Every Thursday from now on I will be visiting a Vuggestue in Copenhagen, or a day care center for infants-3 year olds. Did you know I’m studying child development here in Denmark? Well now you do!
Day care centers are so different here. In fact, the way the child is viewed here is so different. This is what I grew up around:
Picture Mother and her one year old boy Charlie walking down the shore of some lovely beach. Charlie picks up a rock.
Mother: What is it, Charlie? What did you find? Did Charlie find a rock? Is that a rock, Charlie?
Mother: Yes! A ROCK, Charlie! Is it gray? Is it a gray rock?
Mother: Honey! You’re so smart. Are you hungry, honey? Oh, be careful, Charlie! Don’t get too close or you might fall in! But don’t worry too much, because Mommy will catch you!
End scene. So, growing up with that around me, it has been somewhat of a shock learning about the ways children are treated and viewed here. You mean one year olds can actually drink out of a glass without a sippy cup or top? And two year olds can put on and zipper up their cute winter coats by themselves? Can’t I just do it for them? No, I’ve learned, I shouldn’t. Instead, I should step back and let them accomplish it on their own, even if it takes 10 minutes. Because here in Denmark they believe in the competent child. And guess what? Surprise! Children are so competent!
When I got to my Vuggestue, it was nap time. Nap time is from noon until whenever they want to wake up. One small girl in a flowery jumper was already awake, and over the period of the next two hours, little blond, blue eyed children emerged from the napping area, wide eyed and sleepy, ready for their buttered Smørrebrød and apple slices. They could sleep for four hours if they wanted to. It was up to them! Snack time involved real glass cups, and the kids (and we’re talking kids who just learned how to walk), were pouring themselves milk.
The women who run the day care center are there to provide support and affection. They don’t hover or micromanage anything. They sit back and watch the children play, and they read to them, rub their backs, and sing songs. After being there for two hours I felt like splaying out on the comfy rug and making baby noises. Everything is so laid back and comfortable, and it makes so much sense! There is no stress surrounding the child, no huge clouds of anxiety hovering over them. No sleep or poop or eating or burping schedules. They are just kids, growing up and learning.
So I’ve decided, I’ll have my kids here. Or I’ll start a Danish inspired Vuggestue in New York City. Would you guys enroll your children there?