Children‘s Belonging in Early Childhood Education

Belonging, identified as a fundamental human need, is considered important for young children’s well-being, learning, agency, identity, and ability to sense their own potential and capacity. It is also seen as an important factor in how young children perceive others and respond to differences.

Belonging has been explored and analysed by several researchers within different fields of study, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and education, and thus varied perspectives have been conceptualized.

Despite the importance and centrality of belonging in early education and its visibility in early childhood frameworks throughout the world, not all young children have their need to belong met.

This keynote will discuss possible ways to understand and describe children’s belonging, consider the plausibility of integrating children’s perspectives into research on belonging in early childhood education, and provide examples of how children perceive and experience belonging in early childhood education settings.

The presentation is built on a recent European study on belonging, “Politics of belonging: Promoting children’s inclusion in educational settings across borders”. The project aimed to promote children’s inclusion in early childhood settings. It focussed on every child’s right to a sense of belonging in early childhood educational institutions and being valued equally and with respect. The findings will be reflected on and deconstructed in light of increasing globalisation and diversity in European ECEC institutions.

©Kristinn Ingvarsson

Dr. Jóhanna Einarsdóttir is a Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education at the University of Iceland. She holds Honorary Doctorate from the University of Oulu in Finland and was awarded The Distinguished Alumni Alumni Achievement Award from University of Illinois in 2018. She has been involved in several international research projects as a researcher and a consultant in her areas of expertise and published together with international colleagues. Her most recent international projects are the Politics of Belonging supported by NordForsk, ValueEd project supported by NordForsk and the POET project that received a Marie Curie grant from the EU. Ongoing Erasmus grants focus on children’s emotional wellbeing in ECEC (Be-Child) and inclusion of children with special needs and their parents (Be-In). Professor Einarsdottir is an editor of several books published in Icelandic and English. She has presented numerous papers and research results on early childhood education, educational transitions, and children‘s perspectives on their preschool education, to professional and community groups nationally as well as internationally.