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Play is key in preschool

Swedish preschools emphasise play. Unlike many other countries where there is a drive towards setting goals and assessing the progress of preschoolers, the Swedish system focuses more on basic values such as playing together, tolerance and consideration for others. Gender equality is also high on the agenda.

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Photo: Ulf Lundin/imagebank.sweden.se

Playing outdoors

In Swedish preschools, children play outside at every opportunity. Even in the depths of winter they are bundled into one-piece overalls, hats and gloves and taken outside. To the surprise of many foreign-born parents, smaller children will often have their midday nap outside on all but the coldest days. So-called outdoor preschools, where the children are outside almost exclusively, regardless of the weather, are also popular.

Gender pedagogy

Gender pedagogy is increasingly common in Swedish preschools. The aim is for children to have the same opportunities in life, regardless of whether they are male or female. How? By working against gender stereotypes and assigned roles, freeing children from the expectations and demands society has traditionally put on girls and boys. While men make up about five per cent of carers working daycare in Swedish, this is still a higher proportion than in many other countries.

High proportion

Today, some 80 per cent of one- to five-year-olds attend preschool in Sweden, if only for a few hours a day. This is high by international standards, and one explanation lies in Sweden’s large share of dual-earner families.

Another contributing factor is Sweden’s maximum-fee policy, which makes childcare affordable for everyone. Fees are calculated according to income with low-income families paying nothing while the costs for more affluent parents are capped at SEK 1,260 (about €140) per month.

The policy states that parents should only have to spend one to three per cent of the family’s income on childcare, depending on how many children they have. This means childcare costs in Sweden are a fraction of those in other nations.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

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