About ellenbeate

This is a blog for Ellen Beate. I am Professor at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education in Trondheim, Norway. The aim of this blog is to share some of my research on children's risky play and well-being in ECEC, and any other research project or theme that I happen to be engaged in! Feel free to contact me on: ebs@dmmh.no

New article

Rasmus Kleppe, Ted Meluish and I have published an article you might be interested in:



While research has investigated risk-taking in play for children from the age of four years upwards, less is known of risky play with children under four years. A small-scale observational study with children from five childcare settings with differing characteristics was undertaken to explore the occurrence and characteristics of risky play for children under four years of age, in relation to the current understanding of risky play. The study found similarities across the different contexts, which seem to reflect the characteristics of risky play for children aged one to three years. The findings suggest that the existing definition and characteristics of risky play are appropriate for two- and three-year-old children, but for one-year-olds, the study found discrepancies indicating deviations from existing definitions, indicating that the concept may not be so useful for this age group. To develop understanding of risky play, this article suggests new categories and an adapted definition.


🙂 Ellen

QMUC students’ “winter week”

All the early childhood teacher students at QMUC experiences a winter week as an important part of their education. During that week they learn about how to be in the outdoors and to engage in play and activities with children – in environments covered with snow and ice. They learn to build landscapes for play and activity on snow – with and without skis or sliding equipment, they learn how to make art out of snow and ice, they learn how to find traces of animals in the winter landscape and about plants and nature’s processes during wintertime. And much more….

Check out this video that the students made today – from todays experience at out outdoor “classroom”, Frøset Farm.

Click: VIDEO

A couple of “my” PhD students

It has been a long time since my last update on this page. Busy times…

Anyway. I would like to present two PhD students. They both have very interesting projects and I am trying to be a supervisor for them.

The first one is Kathrine Bjørgen who is soon (January 27th) orally defending her PhD project. In Norway you have to go through a trial lecture and an oral defense of your project to get your PhD degree approved. Kathrine has carried out an interesting project exploring factors promoting the motivation and enjoyment of being physical active (physical active play) among 3-5 year old children in preschool. She has been investigating children’s level of involvement, well-being and physical activity in different play environments and in relational situations with the practitioners in the preschool. Her thesis consists of an overview of the project with its theoretical frame, methods, results and an overall discussion, along with three scientific articles. The articles are:

Bjørgen, K. & Svendsen, B. (2015). Kindergarten practitioner’ experience of promoting children`s involvement in and enjoyment of in physically active play. Does the contagion of physical energy affect physically active play? Contemporary Issues for Early Childhood, 16(3). http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1463949115600025

Bjørgen, K. (2015). Children`s Well-Being and Involvement in Physically Active Outdoors Play in a Norwegian Kindergarten. Playful sharing of physical experiences. Child Care in practice, published online in September 2015: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13575279.2015.1051512

Bjørgen, K. (2016). Physical activity in light of affordances in outdoor environments: qualitative observation studies of 3–5 years olds in kindergarten. SpringerPlus, 5:950, published online in June 2016: https://springerplus.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40064-016-2565-y

The other PhD student I would like to present is Rasmus Kleppe, who is in his final stage of the PhD work. He is working on a project exploring 1-3 year old children’s risky play. He has explored the six categories of risky play among children in this age group, and found characteristics of their risky play as well as developing two more categories which is particularly relevant for the youngest children: play with impact and vicarious risk. You can read more about his reasearch in his two articles:

Kleppe, R., Melhuish, E., & Sandseter, E. B. H. (in press). Identifying and characterizing risky play in the age one-to-three years. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal (to be published in issue 3, 2017)

Kleppe, R. (2017). Characteristics of staff–child interaction in 1–3-year-olds’ risky play in early childhood education and care, Early Child Development and Care, published online in January 2017: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03004430.2016.1273909

His third article is soon to be submitted to a journal.

Good luck to both Kathrine and Rasmus!

Ellen Beate

Risky play? Adventurous play? Challenging play?

The last weeks (and months?) there has been a debate about terminology when we talk about risky play and children’s risk-taking. I would like to share my view on this issue.

First of all, I would not criticize anyone who use other terms than I have chosen to use when I write about my research, talk to parents or ECEC practitioners, politicians or other stake holders. My aim is to explain why I am not afraid of using the “risk-word” and why I think it is the most appropriate to use – in my context.

Recent blogs have suggested that we stop using risk and instead talk about adventure/adventurous play or challenge/challenging play.



I think these are interesting reads, but I can’t say I agree with everything.

I am a Norwegian, and even though I know I also communicate with an international audience, I spend most of my days in a Norwegian context talking to Norwegian early childhood teacher students, Norwegian ECEC practitioners, Norwegian parents and grandparents, Norwegian politicians and Norwegian researchers.

I think maybe the (seemingly) disagreement about terminology might be a result of different cultures and languages. In Norway we have no problem using the concept risky play (in Norwegian “risikofylt lek”) in our common language. It is even mentioned in some of the policy documents about Norwegian child care, and it is a concept used by both the Ministry of Education, politicians, public health professionals, injury prevention professionals, teachers, insurance workers, parents, grandparents, etc. etc.  And, it is not used as something completely negative – it has both a positive and a (possible) negative side. In the Norwegian daily vocabulary synonyms for risk(y) are both words such as danger, loss and threat, but also words such as responsibility, take a chance, to dare something, courage, opportunity, change etc.

So why don’t we use adventurous or challenging? In fact, we can’t translate “adventurous” directly from English to Norwegian because we don’t have a good word for that in the Norwegian language. Often adventurous is translated as “eventyrlig” which translated directly (word by word) back to English would be “fairy tale’ish” – which means something like “so good it could not be for real, just like in a fairy tale”… The reason for this is maybe that an “adventurer” is an “eventyrer” in Norwegian (like someone living out his/her dream exploring new and exciting things – just like some of the characters in a fairy tale). Adventure and adventurous is, in the Norwegian context, more connected to the wild-life tourism/business or the great Norwegian history of explorers – not to children’s play. It would not make sense in the Norwegian language to use “adventurous” because it would be a very odd word with no good meaning in relation to children’s play. It is the same in the Danish language, and “adventure playgrounds”, that Lady Allen called them, was originally called “skrammellegeplads” in Danish (e.g. Emdrup) which means junk playground… I have also argued against replacing the word risk or risky play with “challenge/challenging play” (in Norwegian “utfordrende lek) to softening it and make it sound less dramatic. In an educational context, at least, the word challenge could mean many things, and sometimes things far from what we want to address when using risk – for instance a cognitive difficult learning situation/-task. Therefore I also think “challenging play” is too inaccurate to make our point. And I very much agree with Teacher Tom in Seattle on his thoughts about this: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.no/2016/06/everything-i-need-to-say.html

So instead risky is the concept that makes people, at least in Norway, understand what we are really meaning when we talk about it. Risky play and risk-taking have both positive and negative associations, and I don’t think we should cover what we mean with softer words to make it JUST positive (and more acceptable for some groups). For me it’s actually an important point that the meaning of the term ALSO includes the possibility of a negative outcome – since the fear of this outcome is the reason we have all the restrictions and surplus safety in the first place. Our very clear message should be that children’s risky play (yes, risk (!) but in a playful and relatively safe context) most often leads to positive outcomes; exciting experiences, development, learning, mastery….etc.

I am comfortable with using risky play (a noun), risk-taking in play (a verb), children taking risks etc. But I still stick to the word risk. I would say that people in any culture might want to use the word best suited for them to communicate what they want to communicate as long as they are conscious about what they gain or miss by using what they are using.

What I am a bit worried about is that through this discussion about terminology, people and academics who (I believe) basically agree on this important issue (whatever you call it), are put up against each other, and that we soon look like we don’t agree anymore…

I don’t think that would be good for our “case” in the long run, unfortunately.

Maybe this blog post is risky play, but I’ll take the risk…

Ellen 🙂

uten navn

We don’t allow children to climb trees…

I have published a new article together with my colleague Ole Johan Sando. It draws a rather negative picture of the development towards a more safety focused an restrictive perception of children’s play in Norwegian early childhood education and care institutions. This is what we are fighting against here in Norway. At the moment it is just a tendency, but we don’t want it to dominate the provision of play in our country!!

Click the link to access the article in the American Journal of Play, volum 8, no. 2: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/8-2-article-we-dont-allow-children-to-climb-trees.pdf

Children’s experience of activities and participation and their subjective well-being in ECEC

Together with my colleague Monica Seland I have just published an article from the Children’s well-being and participation project. This article focuses on how their exeriences of activities and opportunity for participation in the ECEC daily life are related to their subjective well-being.

(click the picture to see where it can be found)

Artikkel WB

Great news!

I am so happy the share the news that today a Position Statement has been launched in Canada, that I have had the pleasure to be a part of developing! See the Position Statement here:


It is a part of the Canadian Report Card of this year!

The Position Statement is based in our work on two systematic reviews published in these two articles:

What is the Relationship between Risky Outdoor Play and Health in Children? A Systematic Review

What Is the Relationship between Outdoor Time and Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Physical Fitness in Children? A Systematic Review

…and a process paper describing the process of developing the Position Statement: Review: Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play

It is all open access, so enjoy reading!

This has been such an interesting collaboration for a foreigner like me in a Canadian context, – thanks to all my collaborators!

New article published

Preschool teachers’ perceptions of children’s rough-and-tumble play in indoor and outdoor environments

I am happy share with your the news about a new article that I have published together with my colleague Rune Storli. We have written about how Norwegian preschool teachers perceive children’s rough-and-tumble play in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Here is a link to the paper:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03004430.2015.1028394#

Here is the abstract:

This paper explores teacher-reported prevalence of rough-and-tumble play (R&T) in preschool and investigates how their restriction to such play varies in different play environments (indoor and outdoor). An electronic questionnaire exploring preschool teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding children’s dramatic play themes was conducted by 138 female Norwegian preschool teachers. The results show that the teacher-reported prevalence of nurture/care and house/family types of dramatic play is higher among girls than among boys, while superhero play, pretend fighting, chase games and protect/rescue play is more prevalent among boys than girls. The results also show that play-fighting and chase games are the dramatic play types most restricted by the preschool teachers, and that R&T play is significantly less restricted in outdoor environments compared to indoors. The results are discussed within a Norwegian early childhood education and care (ECEC) context and implications for ECEC practice are suggested.


Ellen Beate