Listening to Young children

Exploring the Field of Listening to and Consulting with Young Children Alison Clark, Susan McQuail and Peter Moss Thomas Coram Research Unit

Appendix D – Listening to Young children:
Netherlands Review
Author: Marleen Vermin with Margot Hameetman and Jorien Meerdink
Research: WESP Onderzoek

In the Dutch day-care centres the emphasis is on playing together and undertaking group activities. From the age of three years there is a tendency to prepare the children for learning activities. The rules and activities become more structured and group activities are organised. They are sometimes even compulsory. This tendency is prolonged in the Primary schools. Until the eighties there were separate schools for small children (4-6 year) as well as separated schools for teachers for this age group. This changed and the former pre school teachers complained that children weren’t allowed to be ‘proper children’ any more. The result is that children in this age group are being seen as ‘regular school children’. Most of the developmental activities are focused on learning. For example parents visiting primary schools to make a choice for their 4-years-olds are told that gymnastics are in fact preparations for mathematics, building blocks is good for developing sentences etc etc. So we see scheduled activities and goal-oriented organization of children’s lives. This also includes out-of-school activities. These are being organized at school or at special centers from 3 pm till 6.30 pm. They provide for free play but more and more for scheduled activities like lessons in sport, music etc. One example is the Committee for ‘Day Arrangements’ which was established in 2000 to make recommendations for ‘policy of free time for young children’. This committee is criticized to put the interest of working parents above the interest of children, because they encourage day care for children, no matter what the conditions are. Currently, there is even an advertising campaign on television in which children have no time for free play because they are obliged to attend their ‘playing’ club.

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