Power to the (little) people

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  Published on Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Power to the (little) people

Library Home  >  Approaches to Early Childhood Education
  Published on Tuesday, 10 October 2017

In what is thought to be a world first, a kindergarten in Germany is running a mini democracy and giving the children who attend a say in the day-to-day operation of the service via a representative voting system.

The Dolli-Einstein-Haus in Pinneberg, Northern Germany, which enrols children three years and older, gives children a democratic vote in certain aspects of the daily routine, including meal options, naptime, certain activities and who changes their nappies.

Decisions that affect everyone are determined via weekly voting conferences and may involve votes on menu options, new toys, and planning for special events. Children can also exercise their opinion on which vegetables they have with lunch, or which activity they want to participate in by placing an individual paper vote, or a coloured pebble into a ballot box.

The children also nominate a representative from their groups who can advocate on their behalf and the election process ensures votes are anonymous when necessary.

According to Daynurseries.co.uk the kindergarten aims to teach children about the democratic process and to assess the role of children in decision making and how much authority should be devolved to them.

The daily routine and many of the choices on offer are framed by a constitution, which is on display in the service and describes the children's rights. Decision-making happens within the parameters defined by this constitution. The children's seven fundamental rights are as follows:

  • I have the right to sleep
  • I decide when I sleep
  • I decide what and how much I eat
  • I decide what I play with
  • I decide where I sit
  • I am allowed to voice my opinion at any time
  • I decide who I want to cuddle

However, there are some limits, for example children can choose who changes their nappy, but they can't choose to go without nappies for the day. Similarly, choices around meal options are limited to a set number of acceptable alternatives and children vote within the range on offer.

When it comes to sleeping the deputy manager of the service Heike Schluter told Daynurseries.co.uk that if children don't want to sleep they can play, with the view that children will nod off when they are sleepy, an approach that has been a 'learning process' for families.

"Most children say they children are getting more self-confident. But at night some parents are reporting children don't want to go to bed," said Ms Schluter. Despite this she says most families have embraced the democratic model.

Dolli-Einstein-Haus employees 31 staff and has 175 children registered and staff meet every week to talk about the democratic process and how the choices made by children are manifesting. With lots of freedom to choose in the service, staff ensure each child is learning and developing appropriately by offering many different play based learning activities. Two staff members are assigned 20 children to monitor and observe and are responsible for providing a written progress report to parents.

Ms Schuter says the service's innovative approach and openness to different styles of working ensures constant improvement in the education and care being given to children.

"The children are more self-confident, independent, outspoken and keener to share their views," she said.


Democratic nursery lets children vote on when to sleep and who changes their nappies in Daynurseries.co.uk


This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021