“In the U.S. you want to protect the child against anything and everything. In Sweden we have a different approach. We want the child to explore independently and treat children as individuals.”

Academics and practitioners in the field of early childhood education convened to discuss Nordic Perspectives in Caring and Teaching at New York’s Scandinavia House on Nov. 11 - 13. The quote is by Göteborg Preschool teacher Monica Nylund, speaker on “Quality Environments” and Teacher perspectives from Sweden.

The weekend program was organized by the ASF in collaboration with the Sarah Lawrence College Child Development Institute. In his opening remarks, Edward P. Gallagher, President of The American-Scandinavian Foundation, thanked Monica Heimbold for her generous support and inspiration and Sara Wilford of Sarah Lawrence College for organizing the symposium. “Without you we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. Monica Heimbold, executive trustee of ASF and Co-founder of The World Childhood Foundation stressed the importance of play in everyone’s development: “Playing has been an important part of my life, as a child, as a professional, a parent, and a grandparent.”

The symposium featured 10 keynote speakers representing all of the Scandinavian countries and the U.S. and offered ample opportunities for questions and discussion. A variety of voices highlighted differences between the general approach in the USA and the Nordic region. “We have found that in the Nordic countries parents want their children to have fun, and are less concerned about the learning part. Whereas in the U.S., you are much more focused on progress and learning,” said Johanna Einarsdottir, Professor of Early Childhood Education from Iceland University of Education.
“Nordic countries are a step ahead of all other countries. But we have much to learn,” remarked Stig Broström, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Danish University of Education. “We noticed in Denmark that we become too attached to the children, which makes it harder for them during the transition from preschool to primary school. It’s a difficult balancing act.”
“When children have fun and can concentrate on things they are interested in, they learn more,” Ingrid Engdahl, Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Stockholm, said during her opening speech. “Teachers need to develop their view on children, show them respect. You should listen to the children and remember rules can be ruled out and routines may be changed.”

Participants also had an opportunity to visit the newly reimagined Heimbold Family Children's Learning Center at Scandinavia House. The Center is an indoor play space that incorporates the best of Scandinavian design, while emphasizing early childhood sensory perception. It was created in collaboration with New York-based architecture firm Koko Architecture + Design.
Childhood versus marriage… “By playing you learn. You have to compromise with the other children and you learn to communicate and listen and show respect, it’s just like in a marriage,” reflected Elisabet Nyleus, preschool teacher at Carl Albert Preschool in Stockholm in her lecture “Perspectives on inclusion”.

The weekend program was organized by the ASF in collaboration with the Sarah Lawrence College Child Development Institute. More information on ASF - The American-Scandinavian Foundation
Photography: Hanna Aqvilin