanings of human behaviors, to reach those complex processes is not enough ask to people about their feelings. The methodology to interpretate the human behavior must be an active process of analysis and interpretation (Graue & Walsh, 1998; Hughes, 2007). Participatory observation and informal conversations with the kindergarten staff were techniques used in this study. The most common way to verify the authenticity of people s responses is to triangulate them. Hughes (2007) states interpretivist does not use triangulation to produce knowledge that is valid whenever Interpretative knowledge is always local (p.36), in fact the knowledge of this study is restricted by Norwegian context. The particular factors which affect this research are sociocultural context, children s outdoor experiences and the meaning of risky play into children s social competence. It means that the findings in this study are only directly applicable on exploratory setting, but even that interpretivist is also able to demonstrate the validity of their knowledge within limits (Hughes, 2007) Qualitative research Qualitative research is seen as a tool for researchers, which builds an integral understanding of social-cultural phenomenon. It tends to focus on exploring in details of natural settings employing a combination of participant observation, interviews and document reviews 26

27 (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2001), but in this study I will use my observations and informal conversation with staff. I decided not to use interviews, due to the limits on time and language. In qualitative research, the researcher is main instrument for data collection and interpretation. Critics have pointed out that the researcher has a subjective viewpoint, and this may impact on how data is gathered and how they are interpreted. As a result, the findings of qualitative research may come to reflect the views of the researchers rather than those of their participants (Graue and Walsh, 1998). The findings in my thesis are presented in personal and interpretative style. I will combine my experiences as ECEC practitioner in Ecuador, my new experiences in Norwegian Kindergarten, published literature review from a modern approach. Another point to consider is the subjectivity of the researcher or, a crisis of representation called by Denzin and Lincoln (cited in Edwards, 2007) is a point of conflict among experts. Sometimes researchers begin their study with their own experiences, but they must be alert in the extension of their own involvement with the research process. The qualitative approach gives the opportunity to express the research s voice doing an interpretation from data collection. Furthermore, interpretation is not the last step in qualitative research; it needs to attend to issues of feasibility, reflexivity and validity. 3.2 Ethnography The main of ethnography approach is based on the understanding of people and their culture (Aubrey et al., 2000; Rhedding-Jones, 2005; Denscombe, 2007). The author Hammersley (cited in Naughton, Rolfe & Siraj-Blatchford, 2001) summarises the key points of ethnography approach as the study of people s behavior in a single setting or group. Thus I studied children s relationship in their own daily context such as ECEC setting. The data collection comes from range of source, such as observations and informal conversations. The analysis is based on interpretations; thereby I choose participatory observation and informal conversation with kindergarten staff as tools for gathering data. Finally the analysis is purely interpretative. Taking in consideration the description of the methodology and main, I believe the approach of my research is ethnographic. Due to the limit of time, I define my research as microethnography (Rhedding-Jones, 2005). Furthermore, the objectives of ethnography researcher are to recreate the picture using words, interpret human experiences (Naughton et al., 2001) however to reach these objectives, the researcher must be curious, open mind and be involve in the culture where the research is studied (Rhedding-Jones, 2005). Thus, I used a researcher journal to quote, 27

28 describe or write my perceptions about Norwegian culture around risky-play in ECEC settings. I also participated in outdoor activities as part of my understanding and be immerse in Norwegian culture. Ethnographic research is not planned by questions; everything starts from the curiosity of the researcher (Rhedding-Jones, 2005) hence, I selected data from my pre observations which help me what to write about it. I combined my first impression with literature about risky play from different cultural perspective and the political action related to risky play, children s competence into Norwegian context. 3.3 Sampling As my research was done in Oslo- Norway I must follow policies from Norwegian Social Sciences Data Service (NSD) to continue with the research. NSD is the Data Protection Official for Research for all the Norwegian universities, university colleges and several hospitals and research institutes (http://www.nsd.uib.no/nsd/english/pvo.html). The Data Protection Official informs to the researcher the legal and ethical guidelines for the research. My study collects data through observations using different research tools and this information is registered, processed and stored in my personal storage system. According to NSD regulations, this is one of the reasons for notification and fills the specific form to have the permission to do the research in this country. I filled the form with the assistance of my thesis s supervisor and after one month I received through mail the letter (Appendix A) with my research number which indicated that I can do my research in Norway. Subsequent to this essential stage of the research in Norway, it is time to discuss about sampling for my investigation. Sampling in qualitative research could be described as Set out to build a sample that includes people (or settings) selected with a different goal in mind: gaining deep understanding of some phenomenon experienced by a carefully selected group of people (Maykut & Morehouse, 1995, p. 56). The author Paton (cited in Maykut & Morehouse, 1995) suggests that sampling must increase the research understanding verus generalize results; I attempt to understand risky-play as social connector between children so the intention of my research is to connect children with knowledge and background in risky play. I seek to explore and observe how risky play becomes an opportunity for positive children s relationship. I had special criteria to choose the sampling; children familiarized 28

29 with risky play at natural outdoor environment and the staff must be qualified for working in outdoor environment. Previous studies on risky play have found that physical environment is relevant to develop such play. I also considered observe teacher s attitude in front of risky play, with the purpose to understand how teachers support risky play in children s relationship. Sampling not only include people as participators, also the setting where they are interacting. In that case, I decided to choose a kindergarten with the next aspects; ECEC setting that support risky play, natural outdoor playground and provide outdoor activities such hiking. As a result of setting s standards and with help of my supervisor, we contacted a friluftsliv barnehage as they called in Norway, which means open air kindergarten. First step for having access to the ECEC setting was write gatekeeper letter (Robert-Holmes, 2011). The gatekeeper letter was sent to the headmistress with copy to the pedagogical leader responsible of the outdoor children s group. In it, I explained my professional and academic background and the reason of doing my research in Norway; also I provided details about my research and the purpose of selecting as sampling that kindergarten and the group of children. The second step in this process was to call up manner. Immediately, the pedagogical leader asked for time while she checked this issue with children s parents. However, I did my first visit to observe the potential of the setting and the group, in that transition I delivered the consent letter with copies to the headmistress and pedagogical leader. After two months, the research and my participation as researcher was approved into the ECEC setting, consequently I did my observation in spring 2012 (April-May). I compare this process of negotiation with the ECEC setting with kindergartens in Ecuador. According to my experiences as ECEC professional and student in Ecuadorian environment, I believe that the conditions and parameters for doing a research with children are different. During my studies at the university, I do not remember that I had to follow a similar process like here in Norway. This is a new experience as researcher, professional and adult who sees children and childhood as social participants. The kindergarten belongs to the public sector, located outside from the city center of Oslo. The kindergarten receives children from toddler to preschooler ages who mostly belong to families where both parents are from Norway origin. The families who decided to enroll their children in this Kindergarten came from medium-high socio-economical level, also the parents are aware of the benefits of outdoor environments. The Kindergarten is divided in 29

30 two buildings. The first is located close to road and t-bane station, border by nature and houses from the neighborhood. The second building is located 30 minutes walking from the first building, there is a small house situated to the limit with Sognsvann forest. I did my observations in the second building that afford more opportunities of risky-play and outdoor activities. The setting was limited by small fences and the playground could be described as natural playgrounds design (see Figure 1). The small house provided place for toilet room, small kitchen and a table. The children spent their time outside areas. The group of children was organized of seven girls and eight boys from 3 to 6 years old. The staff was formed by 1 pedagogical leader with experience in outdoor learning and 2 assistants (both with experiences in outdoor environment but different qualification; one of the assistants was in the last semester of early childhood education and care studies). Figure 1. Natural outdoor playground design in friluftsliv barnehage 3.4 The Data Collection In this part, I will present the tools that help me to gathering data. I choose as data collection tools; participant observation and informal conversation with staff. The issue of language limited the use of interview with children, although kindergarten staff managed a well English language. Despite of that, my intention was not to understand teacher s believes 30

31 about risky play. There were limits on time that did not allowed to discuss others methods of data collection Participant observation Participant observation means enter the lives of others, putting away researcher point of view (Maykut & Morehouse, 1995). The observations were preserving the naturalness of the setting. Study children s behavior in natural settings helps the researcher perceived their real world where the events happen (Descombe, 2007). My interest of study is to understand children s relationship through the lens of risky play, the natural settings for this case was the natural outdoor playground. The kindergarten program for this specific group was organized by a schedule. Thus, twice a week the group must spend time in the first building sharing play activities with other peers; and three times a week spend time at the second building of the kindergarten that affords more opportunities for risky play. According to this group schedule, my plan for observations was organized in three stages. First, I needed to catch ideas from risky play and children s interaction, so I did two pre observations. An observation was done at the natural outdoor playground and another was done at the traditional playground from the first kindergarten building. The pre observations gave me the opportunity to change some of my initial ideas, for example I was wondering to do my research in two types of playground (traditional and natural design), but after the preobservations I choose natural outdoor playground which offers more opportunities for risky play. The second step was do my participant observations, in the second building, three times per one week with a period of time of one hour, but sometime factors like weather, activities planned by the pedagogical leader, lunch time and holidays influence in the period of time. However, the consent letter was not formally approved creating a delay in my observations using video recorder and photo camera. As result of this, the observations were extended for two more weeks having as result a total of four times for observations. In my two first observations, I was an active observer. The role of the ethnographic researcher is to understand the culture and people who is part of the study. Therefore, I decided to participate in children play such as sledding on snow and having meal outside around the fire. 31

32 Finally, I did my two last observations using video recorder and photo camera. These observations were done in the forest. As part of the pedagogical leader plan, she planned for a hiking around the wild outdoor environment. The first hiking was done around the kindergarten (second building); this outdoor activity took approximately 40 minutes. The second hiking took around 3 hours, making stops for playing and meal time. Field notes As a researcher without any experiences in natural outdoor environment experience, this kind of activity could be considerate dangerous (Descombe, 2007) if he/she do not take some advices from experts such as pedagogical leader or thesis supervisor. Sometimes I put my note book inside the jacket to have free hands to join them in some activities. But mainly I have my hands free from instruments to help me to protect of myself from the cold weather and during walking around the forest. There were moments where I must to draw the scenery of risky play, because the environment and natural play furniture were totally new for me. The researcher must to have ability and skills to take notes and re-create the observations in words, I did my best and I would like share some of them: The teacher was keeping control of the speed and close to the tree during the game. Another child, little older than the first one, wanted join the game as well. The teacher stopped the rope and both children did an agreement how to share and play together in the rope. The group and teachers took the way to return to kindergarten. On the way we found hills, big stones and path ways with roots from the trees. Children were walking in pair, holding their hands. When children saw the hill, they dropped off their hands to go down but once on flat land they were looking for his/her partner and some of them were walking down holding their hands Photo camera and video recorder Photos and video recordings were used to support evidence on my field notes, especially when children were having short dialogues during risky play episodes. The issue of language limited my understanding of these short conversations, negotiations between children, furthermore for me was better to record those episodes and checked later in company of the pedagogical leader and thesis supervisor. They are native Norwegian speakers with high skills in English language. The photos provided me more details about the scenario that helped me to understand the affordance of environment for risky play. However, I was not allowed take picture that show the physical children s identity. I use some of the 32

33 photos into my research to provide colleagues, from my home country, a better idea of outdoor environment Informal conversation with pedagogical leaders and assistants I decided the role of staff was important to support evidence of how risky play helps children s relationship, but not so relevant for staff s interviews. If the focus of my research was on practitioners beliefs about risky play and likely similar topic, I will choose to interview the staff. In fact, the staff was not close in the interaction with children but they were involve in other duties such as dialoguing with children, creating more challenging activities, singing songs, etc. I shared meal time and some other small activities to have informal conversations which were derived from specific situation at outdoor activities. 3.5 Ethical Considerations As a researcher, I have the responsibility to respect the integrity of the participants of this study. In addition with ethics and interpretations, I must act ethically with the readers, telling them the truth about my research and its process (Rhedding-Jones, 2005) Research with children Nowadays, children participation in research has become valuable, and at the same time it has provoked changes in sociological arenas. Furthermore, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UN, 1989) express in article 12 the children s right to express their views freely about issues concerning to them. In other words, they have the right to be consulted and taken into account of their decisions, information and freedom of speech. Clark (cited in Roberts-Holmes, 2011) explains the importance to listening young children for ethics during a research. During the process of having access to the ECEC setting, there are strict procedures to see children as participant in my research. I was not allow to observe them closely or take picture or do field notes. Once I received the positive response from their parents and kindergarten staff, I was nicely introduced to the children s group with the purpose to explain the reason of my visits and the use of video camera and photo camera, Farrell explains this level like children as aware subjects (Farrell, 2005). I accepted this procedure to build feeling of safety among children when language was an issue for communication. Listening is a crucial part for establishing respectful relationship with children ( Bae, 2005) Children 33

34 were asking me about my personal and professional background, also the pedagogical teacher ask them if they were agree to having me inside the group for hiking and if it was fine take picture from them. They wanted ask me something but I could not understand or vice versa, the role of staff was helpful to translate and interpret children s views, questions and opinions Consent and confidentiality Observe children s interaction during risky play is the main focus to collect data and provide results to my research. Since children are the principal participants in my study, it is necessary to obtain permission from their parent. Before starting my research observations, I presented two letters; consent letter (see Appendix B) and gatekeeper letter (see Appendix C). The gatekeeper letter and consent letter described clearly the purpose of my research into early childhood education field, methods to use, tools to collect data but the most important to be expressed in these letters was my commitment to confidentiality and ethic to handle the information. My attitude during the observations was always with respect and acceptance among all the participants (Roberts-Holmes, 2011). The material collected to support my hypothesis was mainly used by myself and once shared with the thesis supervisor and pedagogical leader. The material was saved in my personal computer and I will delete once I conclude my thesis project. To ensure children s integrity of their personal identity, I used anonymity names for children, and to do reference to practitioners I used the word pedagogical leader or assistant depending their professional degree. 3.6 Reliability and Validity One characteristic of the qualitative researcher is try to understand, exploring and interpret situations in a context specific setting, no manipulate the phenomenon of study. Thus I will interpret naturalistic observations and support findings using informal conversations from staff, however as a researcher I need to test and demonstrate my results, proving that they are credible. The terms reliability and validity derive from quantitative research and also they are seems as separate terms although some qualitative researchers do not separate these terms (Golafshani, 2003), that is the reason which I chose the name for this headline. The terminologies credibility, transferability, and trustworthiness are used in qualitative studies to 34

35 replace the terms used in quantitative research, however I chose the terms reliability and validity as they seems to be most common in qualitative researches, as well. Reliability in qualitative research is understood as the constancy, fidelity and accuracy of the procedure and measurements are used during gathering data; and also verify if the results are replicated under other circumstances (Golafshani, 2003; Roberts et al. 2006). I chose an interpretative paradigm, qualitative research approach and naturalistic observation as research methods, all of them make the results impossible to replicate, due to the research is done in a specific sociocultural context with a specific group of people with similar characteristic. The Norwegian context offers unique characteristic for risky play which impact in their children s behavior; furthermore these characteristics are not common in other countries. However I provide an openly sight of how the data is collected, describing my sampling, the research methods used and professional, cultural and ethical challenges which I faced during this study. Validity in qualitative research refers to have integrity, character and quality to be assessed the findings (Golafshani, 2003). The point of validity, in qualitative researches, is achieve authenticity of their findings using triangulation, in this case I will attempt to validate my findings into a local context. The participant observation is the main research tool of this study, although informal conversation with staff and documentary sources are the support of my main findings. Due of my lack knowledge in Norwegian language, I was not able to interview children which could provide a strong support to my findings, and do interview to the staff will not provide the necessary evidence about risky play in children. Therefore I could not triangulate my findings using different research methods. My findings are interpreted according to specific sociocultural context and group of children and cannot be generalized. The purpose of this research is to illuminate and inspire ECEC professionals about risky play and its benefits in children s social competence arena. 35

36 4. Findings and Discussion This chapter presents the research findings and I will interpret and discuss the results. The previous chapter explained how the data was gathered using participant observation and informal conversations with the staff. The combination of photos, conversation with practitioners and description of my observations will provide a better view about risky play in natural outdoor environment and children s interaction in the friluftsliv barnehage. It is fundamental point out the use of anonymity names for children to ensure their integrity while, to do reference to ECEC practitioners I used the word pedagogical leader or assistant depending their professional degree. The findings are organized in three main categories; communication and peer s interaction, children s participation, and learning social skills. The findings are intimately related to each other, thus it is difficult separate and organize the findings into one category. During the chapter, the reader will find some findings that will contribute discussion in another theme. Hence, I used these categories and different headings, in an intention to make easier for the reader to follow the findings and discussion. The interpretation of the findings are influenced by my background in early childhood education which is strongly based on Piagetian s and Vgostky s theories and also by the beliefs on risky play in two different contexts such as Ecuador and Norway. The prior personal meaning of risk was focused as negative and everything could be dangerous during play time. The time which I spent in participatory observations in the kindergarten and also observing Norwegian s culture behavior impacted in my concept of risk and risky play. Actually, my understanding and interpretation of risky play could be positive or negative depending of adult s attitude. The discussions are sustained by literature on Vygotsky s social cultural theory, children s social competence and risky play; all of them framed by the Norwegian culture. The purpose of my discussion is not critique the practice at the kindergarten. Although I will be critical on the risky play evidences and be open to new understanding. My intention is purely focused in exploring and examining the relevant findings to support my research statement; the value of risky-play in natural outdoor environment that provides opportunities to develop positive children s relationship 36

37 4.1 Communication and Peer Interaction Communication between children Playing near a lake (see Figure 2) Once the group of children arrives to the lake, the pedagogical leader says: If you want to play near the lake, you must ask for help to one of us. Immediately, four boys Ole (3), Fred (4), Alexander (5), and Jean (6) ask for help to the assistant. The boys are playing on the border line of the lake with the presence of the assistant. The children are catching leaves from the lake using tree branches and throwing stones in the lake. Alexander is playing next to Ole. Both are catching leaves from the lake. Ole looks at him and smiles while Alexander responds with a smile, too. Then, Jean and Fred are throwing stones to the lake. Both are playing this game in parallel position (one next to the other). Jean is flinging the stones in far distance to the lake. While, Fred is throwing stones as well, but he is not reaching the same distance. Later, Jean looks that Fred are not using the same technique as him. So, Jean explains and teaches him the technique to throw the stone. After Fred try to use the technique but he cannot do it. Jean is there next to him during whole time. Both children are smiling and trying to repeat the action. In the end of the activity, the four boys are playing together. All the time, the assistant is close to the children, and sometimes talking to them, but she does not interfere in the game activity. Figure 2. Play near the lake is considerate as risky play because there exists possibility to fall deep into the water. This big lake is located in middle of Songsvann Forest. 37

38 After observing this episode I reflected on children s communication potential and it impacts on their learning and interaction. Children were sharing not only play activity; they also were sharing emotions and expressions. Body language such as eye contact and face expressions such as smiling were positive signs to keep others in the challenging activity; even if skills or techniques were not in same level related to others from the group. I perceived that children s good attitude in front challenges allowed interaction between them, for example when Jean was teaching to Fred and he was open to new ideas. It seems that children support to their peers using verbal or non-verbal communication such as, explaining and teaching new techniques or looking at him and smile when the partner were catching leaves, also when the capable peer was next to the learner even in unsuccessful moment. The authors (Landreth, Homeyer, & Morrison, 2006; Butler, 2008) agree that children use play to express wishes, desires, plans and preferences through verbal and non- verbal communication. In the same line, Corsaro and Vygotsky share the same thinking about language into play field. Both authors admit that language is a social connector. To have an effective verbal communication is essential the presence of a communicator and a listener, as for example the capable peer who verbally explained to the learner about the technique and the learner was carefully listening to him; both interactions will help to understand the correct meaning of their thinking on feelings on words. I also perceived the power of listening when children learn to listening rules, teacher or peer instructions, or even the nature sounds since early years, as in this instance Ole (3 years old). On the other hand, the author Torppa (2009) in her studies has concluded that nonverbal communication is the language of relationship (p.1). The way how children were treating to each other was most relevant than words because it shows respect and acceptance into the group. Non- verbal communications is expressed by facial expressions, gestures, eyecontact, space (be distant or close) and so forth, but I specifically mention these characteristics because were strongly present during this episode of children s risky play. As the illustration when the child was standing on next to his partner as demonstration of support, also smiling around all the players were a sign of children s participation and joy into play even there were with different level of skills. Children feel part of the group when they have acceptance form others (Torppa, 2009). In order to communication, peer s interaction, play and learning I see pertinent analyze the meaning of socio cultural theory in this episode. The author Nelson (cited in 38

39 Daniels, 2001) states that the transmission and acquisition of knowledge happens in three level, and language in combination with experience are the key points to reach the next level. I consider that Fred could not mastery the challenging situation due to lack of practicing or experiences. I might be wrong, but this is only my interpretation I cannot pretend to know what young children are feelings or experimenting. Furthermore, social interaction happens during ZPD (Vygotsky, 1978) and develops knowledge (Daniels, 2001) to reach the next step of learning. I observed that ZPD moment was clear in this episode when the capable child (Jean) interact with the learner (Fred) through language. When I talk about learning, I am not doing only reference to learning the activity of throwing stones, the four boys also learned skills to interpret non-verbal communication, listening to each other, share activities, to treat with respect and acceptance, in addition to my thinking, the authors Bodrova and Leong (2007) believes that a powerful children s learning occurs during play through interaction in mixed groups. Finally, I would like to admit that the assistant role provoked more opportunities for children s relationship during risky play. At ZPD moment the assistant led the children the chance for children s interaction and learning between them. Children s play provides a place for communication and further peer s interaction. The challenging situations boost children to go beyond simple interaction during risky play. Risky play develops skills and abilities which strongly influence in peer s relationship Building self-efficacy through peer s interaction during risky play Swinging in the rope with knots (Hanging from a tree on top of a hill) The scenario is on a hill at the forest. The rope has on it three knots in different levels and is holding from a tree. The ECEC practitioners do not mention any specific instructions about to play there. Two boys, Jean (6) and Benjamin (5) are interested to play on the rope while one of the assistant is standing up on next to the boys. Jean is swinging in the rope for two turns. He lands and smiling says to his peer; Now, it is your turn while he gives the rope to Benjamin. The younger child takes the rope and swinging on it, no so fast and high like the previous child. When Benjamin lands, immediately both children start discussing about the risk to fall down on hard surface. They compare that surface with the surface in winter time which was covered by snow. Jean says to the assistant that snow support them form possible injuries. He also say to her and then she translate it to me If we fall down it will be ok, little painful; but sure that we will not fall. The teacher is listening to the children s discussion without commenting or suggesting anything, but she is observing them and smiling when they are swinging higher and with speed. Both children are playing waiting turns (3 opportunities for each one). 39

40 Suddenly, four more children get involve into the activity; they are not playing only clapping and shouting children s name. After this activity, I felt that childhood stage is the proper time to develop self- efficacy which impact in taking-risk decision along your life. I observed that some external factors help to build self-efficacy in children. In first instance, Jean and Benjamin played as team; there was no place for winner or loser. The dialogue between them seems to influence in their confidence during risky play furthermore, the presence of four children, also, impact Jean and Benjamin behaviors to continue in the activity. I saw that assistant s attitude induced children s risk-decision. On the other hand, it seems that previous children s successful experiences in natural outdoor environment provided a feeling of security and for taking-risk decision of play even if the natural outdoor environment was not the same. Through the expression If we fall down it will be ok, little painful; but sure that we will not fall, I felt a strong sense of group and mastery experience. Personally, I did not have such challenging and risk situations in my childhood; therefore I feel doubts in front a new or risky situation, even in risky play situation during my research observations. Since that personal reflection, I compare and analyze how self-efficacy is developed in Ecuadorian and Norwegian children. According to the author Ivic s (cited in Daniels, 2001) who claims that schools do not provide a complete teach system of knowledge or the school curricula has lack of tools or intellectual techniques, finally he strongly affirms that there are schools do not offer opportunities for social interaction such as play. I believe that there are kindergartens more focused on learning through rigid systems than learning through play, as the case of some ECEC settings in Ecuador. While in Norway, the Framework Plan for the content and Tasks of Kindergartens (2011) promotes play as powerful way of holistic children s learning. Moreover, the Kindergarten Act. 64 (2005) states Kindergartens shall provide children with opportunities for play, self-expression and meaningful experiences and activities in safe, yet challenging surroundings (p. 1). It seems that play, especially risky play is quite frequent in Norwegian kindergarten as part of their tools technique of knowledge and learning. The main point of discussion is how Norwegian children develop self-efficacy through peer s interaction during risky play. The scientific article Self-efficacy (n.d.) published by the National Association of School Physiologists (NASP) states four fundamentals factors to develop self-efficacy in children and youth. I will connect my 40

41 findings under these factors, in an intention to link the main themes; self-efficacy, peer s interaction and risky play. Mastery experience Children need to believe in their potential to succeed in front challenging situations ( Self-efficacy, n.d.). As for example when Jean said If we fall down it will be ok, little painful; but sure that we will not fall. I see that Jean also has developed a strong connection with the group and he believes in his potential and peer s potential when he uses the pronouns WE. This is only my interpretation, although it could mean something else and I might be wrong. But I only analyzing and interpreting Jean s speech to make sense of the circumstance (Hughes, 2007). Several authors (Greefield, 2003; Tovey, 2007; Gleave, 2008; Eichteller & Holthoff, 2009; Little & Eager, 2009; Sandseter, 2010; and Knight, 2011) agree that risky play is beneficial for children holistic development which it means that is powerful way for children s learning about their potential and limits, to balance their fear and joy, to understand the meaning of safety and risk furthermore learn to concentrate and perseverate. As my observations were done during the last period of school year (spring 2012), I could easily identify those benefits on children s learning. However, I will illustrate risky play at natural outdoor environment and its impact in children s learning; when Jean (6) and Benjamin (5) are discussing about the risk to fall down on hard surface. They compare that surface with the surface in winter time which was covered by snow. But previous mastery experience might make easier for them balance fear and joy in front of a challenging or difficult situation. Flow and mood Heinstrom (2010) describes flow as the point of balance between ability and challenge while mood is a state of feelings in a particular time or situation ( Self-efficacy n.d.). Some studies have identified that flow and mood are interacting in children s behavior during risky play (Sandseter, 2007; 2010). If children experiences positive emotions during the challenging situation, they will look for solutions in front of difficulties thus, there is the place of flow. As for example Jean and Benjamin were really enjoy the activity because they were sure about their potential and abilities for swinging in the rope, although the difficulty or challenge was the surface with different characteristics. They looked for solutions, but the immediate solution was not to stop the game, I interpret that sharing their feelings with their 41

42 adult was the solution that they looked for, also the assistant s attitude and non-verbal communication (smiling and eye contact) message suggest to children security during play. Observing and direct persuasion by others In the previous section I discussed about the importance communication and peer s interaction in children s learning. So, in this case I will reaffirm the relevance of peer s interaction into ZPD as part of children s learning. Vygotsky (1978) express that adult guidance or collaboration of capable peers helps the individual solves problems and succeds to the next level of learning. It might be that collaboration of capable peer was illustrated when Jean took the initiative in the game and showed to his partner how to do it. Benjamin observed him and then used the rope to play as well, even if the speed and height was not the same. It was a collaborative learning where the presence of winner or loser does not exist. I cannot interpret children s feeling due of my design of research tools, but I can interpret children s behavior, so If Benjamin for a single moment felt fear, the influence of capable peer and the direct persuasion of his peers help to impact positively in Benjamin s self efficacy. The power of children s interaction, communication, adult s role and children s understanding about their potential and meaning of risk and challenges at natural outdoor environment, all of them, contributed to build self-efficacy in children. Risky play at outdoor environment offers self-efficacy experiences to children. 4.2 Children s participation in risky play Negotiation, agreements, making rules between children Chase and catch The group of children was playing around the forest. Three boys Marius (4), Joakim (5) and Svein (5) were playing chase and catch. After initiate the game, they look for an object to throw as sign of chase. Each one found different objects such as sticks and pine cone (see Figure 3). Then, they discuss about the material to use in the game. Each boy has the turn to explain the reason to use a specific material. Finally, they choose the pine cone as the element to chase. Later, the three boys are negotiating about turns and also they are making rules for play. The rules of the game are expressed by verbal and non-verbal communication. Everyone agrees with the rules and they stand up in strategic point, like forming a big triangle. Marius starts the game. Running at high speed is the point to mastery the experience, sometimes the children stumble on the ground. The material to chase is a pine cone but any kind of injure happen during the activity. 42

43 Figure 3. The natural outdoor environment provides to children s opportunities for risky play and develop their creativity. Natual elements such as pine cones, sticks, leaves, insects are part of their material to play and learn. During this episode, I observe that my low level knowledge of Norwegian language was a limitation for my research and proper findings. Despite of I used relevant literature to support my findings. I recognize that children s participation is a broad topic to discuss, but I attempt to explore and interpret the meaning of agreement, negotiation and making rules in children s relationship during play, especially in risky play at natural outdoor environment. On my observation, I could see that negotiations, agreements, making rules and discussion are intimately related to language and peer s interaction which provide a space for children participation. During all the activity, Marius, Joakim and Svein were discussing or negotiating as a group with equal participation to express their ideas. The three boys showed equal participation when they were waiting turn to communicate their ideas. Furthermore, children must develop a good level of critical thinking to participate in negotiation, agreement and making rules. I could not understand their arguments or agreements, but they body language allows me to understand if the boys were agree or disagree with the final decision. The most important finding for me was that children create their own space for participation; the ECEC practitioners did not mediate any situation during agreements, discussion or making rule. 43

44 The Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten (2011) indicates They (children) shall have the right to participate in accordance with their age and abilities. It also indicates The children s views shall be given due weight according to their age and maturity (p. 15). Play is the principal way to explore and learn about participation and democracy social skills (Corsaro, 2005; Aasen et al., 2009). ECEC practitioners are aware of children s right and participation into Norwegian society, thus kindergarten staff has the mission to arrange meaningful activities where children can experiment the power of participation in their life. During, this episode the role of ECEC practitioners was promoting opportunities for agreements and negotiations among children through risky play. According to Aasen et al., (2009) and Little (2009) demonstrate that positive children s attitude in front of problems and challenges is well developed in natural outdoor environments. On the other hand, risky play provides opportunities for children for choosing, negotiation, interaction between peers developing democratic learning (Little & Eager, 2010). It seems that risky play in natural outdoor environment has a valuable meaning for children s quality of learning. Although, natural outdoor environment do not provide only learning in social and physical arenas; it also provide cognitive learning. For example when the three boys measured; the velocity and distance to throw the pine cone to peers having as result any injury. They also learn about concepts and meaning through experiences into real environment, which allow them to participate properly into risky play. Verbal communication is a vital tool to develop peer s relationship (Corsaro, 2005) Agreements, negotiations, discussion, and making rules are built through verbal communication as I could observe the three boys were sharing their ideas and thinking before start a new action into the game. They not impose rules; they together create the rules according to specific situations. This episode was a kind of challenge for me to understand children s speech; furthermore I could not identify children s interaction into ZPD so clearly like previous examples. However, children s participation in negotiations, agreements, discussion and making rules emits a sense of belonging into the group which helps to develop positive children s relationship. Risky play at natural outdoor environment provides more changes to play in group, consequently more opportunities for negotiations, agreements, discussion and making rules which influence positively in children s relationship. 44

45 4.2.2 Equal opportunities for all during risky play The boat At natural outdoor playground, there is a wood log construction (3 logs, in an upright position, supporting a log in horizontal position) made by ECEC practitioners with assistance of children (see Figure 4). There is a girl, Astrid (4) who is climbing the wood log, she get on the top and immediately she sits on the horizontal log. Astrid is singing and clapping. Then, another girl Lene (5) is climbing the log as well. Once she is on top, she takes a sit next to Astrid. Both girls are singing the same song, clapping and smiling, also dialogues are present. After a while, two boys Fred (4) and Svein (5) are climbing the log and sitting next to the two girls. Long dialogues, negotiations and agreements are there. The pedagogical leader translates for me some children s conversations. She explains that children are playing a game called the boat. The four children are setting together on the log and holding their hands. A static balancing movement is initiated by the children, every time is faster and getting uncontrollable. Suddenly, Fred falls from top and the three children get down to see the situation. The pedagogical leader gets close to the child and revises him. The practitioner hugs him and the children start a new game. Figure 4. Wood log construction. Previously, it was a tent during winter time. ECEC practitioner removed the fabric but they left the contruction in ittention to provide opportunities for risky play. 45

46 This is the one of few times that I observe children s interaction in mixed gender in risky play. Generally, through my examples the reader can observe that in each illustration most of the participants are boys, although boys and girls are sharing the same physical space and outdoor activities. The Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten (2011) states that ECEC staff must provide opportunities to enhance children in safe and challenging physical activities for EVERYONE. The place for risky play is fundamental in Norwegian Kindergartens; this kind of play provides the characteristics (Eid, 2004; Thigpen, 2007; Moser & Martisen, 2010) that the Norwegian law recommends to ECEC staff. The wording EVERYONE is clearly explained in the Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten (2011) when it does reference to all children regardless of gender and physical, psychological and social circumstances (p. 35). Kindergartens and ECEC settings is considerate as the place for children s learning around the world. Furthermore, if children learn to participate with equal opportunities since kindergarten stage, it will be probably develop democratic citizens. My idea is based on Norwegian policies which highly support gender equality in all areas, with especial impact of social and economical fields (Gender equality in Kindergartens, n.d., para. 5). Also the authors Aasen et al. (2009) support my thinking. Their investigation shows the potential of outdoor environment and peer s interaction in Norwegian kindergarten on children s democracy learning. My observations do not reflect that mixed of ages is a factor that decreases children s relationship and learning. On the contrary, mixed of ages contribute to children s learning and develop of children s relationship in a frame of respect, tolerance and equality (Vygotsky, 1978; Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Aasen et al., 2009) On the other hand, this episode illustrates the role of pedagogical leader in children s learning at natural outdoor environment. The wood log construction built by the practitioners affords many opportunities for risky play and risk competence. One by one the 4 children got involve in risky play. Holding hands, sharing communication and be aware of safety make stronger their relationship. Children in mixed group of age and gender help them to understand each other through play. The ECEC practitioner creates spaces and plans challenging activities which 46

47 influence in children s relationship during risky play at natural outdoor environment. The activities and materials used in the natural outdoor playground do not transmit any gender issue. Risky play suggests interaction between children crossing stereotypes concepts which influence positively in children s relationship ECEC practitioners participation in children s risky play I know that children can solve their problems, i know their limits, and this outdoor space is a familiar place for them I know what they can do by themselves such as to climb the fence or tree, swinging in the rope, sledding downhill and so forth (informal conversation with the pedagogical leader, May 29 th, 2012). The natural playground is totally covered by snow. The first ideas come to my mind; how and who will remove the snow for the playground, so the children will play without any problem. I, informally, ask to the pedagogical leader about my queries. She responds children will do it during the day, as a mode of play. They love to do that. And why should do I remove the pedagogical material? They learn a lot from the nature. (informal conversation with the pedagogical leader, March 13 th, 2010). Through each illustration I interpret and analyze the role of the ECEC practitioner in children s learning during risky play at natural outdoor because I see that practitioners has a relevant performance during risky play. I perceive that their attitude allows more chances for children s interaction and development of children s relationship. However, in this section I will analyze ECEC practitioners involvement in risky play and their intervention in natural outdoor environment. Their participation and intervention might influence in children s learning. Pascal and Bertram cited in Tovey (2007), indicate three key principles which adult and children are able to build an effective connection during play; one of the keys is autonomy. According to Stephenson s research, he argues that adults attitudes modify children s responses in front of physical risk taking outdoors (Tovey, 2007). I think the combination of autonomy and adults attitudes provokes a positive stimulation in children s risky play and also in obtaining positive social experiences during play. According to Vygotsky (1978) establishes that learning and development are constantly working together, the first cannot happen if the second does not exist and vice versa. Learning and development are continually modified by ZPD. In addition, the expert Knight (2011) suggests that play, as well risky play, promotes skills and abilities that 47

48 contribute to children s social competence. Children s social competence allows children s interaction and less adult structure supervision (Knight, 2011; The Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten, 2011) I think that practitioners must work wisely with pedagogical strategies to reach the point where children are allow to learn alone, like in the case of learning by risky play. The practitioners attitude transmits to children a sense of security and freedom. Consequently, security and freedom allows children to explore their limits, self-control, selfefficacy, imagination, creativity and solve problems by themselves. The second illustration shows reasons for ECEC practitioners do not remove anything from the natural playground. Practitioners believe that if they remove those natural elements from the playground as an intention to protected children from injuries, children will not understand the environment and respect nature and their peers. The authors Tovey (2007 and Rivkin (2006) agree that outdoor environments offer children a high qualitative and quantitative of opportunities to explore and experiment by doing. Norwegian culture considerate outdoor environments as part of their lifestyle, therefore they are aware of the benefits of outdoor environments on children s behavior in front of problems, difficulties or challenges (Aasen et al., 2009; The Framework Plan for the Content and Task of Kindergarten, 2011). Torppa (2009) affirms that non-verbal communication is the language of communication (p. 1). I think that children are aware of hazard during risky play; they control their movements in an effort to respect their peers also they demonstrate a sense of patient to his/her peer, or for the group when they are playing on wet or slippery surface as for example. ECEC practitioners have a vital role during children s interaction and learning in play. Practitioners have developed a positive attitude in front of risk and challenges during children s risky play. Practitioner s positive attitudes give freedom to children for an effective interaction and learning. Pedagogical leader and assistants see the child as competent who is able to participate in a group, community and society. 48

49 4.3 Learning Social Skills through Risky Play Learning democratic values Swinging in the rope with a tied stick at the end (see Figure 5) There is a construction that simulate like a swing at the natural playfround. A rope and a piece of stick are the elements of this swing. The stick is tied on a end of the rope and the another end is tied to the tree branch. A boy Ole (3) is swinging in the rope without speed. Later,the ECEC assistant takes the rope and move it in horizontal direction with a degree of speed. Ole is smiling. Few minutes later, another boy Fred (4) walks to the swing and tries to stop the it. The teacher stops the swing and Ole gets down form the stick and both children are doing some agreements. The pedagogical leader and assitant translate for me the children s speech; They are discussing about how to share and play together in the rope. Once the both children are sitting on the stick, the assistant moves the swing in circular and horizontal direction with a high speed. Figure 5. The wood stick gives place for one or two players. The level of speed will measure the risk in play. I consider this episode as a good example to observe and analyze about how social skills benefits children s relationship. It seems that children learn social skills or democratic values during collaborative play and risky play. There is one stick and two players, this 49

50 situation could suggest three or more options; first, share the stick and play together. Second, do not share and play alone or leave the game and play with other thing. When Ole initiated the dialogue I reflected on his behavior. I perceived that Ole and Fred use dialogues to solve problems and through this interaction both children are learning the meaning of share, respect and equality. The presence of the assistant did not influence in children s decision or agreements. Social play is considerate as the interaction between child-child or child-adult (Johnson, Christie & Yawkey, 1987). This example showed social play between children. However, Paterns s study about children s interaction in early years, demonstrates that social play is better described as collaborative play (Coplan et al., 2006). Collaborative play is related to group play that follows a common goal (Johnson, Christie & Yawkey, 1987; Coplan et al., 2006). Children must modify their behavior to achieve the common goals; those behaviors shall be acceptable within the peer group to be considerate as social play. Empathy is key for children interaction, and consequently for collaborative play (Damon, 1983). Empathy is the ability to understand and share the other s feelings (Damon, 1983; Mussen, et al., 1984). Nowadays, new researches (Aasen et al., 2009; Little & Eager, 2010) demonstrate that collaborative play is present in risky play. In this example of risky play, Ole and Fred decided play as a team; both have the same goal. Social skills, democratic values and social competence are developed in children into challenging situation. Challenging situations at natural outdoor environment are positive factors that contribute to learning of values in young children. The challenging situation for Ole might be to share the stick, but he used the dialogue as the way to solve the situation. I am only interpreting and analyzing children s behavior, I could not affirm Ole s thinking or feelings. Due to this limitation, I also support my reflection on Torppa s (2009) thinking. He believes that actions are worth than words. Ole s action to share the stick and allow Fred to play impact positively in children s relationship. Social skills must be interiorized by the children through active and meaningful experiences. 50

51 5. Summary of Findings and Final Remarks. 5.1 Main Findings This section summarizes the main research findings of the study. The research question is; how risky play at natural outdoor environment becomes an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship? The research question was analyzed in a group of children from 3 to 5 years old in a Norwegian friluftsliv barnehage during risky play experiences. Friluftsliv barnehage is a Norwegian term which translates to English language means open air kindergarten. The study shows that risky play at natural outdoor environment creates opportunities which influence positively in children s relationship. Four main findings were identified as powerful opportunities to shape children s relationship in the open air kindergarten during risky play. Play is considerate by many authors and pedagogues as greater social connector between child-peers and child-adult. Risky play is understood as children s play that implicates high speeds, great heights, be close to dangerous elements and so forth (Sandseter, 2007). The main social characteristic of risky play is to be mainly for children s interaction. The study indicates that less child-adult interaction increase level of children s interaction during risky play. However, the finding also suggests that practitioners create spaces and plan opportunities for risky play although; they do not interfere in children s interaction and decisions. Risky is mostly common at natural outdoor environments as consequence of the same nature which affords children to be more involved in challenging situations and risk-taking decisions (Thigpe, 2007) than inside doors activities. Children when face challenges and risktaking situations look for solutions to solve the problem during risky play (Little & Eager, 2010). The results explain that during children s risky play at natural outdoor environment there are opportunities to develop children s social competence. The research findings also illustrate the interplay of communication, peer s interaction, self- efficacy and children s participation helps children to mastery experiences during risky play while at the same time contributes to develop positive children s relationship at kindergarten. 51

52 Communication and peer s interaction interplay simultaneously. Children s play provides a place for communication and further peer s interaction. The challenging situations boost children to go beyond simple interaction during risky play. The results suggest that risky play develops skills and abilities which strongly influence in children s relationship. Children s interaction, communication, adult s role and children s understanding about their potential and meaning of risk and challenges at natural outdoor environment, all of them, contributed to build self-efficacy in children. The findings demonstrate that risky play at outdoor environment offers self-efficacy experiences to children which promote positive children s relationship. Children s participation in negotiations, agreements, discussion and making rules emits a sense of belonging into the group which helps to develop positive children s relationship. The investigations shows that risky play at natural outdoor environment provides more changes to play in group, consequently more opportunities for negotiations, agreements, discussion and making rules which influence positively in children s relationship. I have noticed that risky play becomes an opportunity to develop positive children s relationship when challenging situations into play are solved by communication, peer s interaction, self-efficacy and children s participation. 5.2 Further Research The research process together with the results has created several queries that from my point of view, the investigation could be continued and expanded. I found that natural outdoor environment itself together with ECEC practitioner s view about risky play could suggest more ideas of how those factors influence in children s relationship. Children social competence is a broad topic as the same children s relationship but I consider that some factors identified during my research could be investigated in further research, as for example building self-efficacy in children through risky play. Social-cultural factors also play a fundamental role in this research, I recommend for next researchers that possibly will be interesting to do a meticulous comparative study about risky play as pedagogical tool to reduce bullying between children into two different social context. Finally, I consider that risky play has potential to contribute children s relationship; consequently I suggest continuing with investigations related to risky play and social competence. 52

53 References Aasen, W., Grindheim, L. T., & Waters, J. (2009). The outdoor environment as a site for children's participation, meaning-making and democratic learning: examples from Norwegian kindergartens, Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 37:1, doi: / Aubrey, C., David, T., Godfrey, R., & Thompson, L. (2000). Early childhood educational research: Issues in methodology and ethics. London : Falmer. Bae, B. (2005). Troubling the Identity of a Researcher: methodological and ethical questions in cooperating with teacher-carers in Norway. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 6(3), doi: /ciec Bjorklund, D.F., & Brown, R. D. (1998). Physical Play and Cognitive Development: Integrating Activity, Cognition, and Education. Child Development, 69(3), Retrieved from Blaxter, L., Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (2001). How to research (2 nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2006). Adult influences on play : the Vygotskian approach. In D. P. Fromberg & D. Bergen (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp ). London : Routledge. Bundy, A.C., Luchett, T., Tranter, P. J., Naughton, G. A., Wyver, Sh. R., Ragen, J., & Spies, G. (2009). The risk is that there is no risk : A simple, innovative intervention to increase children s activity levels. International Journal of Early Years Education, 17:1, doi: / Burleson, B. R., & Kunkel, A. (2002). Parental and peer contributions to the emotional support skills of the child: From whom do children learn to express support? Journal of Family Communication, 2:2, doi: /S JFC0202_02 Butler, C. W. (2008). Talk and social interaction in the playground. Farnham : Ashgate. Cole, M., & Cole, Sh. R. (1996). The development of children (3 rd. ed.). New York: Freeman. 53

54 Coplan, R. J., Rubin, K. H., & Findlay, L. C. (2006). Social and nonsocial play. In D. P. Fromberg & D. Bergen (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp.75-86). London : Routledge. Corsaro, W., & Eder, D. (1990). Children s peer culture. Annual Review of Sociology, 16, doi: /annurev.so Corsaro, W. (2003). We're friends, right?: inside kids' culture. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry. Corsaro, W. (2005). The sociology of childhood (2 nd. ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press. Damon, W. (1983). Social and personality development: infancy through adolescence. New York : Norton Daniels, H. (2001). Vygotsky and Pedagogy. London: Routledge Falmer. Denscombe, M. (2001). The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects (3rd. ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Dewey, J. (1998). Experience and education. West Lafayette, Ind.: Kappa Delta Pi. Edwards, A. (2007). Qualitative designs and analysis. In G. Naughton, Sh. Rolfe, & I. Siraj- Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp ). Buckingham : Open University Press. Eichteller, G., & Holthoff, S. (2009, September 1). Towards a Pedagogic Conceptualisation of Risk (Web log post). Retrieved from Eid, K. M. (2004, May). Children playing in nature. Paper presented at the conference of RECE, Oslo. Farrell, A. (2005). Ethical research with children. Maidenhead : Open University Press. Gleave, J. (2008). Risk and play: A literature review. London: Play England. 54

55 Golafshani, N. (2003). Understanding Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report 8 (4) Retrieved from Graue, M. E., & Walsh, J. W. (1998). Studying children in context: Theories, methods and ethics. California : Sage. Greenfield, Ch. (2003, June) Outdoor Play: The case for risks and challenges in children s learning and development. Safe Kids News, 21. Retrieved from Heinstrom, J. (2010). From fear to flow: personality and information interaction. Oxford: Chandos. Hughes, P. (2001). Paradigms, methods and knowledge. In G. Naughton, Sh. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp ). Buckingham : Open University Press. Johnson, J. E., Christie, J., & Yawkey, T. (1987). Play and early childhood development. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman. Kjørholt, A. T., & Lidén, H. (2004). Children and youth as citizens: Symbolic participants or political actors? In J. Kampmann, H. Brembeck & B. Johansson (Eds.), Beyond the Competent Child: Exploring Contemporary Childhoods in the Nordic Welfare Societies (pp ). Fredriksberg: Roskilde University Press. Knight, S. (2011). Risk and adventure in early years outdoor play: learning from forest schools. Los Angeles: Sage. Krantz, M. (1994). Child development : risk and opportunity. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth. Landreth, G., Homeyer, L., & Morrison, M. (2006). Play as the language of children's feelings. In D. P. Fromberg & D. Bergen (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp ). London : Routledge. Little, H., & Eager, D. (2010). Risk, challenge and safety: Implications for play quality and playground design. European Early childhood Education Research Journal, 18:4, Doi: / X

56 Little, H., & Wyver, Sh. (2008). Outdoor play: Does avoiding the risks reduce the benefits. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(2), Retrieved from _abstracts/outdoor_play_does_avoiding_the_risks_reduce_the_benefits.html Maykut, P., & Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning qualitative research : a philosophic and practical guide. London : Falmer Press. Mercer, J. (2010). Child development: myths and misunderstandings. Los Angeles: Sage. Ministry of Education and Research. (n.d.). Gender equality in Kindergartens. Retrieved from Moser, T., & Martisen, M. T. (2010). The outdoor environment in Norwegian kindergartens as pedagogical space for toodlers play, learning and development. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18:4, doi: / x Mussen, P. H, Conger, J. J, Kagan, J., & Huston, A.C. (1984). Child development and personality (5 th. Ed.). New York: Harper & Row. Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. (2011). The Framework Plan for the content and Task of Kindergartens. (English language version). Oslo, Norway. Retrieved from e_content_and_tasks_of_kindergartens_2011.pdf Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. 2005, Act no. 64 of June 2005 relating to Kindergartens (The Kindergarten Act). (English language version) Oslo, Norway. Rhedding-Jones, J. (2005). What is Research? Methodological Practices and New Approaches. Norway: Universiteforlaget. Rivking, M. S. (2006). Children's outdoor play: an endangered activity. In D. P. Fromberg & D. Bergen (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp ). London: Routledge. Robert-Holmes, G. (2011). Doing your early years research project: A step-by-step guide (2 nd ed.). Los Angeles : Sage. 56

57 Roberts P et al. (2006) Reliability and validity in research. Nursing Standard, 20 (44), Retrieved from module3-reading&download=49:reliability-20and-20validity-20in-20qualitative- 20research&Itemid=57 Sandseter, E. B. H. (2007). Categorizing Risky Play - How Can We Identify Risk-taking in Children's Play? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15 (2), doi: / Sandseter, E.L. (2010). Scarefunny: A qualitative study of risky play among preschool children. (Doctoral dissertation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology). Retrieved from 356BB429.html Self-efficacy: Helping children believe they can succeed. (n.d.). in Communiqué Handout, November, 39 (3), 1-4. Retrieved from Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Siraj-Blatchford, J. (2001). An ethnographic approach to researching young children s learning. In G. Naughton, Sh. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp ). Buckingham : Open University Press. Thigpen, B. (2007). Outdoor play: Combating sedentary lifestyles. Zero to Three, 28,1, Torppa, C. (2009). Nonverbal Communication: Teaching Your Child the Skills of Social Success. Family and Consumer Sciences. The Ohio University. Retrieved from Tovey, H. (2007). Playing outdoors: spaces and places, risk and challenge. Maidenhead: Open University Press. 57

58 Trawick-Smith, J. (2006). Social play in school. In D. P. Fromberg & D. Bergen (Eds.), Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives, and meanings (pp ). London : Routledge. United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 58

59 Appendices Appendix A: Letter from the Norwegian Social Science Data Services 59

60 60

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