Many children arrive at the start of their formal schooling falling behind on cognitive and socio-emotional skills that are critical for school adjustment. Despite its generous welfare system, Norway’s gaps in learning outcomes between children of advantaged and disadvantaged families are substantial. Norway may be missing a key opportunity to narrow these gaps because the Framework plan of Norwegian daycare centers (Early Childhood Education and Care, ECEC) does not fully reflect international empirical evidence from the ECEC literature, linking an intentional practice with key curricular foci to successful child development. The last year of daycare is a critical period for creating a smooth transition to school, and currently the framework plan describes no specific curricular foci for this group. Moreover, there are limited scientifically based tools and resources, on which teachers in the Norwegian daycare context can rely when creating an intentional practice with a curricular foci.
Building upon a previous project (the Agder project) this research project aims to help Norwegian daycare teachers develop a more intentional and systematic practice stimulating skills that are critical for adjusting to school and for later-life success, and investigate how this change in practice affects child development. We will implement a large-scale randomized field experiment where daycare teachers engage with the 5-year-olds in playful learning activities. The teacher-child interaction will be warm and playful, and with an intention to stimulate socio-emotional, self-regulatory, language and math skills, which numerous studies have identified as foundational for future learning and development. About 150 daycare centers will participate, with 75 randomly selected centers in the treatment group.
The research project Playful learning will collaborate with daycare centers in producing knowledge, products and services for daycare teachers, directors and owners, in addition to universities and colleges responsible for daycare teacher education. Important objectives are to disseminate international and national cutting-edge research on a more intentional practice with curricular foci to all these target groups, and to create a scientifically based playful learning curriculum for 5-year-olds in daycare.