The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shock waves through Danish society and in the same way as other countries, leaving the country in a situation that is without historical precedent. Many people are afraid and uncertain about what the future will bring, in terms of not only health and economy, but also socially and culturally – because the crisis risks changing the way we humans interact. Danish daycare institutions are also affected by the situation, and since 16 March 2020 most of the country’s daycare facilities for children 0-6 years has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of spreading the infection. Some daycare facilities have served as emergency care solutions, among others for children whose parents work in the healthcare sector.
These emergency care solutions have now lasted for about a month, but at the press conference held on 6 April, the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced a gradual and controlled reopening of all daycare facilities as of 15 April. This announcement has raised both concern and discussion, because how will this gradual reopening take place? In order to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections, the reopening of daycare facilities includes a number of health care instructions and recommendations, which the daycare institutions should implement in collaboration with municipal officials and politicians.
How to implement these instructions and recommendations into institutional and pedagogical measures that both support and assist children in their well-being and development, as well as help parents returning to the labor market are the pivot of this research project.
The fact that Danish daycare facilities like all other institutions in the welfare state are in an unknown and uncertain situation is indisputable. With this project, we wish to gather knowledge about how pedagogical priorities and dilemmas are experienced in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how accustomed norms and cultures change and develop during this difficult and unpredictable time. We are also concerned about the significance of the crisis for children 0-6 years, including children and parents living in vulnerable and exposed situations.
By focusing on how the COVID-19 crisis may potentially change the relational conditions and ways in which adults and children interact in Danish daycare facilities, we wish to contribute with knowledge that can help reduce the burden of the corona crisis, especially related to young children, parents and pedagogues. The aim of this research project is thus to map and explore how managers and pedagogical staff in 150 selected Danish daycare facilities for children at 0-6 years meet the major societal challenge of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark. Based on the above, the research project focuses on four research questions:
The Danish tradition of daycare is characterized as a sort of social holistic approach, in which children regardless of social background have the opportunity to participate. This social holistic approach is unique for Denmark and the other Nordic countries. This means that almost all young children in Denmark attend daycare before school starts. In addition, it is also pivotal to point out that Danish daycare facilities fulfill many and simultaneous social functions in the welfare state affiliated with children and parents’ everyday life:
This research project rests on this Nordic approach, which applies a theoretical focus on the importance of children’s education, socialization and play as the foundation for the child’s well-being and development. While at the same time reaching out to the social holistic approach that all children should have equal opportunities for well-being and development in the Danish (and Nordic) welfare state. The pedagogues in daycare facilities have a long professional tradition of working with pedagogical measures, which in different ways create opportunities for children’s everyday life in relation to play, well-being, and participation in social interactions with other children and adults. Moreover, the importance of a basic focus on care and close adult-child relationships, which are fundamental to the child’s well-being in the everyday of daycare.