Young children's explorations: young children's research?

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'Exploration' is recognised as research behaviour; anecdotally, as an early years' teacher, I witnessed many young children exploring. However, young children's self-initiated explorations are rarely regarded as research by adult researchers and policy-makers. The exclusion of young children's autonomous explorations from recognition as research conflicts with 'new sociology' perspectives positioning children as social actors. These tensions have driven a small-scale interpretive study, developed with children aged four to eight years in three 'good' schools in England to investigate (1) Do children aged four to eight years in three Early Childhood Education and Care settings explore?; (2) If so, what are their explorations and what effects and affects them?; and (3) Do young children's explorations count as epistemology? Findings indicate that in settings where 'free-flow' play characterised practice, four- to five-year-old children engaged in exploration, but its quality was affected by several factors, including variable levels of children's autonomy. Seven- to eight-year-old children in a teacher-directed setting explored less than the four- to five-year-old children, but were frequently observed 'off-task', pursuing self-initiated explorations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1225
Number of pages16
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number9
Early online date18 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • Exploration
  • early childhood
  • critical ethnography
  • children's participation
  • epistemology


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