Is Physical Activity a Pathway to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children’s Participation in Early Childhood Education and Care?

Outi Arvola, Pia Liljeroth and Jyrki Reunamo have written an article about the importance of physical activity for children with diverse language and cultural backgrounds. The article will be published in the Journal of Early Childhood Education Research. The answer to the question in the headline is yes! Physical activity is a shared language and a platform for cultural creation. The observation results indicate that physical activity is related to increased involvement and building social processes among culturally and linguistically diverse children.

Physical activity was related to continuous involvement. The most increasing physical activity was in sustaining intense involvement: a third of all movement happened in high involvement. The observation results indicate that physical activity is related to increased involvement and building social processes among culturally and linguistically diverse children.

Professor Chen granted to study children’s reading processes

Professor Hui-Hua Chen from the Taiwanese Dong Hwa University Department of Early Childhood Education has been granted to join our team in Finland July-November 2023. The Taiwan ministry of science and technology has given professor Chen a grant to study children’s processes of learning to read. The pedagogical choices connected with learning to read will also be explored. Finnish and Taiwanese practices will be compared based on a large random sample conducted in Taiwan and Finland.

We have observed children’s reading sessions when the adult reads for the children and when children read books themselves. We have thousands of random observations of children’s reading processes. A comparison between two cultures gives perspective to understand the learning process not just as a personal learning task, but also as a culturally mediated production of shared understanding.

We can change the world only if we see the opportunity!

Teemu Nikkola researches the connections between children’s creativity and the everyday life, views and sociality of children’s early childhood education. According to Teemu’s article, children’s ability to see social situations (openness and influence) measured by interviews is related to creativity measured by an independent measure (Torrance). Creative children are more open and influential in their social roles. The tendency to develop situations in creative ways is interestingly reflected in new ways of developing social situations as well. Social creativity was particularly evident in children’s peer relationships, but with adults participation was lower. Thus, with adults, the child sees less opportunity for social creativity than with friends. This article has just been published for open access at Check out Teemu’s interesting article. The future is open and we can only make a difference if we are able to see and describe real ways to change the world! The child needs the opportunity to practice his or her own social creativity as early as possible to strengthen his or her ability to participate in building our shared world.

Social creativity

An article written by Teemu Nikkola et al. on the connections between creativity and sociality has just been published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research. the purpose of this article was to study children’s social orientations as creative processes in ECEC. We studied the connections between children’s creative thinking abilities and social orientations in interaction situations in ECEC. The results showed that participative orientation had a positive correlation with creative thinking abilities, which were fluency, originality, and imagination. Children’s social orientations inform us of the fruitful conditions for children’s participation in the building of the shared cultural content of ECEC. A participative orientation or changing and open way of acting in social interaction situations can be considered to predict children’s participation in this process. According to Amabile (1996), openness is a prerequisite for creativity. Engaging in the culture and contributing to its transformation are essential elements of both participation and creativity (Glăveanu, 2010). Children’s creative thinking abilities or divergent thinking can be considered to indicate their creative potential(Runco & Acar, 2012). Enhancing children’s creative potential enhances their creativity, but also enhances their possibilities to participate. However, creativity in interaction situations has not been self-evidently supported in ECEC. Teachers have considered the number of socially creative children to be relatively small (Chesnokova & Subbotsky; 2014). In addition, a participative orientation has also been shown to be rare in situations concerning teachers in ECEC (Nikkola et al., 2020).

There were also negative correlations with adaptive orientation and creative thinking abilities and with a withdrawn orientation and fluency. An adaptive and withdrawn orientation are both unchanging ways of acting. In comparison with participative orientation, these types are easier for teachers and more acceptable in ECEC in situations concerning teachers (Nikkola et al., 2020). However, openness to the situation can be considered to enable participation in the building of shared cultural content in ECEC. Within creativity learning can be viewed through its broader, multimodal, and dynamic goals for empowering children through participation, to support them in navigating and experiencing agency in the uncertain world (see OECD, 2018; Kangas etal. 2020). If children often use closed orientations, in other words, dominant and withdrawn orientations, they are in danger of not being creators of the shared content of ECEC culture. Furthermore, an unclear orientation tells us that children have difficulties connecting with the structure of ECEC culture and supporting their participation is essential.

According to Glăveanu (2010), culture can be defined as an accumulation of artifacts (norms, ideas, beliefs, material objects, etc.) that are ever-changing through the personal and collective acts of creativity. He states that creativity is the main engine behind cultural change and transformation. The OECD Education 2030 project states that transversal competencies should be at the center of education: creating new value, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, and taking responsibility (OECD, 2018). Of these, creativity is visible in the first one within the contexts of creativity as innovations and new solutions, as well as within the later ones, together with participation through the context of social relations and problem-solving skills. According to Kangas et al. (2020)to address these “Transformative Competencies” and to support children in being innovative, responsible, and aware, is to consider education through the notion that participation and playfulness is creative learning. In the ECEC setting, creativity can be seen to combine enthusiasm, co-operation, and challenging personal skills and competencies, but only when scaffolded through pedagogical participation by the personnel(Kangas & Harju-Luukkainen, 2021). Enhancing children’s creative thinking abilities, their creative potential, and participating in the building of the shared content of the ECECis essential for the future. Creativity is also an important part of learning and participation in ECEC. Especially play has been considered important for creativity and learning(Kangas et al., 2020). The perspective of creativity is strengthening its importance in the pedagogy of ECEC.

International open access webinar about ECEC research and practices (panel with Finnish researchers)

In this video, Finland’s leading researchers on the field of early childhood education and care discuss broad themes, such as: – developing and understanding today’s teacher education programmes – developing pedagogical practices – critical reflection of the processes and future orientation The panelists are following: Professor Heidi Harju-Luukkainen Professor (Emerita) Eeva Hujala Docent, University Lecturer, Jyrki Reunamo Docent, University Lecturer Jonna Kangas University Lecturer Merja Koivula Postdoctoral Researcher Jenni Salminen Postdoctoral Researcher Samuli Ranta This international open access webinar is hosted by JECER ( and is posted by Early Childhood Education Association Finland (

The link to the video:

How can physical activity be measured in a valid and reliable way?

JOYPAM (PIILO in Finnish) is a research and development project on monitoring the joy of motion, physical activity and motor skills of young children, Piilo in Finnish. The project was implemented in 2019–2021 through multidisciplinary expert work. It was used to select and develop measurement methods based on population-level data collection, which were used to assess physical activity and motor skills of 4–6-year-old children and the factors related to movement. Progressive Feedback was one of the evaluated methods. Measuring physical activity is not an easy task and it is important to compare different methods and measures to increase reliability and validity. The report is available at

Children’s social orientations in Taiwan

Professor Hui-Chun lee from Tzu-Chi University and Li-Chen Wang from Chung Gung University in Taiwan have written an article about children’s social orientations in Taiwan based on the Progressive Feedback data. The participants were 366 Taiwanese three- to six-year-old children in day care centers. The children were interviewed to collect their perspectives. The results indicated that the adaptive-accommodative
orientation is the most frequent in the teacher situations. The second most frequent response was the agentive-accommodative orientation. Responses in the agentive-accommodative orientation increased with age while the adaptive-assimilative and agentive-assimilative orientations decreased with age. The most frequent response to peer situations was agentive-accommodative, and this orientation increased
steadily with age; children were more and more likely to express themselves with peers. The young children actively tried to control and change their environment. They displayed their emergent agency. The Table shows the social orientation among peers (同儕情境) and with teachers (師長情境).


Music linked with well-being for 1-3-year-old children

The data of the Progressive Feedback reveals that, especially for young children, music and singing have clear and important connections to children’s well-being. Children in groups with an emphasis on music/singing expressed more positive emotions and were more committed to the activity. In addition, these children were more socially adaptive and had more participatory interactions with adults. The music was thus connected to a strong, lasting, and creative interaction. The same positive effect was not observed in older children. At the age of 1-3, music is associated in many ways with quality pedagogy, when the same was not observed in older children. This suggests that for younger children, music is better integrated into the pedagogical enhancement. However, for the older children, the connections between music and pedagogy were invisible. The results highlight both the importance of music for the well-being of young children and the low pedagogical integration of music in older children, which needs attention. Article can be accessed at Article information below:

Ruokonen, I., Tervaniemi, M. & Reunamo, J. (In print). The significance of music in early childhood education and care of toddlers in Finland: An extensive observational study. Music Education Research. DOI 10.1080/14613808.2021.1965564.

Children’s time use and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in early childhood education and care in Finland

Anna-Liisa Kyhälä with Jyrki Reunamo and Juha Valtonen have written an article about children’s physical activity in different children’s activities. The article will be published in South African Journal of Childhood Education. The article highlights rule plays as important factors in increasing children’s physical activity in early education.

Children with special needs in the everyday interaction of early childhood education

An article based on the Progressive Feedback data has been published in the European Journal of Special Needs Education. In the research, the most common reason why children had a need for support in ECEC was difficulties related to self-regulation. Effective self-regulation is fundamental to an individual’s functioning and early childhood is an important period for the development of self-regulation. Professionals working in ECEC are responsible for supporting children in situations in which self-regulation skills are needed. Our results were in line with studies indicating that children with low self-regulation skills are at increased risk of being left outside joint play. This result is worrying because joint play supports the development of self-regulation skills while solitary play does not have that effect. This means that the very children who need to practice their self-regulation skills are missing a potential opportunity to do that. Children prefer prosocial peers and neglect antisocial peers, which makes establishing friendships even more difficult if the child already has difficulties in forming peer relationships and does not have the skills to act in situations that require social skills. Being left outside causes negative feelings towards peers and negative feelings may cause antisocial behaviour or vice versa. This may cause a vicious circle that is difficult to break. Therefore, early intervention is essential. Click the link to read the article:

Kuutti, T., Sajaniemi, N., Björn, P., Heiskanen, N. & Reunamo, J. (2021). Participation, involvement and peer relationships in children with special educational needs in early childhood education. European Journal of Special Needs Education. Available at