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A positive community spirit starts in day care

HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark joined the fun when The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark today presented a new version of their anti-bullying programme, Free of Bullying, aimed at children from 0 to 3 years of age. Day care children from Vallensbæk in Greater Copenhagen also took part in marking the occasion.
When we help children learn how to be good friends from a very young age, we also help to prevent bullying in the long term.
This is why The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark are expanding their joint anti-bullying programme, Free of Bullying, to include children from 0 to 3 years of age.
Babies and toddlers in childcare facilities learn through interacting with adults and are too young to consciously bully other children. The new version of Free of Bullying therefore focuses on equipping day care professionals and childminders to support children in developing their social skills and  help them learn how to be a good friend to others as they grow older.
Friendships among even very young children have a critical impact on their current and future well-being.
Children need good friends in order to thrive and to build good self-esteem and a positive self-image – regardless of age. How a child is treated by the adults and other children in the childcare facility has a critical impact on his or her well-being and interaction with other children – not only now but also in the future,” explains Secretary General at Save the Children Denmark Jonas Keiding Lindholm. 
We know that the patterns and ways of interacting that lead to bullying later in life are established in early childhood and developed further in school. Our work on Free of Bullying has clearly highlighted the value of focusing on relationships as soon as a child starts to interact with similar-aged children on a daily basis,” says Director of The Mary Foundation Helle Østergaard.
The Buddy Bear mascot and the principles from the “The person you touch, you don’t bully” massage programme, known from the Free of Bullying programme for older children, also feature in the material for babies and toddlers. But in this version, childcare professionals can also learn about the advantages of communicating using baby signs, how Free of Bullying ties in with the compulsory childcare curriculum and how digital media can be used in their work with very young children. Since attentive and compassionate adults represent the most important factor in the lives of very young children, the material places particular emphasis on the adults as role models.
Free of Bullying for children from 0 to 3 years of age has been developed on the back of nine years’ experience of using Free of Bullying in schools and preschools as well as input from childcare professionals in day care centres and childminding facilities. Child psychology specialist and lecturer at the Danish School of Education (DPU) at Aarhus University, Grethe Kragh-Müller, has contributed to the material as a professional consultant. 
Facts on early intervention
  • Research shows that bullying already starts in preschool (Kit Stender Petersen, Mobning i en børnehavesammenhæng (Bullying in the context of preschool), Roskilde University, 2015).
  • While few studies on bullying among preschool children have been conducted in Denmark, Norwegian studies show that 10–20% of all preschool children experience bullying at least once a week (Mai Brit Helgesen, Mobbing i barnehagen (Bullying in Kindergarten), Universitetsforlaget, 2014). 
  • Danish researchers agree that bullying can occur in all social situations where people are “forced” to spend time together (exbus.dk).
  • Norwegian studies indicate that friendships between two-year-old children are just as important to a child’s life as friendships between adults are for them (Anne Greve, Vennskap mellom små  barn i barnehagen. (Friendships among young children in preschool.), Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, 2007).
  • A Danish study has shown that if children do not experience forming friendships before reaching school age, they risk not coping as well as and having more psychological problems than other children (Niels Bilenberg, The child behavior checklist (CBCL) and related material: Standardization and validation in Danish population based and clinically based samples, Munksgaard, 1999).
  • Because day care children are too young to consciously exclude other children, the focus among childcare professionals working with this age group should be on supporting their emotional and social development instead of talking to them about bullying (Grethe Kragh-Müller).
  • A new study by The Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA) shows that for young children learning is also about being a good friend (0-2-årige børns læring (learning among children from 0 to 2 years of age), eva.dk).
  • Learning among very young children has attracted increasing professional and political attention in recent years.