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The educational, cultural and ideological values within the Nordic tradition of early years’ care and education show a pronounced “social pedagogical” emphasis as opposed to a focus on “early education”. This means that preschool care in Denmark applies a social learning approach that emphasizes play, relationships and outdoor life and presumes that learning takes place through the participation of children in social interaction and everyday processes like walking to the park, traveling in the car and sharing a meal (including preparation and clearing up).

There is great emphasis on “seeing the world through the eyes of the child” and learning environments (both indoor and outdoor) and designed to allow children to engage with the whole of their bodies. Pedagogues support this process of free-flowing play and exploration that respects the rights and capabilities of children with regard to freedom of choice and decision making, hands-on experience and testing boundaries. Direct instruction and “teaching” is avoided in favour of supportive interventions and the scheduling of activities is generally flexible and unobtrusive.

There are three overlapping values that are expressed simultaneously in pedagogical practice:

Democratic values / respect for diversity: These deal with the issue of autonomy and the opportunity to participate equally

Indicator: Men represent a significant number among qualified pedagogues and student volunteers

Caring values / respect for individual competences (or lack thereof): These are linked to the formation of a relationship between child and pedagogue that targets and supports the child’s individual needs

Indicator: Pedagogues rigorously avoiding standing over children so as to literally talk down to them.

Disciplinary values / respect for the natural world and community: There is a system of underlying boundaries, norms and existing order that regulate children

Indicator: Children play outdoors in all weathers and it is taken for granted that they will get wet or dirty while at kindergarten

The social pedagogical approach assumes the close involvement of parents and necessitates their participation.