Children's Lived Experience and their Sense of Coherence: Bodily Play in a Norwegian After-school Programme


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Child Care in Practice;16 (4)



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This article is based on materials gathered from qualitative research interviews among eight-year-old and nine-year-old children participating in an after-school programme (ASP) in Oslo, and investigates how bodily play affects their sense of coherence (SOC). In line with Maurice Merleau-Ponty, children’s lived experiences are regarded as layered emotions, actions and conceptions from previous bodily engagement. They bind together the living body and its environment into a coherent, personal entirety that gives meaning to new practical situations. The study is based on Aaron Antonovsky’s theory of SOC. The concept of SOC expresses the extent to which an individual has a feeling of confidence in existence as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. SOC is regarded as an important assumption for managing the world. The study shows that bodily play in the ASP has a considerable potential of promoting the children’s SOC. Most of the children in the study experience their world as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. Negative thoughts and feelings are reduced during bodily play. Play offers particularly strong opportunities for the children themselves to shape outcomes, and for being together with other children whom they know well. If a child is excluded from joint bodily play or experiences repetitive unfriendly reports, the experiences of comprehensibility and manageability are reduced, and SOC decreases. The study demonstrates the importance of pedagogical competence among ASP professionals in terms of establishing an inclusive framework that encourage and stimulate child-managed bodily play. Future training of ASP professionals should encourage an understanding of the potential of developing SOC through bodily play.



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