News Translation: Danish Nurseries

Denmark, we’ve got a problem. Daycare in many countries has to compete with stay-at-home parents, nannies and childminders. In Denmark, childminders are the only real competition. With no serious competition, daycare has been allowed to race to the bottom. A researcher has studied what is going on and the Danish media has gone bananas. 

Taken from politiken: Expert “Break with ‘legalise hash and free milkshake’ pedagogy”

Many children in Danish nurseries go around like senseless “penguins” and the loss of adult contact is so pronounced that it damages the development of the children’s brains.

So says the PhD Ole Henrik Hansen from the Institute for Education and Pedagogy (DPU) at Aarhus University. He has video footage and a good 8000 observations spread over 26 children in nine nurseries in the greater Copenhagen area together with questionnaires from 40 000 daycare workers in the country-wide investigation on how it really is in nurseries here.

And it’s not an uplifting picture that Ole Henrik Hansen can give of the conditions.

“It’s only 12.5% of institutions that plan their work. Most daycare workers turn up to work in the morning, sit in a circle and plan their work from there. Imagine if that went on in your child’s school. It would definitely be totally outrageous,” said Ole Henrik Hansen to politiken.

Anything goes in nurseries

The expert certainly doesn’t handle Danish daycare workers with kid gloves.

For many years he has investigated – and criticised – conditions in Danish nurseries. According to Ole Henrik Hansen the problem is that children experience a “legalise-hash-and-free-milkshake-pedagogy” in institutions.

“Anything goes in nurseries. An uneducated colleague can come in and be listened to in the staff meeting- and be taken seriously. At the same time we hold the world record for how early with put our children in nurseries. But we ought to reflect on if institutions are going about it in the right way,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

He suggests that many Danish nurseries be closed because the level of provision of stimulation and child development is so low.

“We have the attitude about child development in Denmark, that children have to explore things for themselves. It’s fair enough for constructive, strong children. But for the quiet children, and those that are crawling up the walls, it is unfortunate. And it means that years after what happened in nursery, we must use an enormous amount of money on including those children,” said the expert.

Free play or organised activities?

Ole Henrik Hansen’s goal is to do away with unengaged daycare workers who according to him can be found in a large number of institutions country-wide.

But also, that we at the municipal and regional do away with what he calls “hippy-pedagogy”.

“We need to plan daycare worker’s time better and create relationships with smaller groups of children, so that daycare workers have a better opportunity to monitor children. At the same time, there’s a need for leadership that can separate the professional from the personal. It’s a problem when leaders cannot see to it that children  thrive and afterwards pass the buck,” said Ole Henrik Hansen to politiken.


The only upside in relation to this problem, according to the expert from Aarhus University is that there is actually is a will to do something. And that people, including politicians have already started looking at whether free play or organised activities are the way forward.

He is currently engaged with yet another study with 20 borough councils that goes under the name “Child-at-the-centre”

Simultaneously he is sitting on a task force group set up by Children and Teaching minister Christine Antorini (S)

“We will soon have some recommendations and I really hope that Christine Antorini understands what has happened in the area. Luckily we can see that many daycare workers are ready to look forward instead of back. Also even though I say many hard things to them about how they work,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

Taken from politiken: “Expert: Conditions are shocking in Danish nurseries”

Small children are left to themselves to a high degree and met with rejection and indifference by daycare workers.

Daycare workers in the country’s nurseries fail the youngest which results in them shutting down emotionally, shows a new PhD thesis.

Small children all the way down to 10 months are being left to themselves a great deal and met with rejection and indifference from daycare workers, documents video footage and a good 8000 observations spread over 26 children in nine nurseries in the greater Copenhagen area and the questionnaires from 40 000 daycare workers over the entire country, according to Berlingske Tidende.

“Danish nurseries are so miserable that a great deal of them ought to be closed,” said PhD Ole Henrik Hansen who is behind the report.

He says that rejection from the daycare workers gets the children walkring around like senseless “penguins” and the loss of adult contact is so serious that it damages the development of the brain.

Rather have better leadership than more workers

The answer is not more daycare workers, believes Ole Henrik Hansen:

“It’s about organisation and leadership.

“With how things work in many nurseries, we could employ as many daycare workers without the children getting anything out of it,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

At the Daycare Worker Group Bupl, they are familiar with the recordings.

” Ole Henrik Hansen points out some important things to get the focus onto the children,” said the chair of Bupl Henning Pedersen to Berlingske Tidende.

“But he paints somewhat of a simplistic picture which does not take into account the working conditions of daycare workers in nurseries,” he added.

14 month old boy closed into himself

The chair for the National Parental Association , Fola, Lars Klingenberg, has seen a recording of a small boy of 14 months closing into himself after he was ignored by a daycare worker.

“It really affected me a lot because it is totally clear to see what has happened. It goes straight to the heart of everyone – especially us parents,” said Lars Klingenberg to Berlingske.

15 thoughts on “News Translation: Danish Nurseries

  1. Article like this makes me wonder if Ms. Cathy Strongman of BBC could read Danish (newspaper) or not.


      1. But this isn’t the first time, is it, reports from kindergarten and vuggestuer where pædagoger are completely “ligeglade” with the kids. Read about this before, therefore I’m surprised to read how Ms. Strongman glorified Danish institution in her article.

        Nope, she probably doesn’t read Danish newspaper. I should follow her step, actually *banging head to the wall*


      2. Yeah, I know.

        Most people in Denmark say the same “yes, there is a problem is SOME institutions, but not in MINE, mine is lovely!”
        They can’t all be right but I don’t know if they are all wrong.


  2. I just read that this morning! I put it on the fb page for our daycare, although as the expert states, after 3, it’s too late. The daycare our youngest goes to is free play, hippie dippie, but at the same time, they don’t do all those things parents nowadays want, so they know what their kids have been up to (writing a log, taking pictures etc), so I fear they’re actually spending their time with the kids instead. They hired someome to take care of the practical lunchtime stuff as well so they wouldn’t have to leave the kids. But, keep an eye on Berlingske’s series, I’m quoted in there somewhere about the “madordning”, hasn’t been published yet tho.


    1. Whatever activity they do in daycare is probably ok just as long as the children get emotional intimacy from their carers. I mean, drawing a picture or playing with worms outside, what’s the difference?
      But if every time you try to communicate with the adults in your life, they ignore and reject you… that’s going to do damage.

      Oooh, looking forward to seeing the next instalment.


  3. Wow, only 12.5% have a plan for the day? When I hired an au pair from England (living in Boston at the time), I wrote out a plan for her – and it included ‘having a plan.’ I was not talking about every five minutes – because planning can certainly be overdone. But, without a plan, this lazy-seeming woman was delivering a child back to me when I returned home who was, now that I think about it, similar to my young dog today who hasn’t had a walk. In short: she was restless, understimulated, demanding and could not focus. When this au pair refused to make a plan, she was unceremoneously let go. The next au pair, from Germany, was willing and able to have activities and since became a life-long friend. Glad I am not faced with the dual-problem of being a foreign parent in Denmark – where the people seem to think that “foreign” children especially should be compelled to attend vuggestue etc. . . and then having child care that fails miserably . . . this must be tough for parents who dare “want better” for their kids!


    1. It just seems so basic that it should be impossible to get it wrong… Honestly, I don’t understand how these people have professional pride at all. They must SEE the children are getting warped.


      1. Just read this line the Copenhagen post coverage of the story ( and was struck by this line:
        “A lack of contact, and dismissive, indifferent behaviour is causing children as young as 10 months old to shut down emotionally, turning them into apathetic “zombie kids”, Hansen’s results found.”
        You could just as easily write:
        “A lack of contact, and dismissive, indifferent behaviour is causing ADULTS as OLD as 40 years to shut down emotionally, turning them into apathetic “zombie ADULTS”, … which sort of describes a significant proportion of the Danish population. If such behaviour is prevalent in the population at large, why would it be particularly noteworthy in children? They are, after all, being trained for a life of being managed by the state. You can’t have a welfare state without welfare recipients.


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