Participation in kindergarten and daycare: methods for implementing the child’s right to participation

Participation strengthens social competencies. Read on to find out how to implement the pedagogical concept of participation in kindergartens and daycare centers.

Representing one’s own opinion, negotiating compromises and deciding together – that has to be learned. Children who are allowed to actively participate in decision-making experience themselves as self-efficient and learn that their decisions have consequences. However, only if you as an educator are brave enough to allow this to happen. You can find out here which difficulties can arise in practice and how participation in the daycare center can be successful.


1. What does participation mean?
1.1 Participation is a child’s right
1.2 Five principles for children’s participation

2. Participation in practice?
2.1 Methods of implementation
2.2 This must be observed

3. How participation succeeds in kindergarten and daycare centers
3.1 Participation is a matter of relationships
3.2 Participation is a matter of concept
3.3 Participation is a matter of teamwork

What does participation mean?

Participation means involvement, taking part. In kindergarten, participation means that the children are involved in events and decision-making processes that affect their life together, involved become. An important educational goal is that children learn to perceive and express their own ideas, wishes and needs.

Through participation, children learn that they and their interests are heard, that their opinion counts. Thereby they win Independence and self-confidence. For every child it is important to experience: I am right and important.

This does NOT mean that only one’s own will would always come into play. Because there are also the others with their needs and opinions. In the joint decision-making process, children learn to listen to each other and to compromise. Mutual respect strengthens the social confidence.

Participation promotes in children:

  • Ego competencies
  • Social skills
  • Dialogue and cooperation

Participation is a child’s right

Participation is the basis of every democratic society. Living and practicing democracy, This begins in the family or in the daycare center. The fact that children also have a right to participation can be found in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and also in child and youth welfare law.

"Children have the right to be involved in all decisions that affect them, according to their level of development. It is also a right not to participate. This voluntariness on the part of the children to exercise their right is matched by the obligation of adults to involve children, to awaken their interest in participation."

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

This includes a partnership style of education: adults do not simply dictate and dictate, but everyone’s wishes are heard and taken seriously. In the democratic process of participation children learn that it is worthwhile

  • Standing up for their own opinions.
  • to follow the rules of conversation.
  • to look for solutions together.

Participation of children means voluntary surrender of power and at the same time pedagogical responsibility of adults. You provide spaces for development, in which there is a joint struggle for the development of child-friendly living environments and independent, community-capable personalities.

Five principles for children’s participation

  1. Participation means accompanying children. It is not enough to give children freedom of choice and then leave them to it alone. Often they lack information or alternative experiences that make a real decision possible in the first place. The experiences and interests of adults are always included in the negotiation processes.
  2. Participation needs to be based on equality, no Dominance of adults. This means to fully acknowledge children as experts in their living spaces, their sensations as well as their world view. However, the responsibility for the process lies exclusively with the adults. You have to help the children support, Develop a culture of conversation and argument.
  3. Participation must have consequences. Adults must be clear about the actual scope of decision-making that children have and disclose this. A decision must be put into practice in a timely manner. Of course, the implementation of a joint decision can fail. The reasons for this should also be transparent.
  4. Participation is target group oriented. Children are not all equal. Children from elementary and after-school groups, boys or girls, children of different ethnic backgrounds, children with and without handicaps bring different desires and needs with them. The contents and methods must be on it be coordinated.
  5. Participation is life-world oriented. This applies to the content as well as the methods of participation. The issue must concern the children. This also applies to issues that only indirectly affect children, such as ecological issues. Abstract content must be linked to the children’s experiences.

Participation in practice?

Participation in kindergarten is represented in the educational plans of the federal states as a methodical form of education. Evaluations have shown that this method is useful and feasible.

Methods of implementation

You realize participation in kindergarten in many different ways. For this purpose, you can set up numerous concrete participation structures in everyday kindergarten life:

  • The easiest way to start is with joint project, such as planning the summer party, redesigning a group room, or choosing new kindergarten toys. The children’s ideas and wishes are listened to and taken into account in the process.
  • Existing rituals such as the Storytelling and morning circle are ideally suited for children to voice their concerns. A classic model of participation in kindergarten is the Children’s parliament, which meets regularly and informs the group about current issues.

ExampleNew playground equipment for the outdoor area to be purchased. Asking children what toys they like and what they would like to play with. Proposals are collected and a joint vote is taken.

  • Another form of participation in kindergarten is the representative participation, at the one Children’s Council is elected. These mostly older children are also allowed to participate in the pedagogical team meetings. In the meantime, this form of co-determination exists in many daycare centers.

This must be taken into account

It depends reliable, age-appropriate forms of participation Develop. The children should be challenged, but not overtaxed. Participation begins with informing the children about all processes that affect them.

Example: To make the coming week’s menu plans accessible to the children, you can photograph recurring dishes and hang the pictures next to the written plans.

Of course, there are many areas in which the children have a say when it comes to their interests. This applies to decisions about games, meals and room design at the daycare center. For some topics, however, there is Limits of participation, for example, in protective measures for health and safety. Nevertheless you should justify necessary decisions, to convince the children with reasonable arguments.

When new structures are introduced, problems can also arise. At first, some children may not want to accept that their own will is not implemented. Or parents complain that their children suddenly want to have a say at home too. Participation must be shared by all participants practiced become.

How participation works in kindergarten and daycare centers

The participation of the children begins in the minds of adults. A child who is active and is allowed to be is always educated, learns on its own initiative and wants to shape the world. Participation means first and foremost: children as experts in their own right have their own Take life seriously.

Participation is a matter of relationships

Participation requires equal communication between adults and children. The prerequisite for this is a "dialogical attitude" on the part of the adults.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I interested and curious about what the children have to contribute?? Do I approach the children in a questioning rather than a knowing way?? Do I take their contributions seriously?
  • Do I listen attentively to the children? Do I seek eye contact? Do I let the children finish, even if they don’t get to the point right away??
  • Do I engage with the children? Can I put myself in their shoes? Do I give the children’s feelings and thoughts a language?? Do I treat them with appreciation?
  • Do I have the patience to hold back on evaluations?? Am I willing to make my knowledge available without being a know-it-all?? Can I admit my own uncertainties?

Participation is a matter of concept

What possibilities do children have to decide what they want to occupy themselves with during the course of a day at the daycare center?? Whether the structures of your facility are participation-friendly depends greatly on the pedagogical concept. The best opportunities are offered by the idea of the open kindergarten, as it is realized for example in the Reggio pedagogy.

The concept of Reggio pedagogy Plead for open offers of the materials. Different action areas are freely available. The children decide for themselves what they want to do, where and with whom they want to play. The daycare center thus becomes an open learning workshop.

Check your institution:

  • Can the children freely choose what they want to do?? Are the toys and utensils freely available to the children?
  • Can the children use the activity and function rooms without adult supervision??
  • Allow the children to eat something when they are hungry?
  • Can the children help decide which group they belong to?? Are rules established together?

Participation is a team affair

Individual initiative is good, but pulling together is better. Children’s parliament, children’s council or children’s conference – all firmly installed forms of participation require a joint positioning in the educator team. The participation of children must be anchored in the concept and in the awareness of the educators. When it is clear to everyone involved that the children’s committees take place as a matter of course in everyday life and have decision-making rights, everyday democracy becomes binding for everyone.

You should first agree on these questions in the staff team:

  • What should the children have a say in in any case??
  • What children should definitely not have a say about?
  • What form of participation can we be comfortable with??
  • What kind of decision validity are we willing to accept??

What you can learn from the children

The appreciative and cooperative work of pedagogical specialists in the daycare centers has a decisive formative influence on the children. When it comes to living democracy, you as educators are a role model, a teacher and a learner all at once. You may not always find it easy to go along with their sometimes unconventional decisions. But it is worth it all.

Children are more carefree than adults, they approach the world with curiosity and question everything. Let yourself be inspired by this natural attitude of openness and curiosity infect. The strength of children lies in their creative imagination, their ideas and visions. Children in particular often turn out to be competent planning partners who surprise with their abilities.

If children have opportunities to intensively help shape their living environment, not only does their willingness to take responsibility increase. When they consciously experience that they "have something to say," the desire and confidence in their own potential to actively engage with the world grows.

Book tips:

Marita Dobrick: Democracy in Childhood. Participation& KiTas. Gottingen (Vandenhoek& Ruprecht) 2011.

Gotz Doye, Christine Lipp-Peetz: Who is the determiner here?? The democracy book for the daycare center. Weinheim (Beltz) 2000.

Michael Regner, Franziska Schubert-Suffrian: Participation in the daycare center. Freiburg i. Br. (Herder) 2018.

Heidi Vorholz: 55 questions& 55 answers. Participation in the Kita. Berlin (Cornelsen) 2015.

Participation in kindergarten and daycare: methods for implementing the child's right to participation

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We – Lukas, Tatjana, Stefan and Christine – are running our blog under the motto LAUGHING READING LEARNING.

Lukas knows his way around online as well as the back of his hand and always finds exciting topics, while Stefan gives our contributions the right creative framework and Tatjana checks everything that our author Christine (and guest authors) writes for the BACKWINKEL blog after proper research.

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