Recognising Young Children's Understandings and Experiences of Community

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Since the introduction of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative in 1996, children and young people's participation in consultation has become an increasingly important element of the planning and community development strategies of many government and community organisations throughout Australia. This has been the case in the city of Wodonga, Victoria, Australia, where commitment to the development of child-friendly communities has been enacted through a number of consultations with children and young people. In the period 2009'2010, a team comprising local council officers and researchers extended previous attempts to include children and young people's perspectives of, expectations for, and experiences of their local community in future planning. In this paper, we report on part of this overall project. In particular, we report the views of 90 children aged 2'6 years and five early childhood educators who mediated and implemented the project with these children. Children shared their views through a variety of participatory rights-based approaches including drawing, modeling, photography, and conversations. Educators were interviewed about the children's participation in the project and their own expectations of this participation. After thematic analyses, we highlight two themes in educator comments: perceptions of children's communities; and young children's perceived competence in sharing their views about their communities. We contrast educator perceptions with data from children and conclude that, despite the best of intentions, children's participation was sometimes limited by the boundaries imposed by a restricted adult view of children's competence and experience. This, in turn, meant that the diverse ways in which young children demonstrated their sense of belonging to place and community were not always recognised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-305
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Early Childhood
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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