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Network Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care Freiburg

The Network Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care (QuiCC) is a cooperation between the Protestant University of Applied Sciences and the City of Freiburg under the scientific leadership of Professor Dorothee Gutknecht. It provides a platform for specialist dialogue, networking and transfer including relevant stakeholders such as, childcare centers and family day care in Freiburg and the surrounding area. The network’s mission is to improve quality in infant and toddler education and care.

Since its inception in 2012 the network has gained national and international reputation for its work.

In order to discuss and respond to questions related to high quality development in care, upbringing and education of children up to three years of age a range of professionals are involved in the network. This includes professionals working directly with young children and their families, for example as heads of facilities or as group specialists. This network is also aimed at specialists who work as advisers, consultants or in the field of advanced vocational training, as well as higher education.

The network is open to professionals who can support and expand the expertise of educational professionals in the field of early childhood education and care or early intervention. This includes experts from psychology and paediatrics, as well as midwifery and nursing sciences, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Experts from nutritional science and sleep medicine are involved in the network. Other participants are people with expertise in music, theater, art, mathematics and natural sciences, and language who are also interested in infant and toddler pedagogy, alongside representatives from key parenting groups.

The spectrum of topics ranges from early dialogues and language learning to activities of living such as sleeping and resting, eating and drinking, toilet learning, communicating and playing.

“Stress reduction, mindfulness and responsiveness are the guiding principles by which we orient ourselves. With our network, we want to achieve a significant boost in quality that will ultimately reach children, families and professionals”, explains Dorothee Gutknecht, scientific director of the network and professor with a focus on Infant and toddler education, responsiveness and mindfulness, language and inclusion at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Freiburg.

Important findings from research are likely to be enacted in practice more quickly and systematically through discussions and connections made the Network. Important suggestions, questions, problems or creative solutions and challenges from practice in early childhood centers and society reach universities, schools and advanced trainers more quickly. The early childhood education QuiCC network operates at a national and international level in exchange with other early childhood institutions and networks.

The Network is one of the “Third Mission Activities” at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Freiburg. Professor Dorothee Gutknecht has set a major focus here: “Research is the first and teaching the second mission at universities. The Third Mission is about activities that aim to connect universities and society, in which societal trends and needs from our local community are explored.”

Scientific Director


  1. Regulation and Dysregulation in Early Childhood Education and Care
  2. Macro Level and Micro Level Transitions
  3. Stress Reduction, Mindfulness and Cultural Responsiveness in Activities of Daily Living in Childcare Settings
    a) Life Activities Sleeping, Resting and Relaxing – (Cultural) Responsiveness Regarding the Sleeping Situation in Childcare and Family Daycare Settings
    b) Life Activities Eating and Drinking – Cultural Responsiveness Regarding Mealtimes in Childcare and Family Daycare Settings
    c) Life Activity of Toilet Learning – (Cultural) Responsiveness to Accompanying Children on their Way to Elimination Autonomy
    d) Assaults, Coercion and Violence in Life Activities
  4. Haptic and Stress Reduction
  5. Mindful and Responsive Handling – Space, Health & Stressreduction
  6. Scientific Perspectives on the Pikler Approach
  7. Mindfulness in Early Childhood Education


Citation: Gutknecht, D. (2020). Observation and Responsiveness. New Findings in lnfant-Toddler-Research on Shaping the Educarer-Child-Relationship. Presented at the International Pikler Symposium, Main Topic: Observing, Understanding, Responding. The Role of Observation in the Pikler Approach. Budapest, Hungary, 4th-7th April 2018. (Written form of the oral presentation with inserted and updated literature references)

Project 1 - Regulation & Dysregulation in Early Childhood Education and Care


Prof.in Dr.in Dorothee Gutknecht


This project facilitates further development of the concept of Professional Responsiveness, the mindful and responsive pedagogical work with children and their families in the field of shared care. The accompaniment and support of children in the process of self-regulation is increasingly seen as a central educational task in the education and care profession. The project focused on different perspectives relating to emotional regulation and dysregulation:

  • How can educational professionals guide children in regulating their emotions appropriately?
  • What challenges arise relating to regulation processes in everyday situations such as eating and drinking or sleeping and resting in the shared care field of the childcare center and family?
  • Which emotional and physiological effects does music have on regulatory processes in children’s everyday lives?

In relation to regulation, the professional response to biting behavior of young children was a key focus.

The project started in 2012 and involved several different working groups until 2016:

  • Conflict assistance – conflict regulation: implementation of mindful, responsive and stress-reducing pedagogy
  • Music and regulation in young children
  • Regulation and dysregulation as topics in cooperation with parents
  • Regulation and dysregulation in the transition from childcare centers to kindergarten

Since 2017 the topic is treated recognized as a cross-cutting issue currently for example in Project 4 Haptics and Stress Reduction, Project 5 Mindful and Responsive Handling, and in Project 7 Mindfulness in Early Childhood Education.

References (Selection)

  • Gutknecht, D. (2021, in press). Responsive Shaping of Micro-Level-Transitions in Inclusive Childcare.
  • Gutknecht, D. (2015). Wenn kleine Kinder beißen. Achtsame und konkrete Handlungsmöglichkeiten. Freiburg: Herder.
  • Gutknecht, D. & Höhn, K. (2019). Manger à la crèche. Pour une organisation attentive à l’enfant et à ses besoins. Le Mont-sur-Lausanne: Édition Loisirs et Pédagogie.
  • Gutknecht, D. & Kramer, M. (en préparation, 2021). Microtransitions à la crèche. Le Mont-sur-Lausanne: Édition Loisirs et Pédagogie.

Project 5 - Mindful and Responsive Handling: Space, Health & Stress Reduction

Scientific Director

Prof.in Dr.in Dorothee Gutknecht, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Care


  1. Kira Daldrop, M.A. Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Consultant, Baby Wearing Coach and Professional Development Facilitator
  2. Sabine Stehmeier, M.A. Pediatric Palliative Care, B.A. Early Childhood Education, Child Physiotherapist

5 Protestant Kindergartens in Freiburg, Germany as Participants

  1. Matthäuskindergarten
  2. Kita Weltenbummler
  3. Kindergarten Tiengen
  4. Zachäuskindergarten
  5. Oberlinkindergarten

Kindergarten Consultant: Anja Schönthaler


The project Mindful and Responsive Handling – Space, Health & Stress Reduction focuses on six main topics:

  1. The health development of the educational professional
    Educators work in a physically and emotionally demanding profession. The many tasks that professionals support children in, especially in care contexts for example, can physically impact educators. This includes assisting children with their meals, changing diapers, dressing and undressing and supporting children to learn how to use the toilet. Therefore, educators have a high risk of musculoskeletal injuries. These can lead to high levels of sick leave; in some cases, some professionals may need to look for work in a less physically demanding profession. How can everyday movements in assisting tasks be made low risk? To answer this question, we analyze different handling concepts and enter a discourse with experts from different fields.
  2. The health development of the child
    Young children are involved in steadily advancing sensorimotor development processes. Educators are required to adapt to the child’s ongoing changes in their nonverbal dialogue with the child through movement and in touch. Key questions are: Which movements can the child perform on his own in care contexts? Are they given the opportunity to bring in these movements? Are they given the opportunity to contribute their skills to these movements?
  3. The mutual interaction between the professional and the child
    How well is the child supported in building their language development through dialogical relationships? How can professionals support children in building and developing self-care skills through active participation? How well is the child supported by pedagogical professionals in building a mental script to different daily actions. Quality touch and handling of young children requires verbal and nonverbal dialogue.
  4. Space, health, and well-being
    The environmental design should be ergonomic and supportive for both the professional and the child. What characteristics must be included in the environment to facilitate this?
  5. Touch – movement – emotions
    Handling training includes reflecting on one’s own touch biography: thinking about positive and negative touch experiences we have had over time.This requires a mindfulness practice, an attitude of self-love and compassion (Singer & Bolz 2013). When is body contact important for regulation, when is it questionable?
  6. Comparison of different handling approaches such as
    a. Kinesthetic Infant Handling
    b. Handling influenced by the Pikler Approach
    c. Handling in the sense of Strub (Pikler-Hengstenberg)
    d. Bobath Handling
    e. Nidcap Approach

All professionals in childcare settings need comprehensive training in manual handling and in the use of assistive devices in handling. This serves professional’s health promotion and maintenance.

Another important aspect is that educational professionals carry out the way of their physical contact and movement dialogue with the children in a similar and consistent manner. This corresponds to Pikler’s “Choreography of Care” to increase the well-being of the child: Children can more easily adjust to engaging with individual professionals when their styles in movement, gestures, language and voice are similar. Sub-topics in the project from 2012 to 2021 were:

  1. Mindful and responsive handling
  2. Space – health – stress reduction
  3. Handling and carrying small children (babywearing), carrying systems
  4. Touch and movement interactions


  • Gutknecht, D., Stehmeier, S. & Daldrop, Kira (2021, in Vorb.) Achtsam und responsiv: Das manuelle Handling in der Kita. https://www.kita-fachtexte.de/de/
  • Gutknecht, D., Stehmeier, S. & Daldrop, Kira (2021, in prep.) Mindful and Responsive: Manual Handling in Childcare Settings. Soon available at: https://www.ece-in-germany.info/

Project 6 - Scientific Perspectives on the Pikler Approach

Scientific Director

Prof.in Dr.in Dorothee Gutknecht, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Care


Christine Bader, Consultant for Infant and Toddler Education and Care, Pikler®-Educator, Marte Meo-Supervisor


February 2021


Qualitative Ethnographic Research, Expert Individual Interviews, Stimulated Recall, Focus Group Discussions.


The Pikler Approach has been discussed intensively in all topics and projects in the Early Childhood Education Network: Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care.

The new working group will focus on the state of Pikler Pedagogy in the context of current research. With an overall focus on the pedagogy of Pikler, essential principles of the Pikler Approach are to be examined in more detail which require more clarification, for example care and play – Care Moments and Moments in Play. This working group will consider how everyday pedagogical life  being influenced by‘ the Pikler Pedagogy is designed to meet the needs and interests of children under three years of age in childcare settings.

The working group will consistently work with colleagues from interdisciplinary disciplines and professions: for example, the nursing approach recommended in Pikler Pedagogy will be discussed with experts from nursing, midwifery and therapeutic sciences. On subjects regarding play, there will be an exchange with experts from play research. The project involves a worldwide collaboration with researchers in the context of the Pikler Approach.


  • Belasko, M., Herrán, E. & Anguera, T. (2019). Dressing toddlers at the Emmi Pikler nursery school in Budapest: caregiver instrumental behavioral pattern. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27(6), 872–887.
  • Belza, H., Herrán, E. & Anguera, T. (2019). Early childhood education and cultural learning: systematic observation of the behaviour of a caregiver at the Emmi Pikler nursery school during breakfast / Educación temprana y aprendizaje cultural: observación sistemática de la conducta de la educadora Pikler durante el desayuno. Journal for the Study of Education and Development, 42(1), 128–178.
  • Bussey, K. & Hill, D. (2017). Care as curriculum: investigating teachers’ views on the learning in care. Early Child Development and Care, 187(1), 128–137.
  • Chahin, E. & Tardos, A. (2017). In Loving Hands: How the Rights for Young Children Living in Children’s Homes offer Hope and Happiness in Today’s World. Xlibris.
  • Gutknecht, D. (2021). Die Pikler- Säuglings- und Kleinkindpädagogik im wissenschaftlichen Fokus. In: T. Schmidt, U. Sauerbrey & W. Smidt (Hrsg.). Frühpädagogische Handlungskonzepte – Eine kritische Bestandsaufnahme. Münster: Waxmann. S. 129-148
  • Gutknecht, D. & Bader, C. (2021). The Pikler Approach to Infant and Toddler Education and Care. In: D. Gutknecht (Ed.): Aspects U3. Studytexts Network QuiCC, Freiburg, Germany. Available online: Aspects U3 Studytexts Network QuiCC: https://www.eh-freiburg.de/network-quality-in-childcare-and-family-day-care-freiburg/?lang=en
  • Gutknecht, D. (2020). Observation and Responsiveness. New Findings In lnfant-Toddler-Research on Shaping the Educarer-Child-Relationship. Presented at the International Pikler Symposium, Main Topic: Observing, Understanding, Responding. The Role of Observation in the Pikler Approach. Budapest, Hungary, 4th-7th April 2018. (Written form of the oral presentation) Available online: https://www.eh-freiburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Pres-International-Pikler-Symposium-Budapest-WebVersion2020-Prof-Gutknecht_fin.pdf
  • Rasse, M. (Ed.). (2020). La socialisation dans la petite enfance. Toulouse: ERES.
  • Sagastui, J., Herrán, E. & Anguera, M. T. (2020). A Systematic Observation of Early Childhood Educators Accompanying Young Children’s Free Play at Emmi Pikler Nursery School: Instrumental behaviours and their relational value. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(1731).