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Network Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care Freiburg

The Network Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care is a cooperation between the City of Freiburg and the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Freiburg under the scientific leadership of Professor Dorothee Gutknecht. It provides a platform for specialist dialogue, networking and transfer including all relevant stakeholders for example in childcare centers and in family day care in Freiburg and the surrounding area. Its 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 be able to better deal with questions of quality development in care, upbringing and education of children up to three years of age, specialists working directly with young children and their families, for example as heads of facilities or as group specialists, can engage in the network. It is also aimed at specialist who work as advisers, consultants or in the field of advanced vocational training, as well as higher education.

Furthermore the network is open to specialists who can expand the expertise of educational specialists in the field of early childhood education or early intervention: e. g. experts from psychology and paediatrics, as well as from midwifery and nursing sciences, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Experts from nutritional science and sleep medicine are also involved in the network. Participants are people with expertise in music, theater, art, mathematics and natural sciences, and language who are also interested in infant and toddler pedagogy, as well as representatives from parent groups.

The spectrum of topics ranges from early dialogues to “literature in the playpen”, from “exploratory science in diapers” to activities of daily living such as sleeping and resting, eating and drinking, eliminating, 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 also reach children, families and professionals”, explains Dorothee Gutknecht, scientific director of the network and professor with the focus Infant and toddler education, responsiveness and mindfulness, language and inclusion at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Freiburg.

Important findings from research are to be put into practice more quickly and systematically through the Network. Important suggestions, questions, problems or creative solutions and challenges from practice and society should reach universities, Schools and advanced trainers more quickly. The early childhood education network Quality in Childcare and Family Day Care operates at a national and international level in exchange with other early childhood institutions and networks.

The Network is one of the so-called “Third Mission Activities” at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in 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 are taken up.”

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 Elimination – (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

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


Dorothee Gutknecht, Professor of Early Childhood Education an Care

Start 2012

The project is designed to last for several years, alternating between work in working groups in the interdisciplinary Network Early Education and Care and academic work in a university context.


This is a transfer project as part of the Third Mission activities of Professor Dorothee Gutknecht, EH Freiburg, on the further development of the concept of Professional Responsiveness, the mindful and responsive pedagogical work with children and their families in the shared care field. The accompaniment and support of children in the field of self-regulation is increasingly seen as a central educational task in the field of education and care. The project focused on different perspectives on emotional regulation and dysregulation:

  • How can educational professionals guide children in regulating their emotions appropriately?
  • What challenges arise in connection with regulation processes in everyday situations such as eating and drinking or sleeping and resting in the shared care field of the institution and family?
  • Which emotional and physiological effects does music have on regulatory processes in everyday life?

In the context of regulation, the professional handling of the biting behavior of young children was an important focus. The project started in 2012 and ran through 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 the cooperation with parents
  • Regulation and dysregulation in the transition from daycare to kindergarten

Regulation and dysregulation have been treated as cross-sectional issues since 2017, 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. (2020, in press). Responsive Shaping of Micro-Level-Transitions in Inclusive Childcare. Available at: https://www.ece-in-germany.info/
  • 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 and Stress Reduction


Dorothee Gutknecht, Professor of Early Childhood Education an Care


  1. Kira Daldrop, MA Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Consultant, Coach Baby Wearing and Professional Development Facilitator
  2. Sabine Stehmeier, MA Pediatric Palliative Care (in prep.), BA 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 in an emotionally consuming occupation. There is a focus on emotional and physical stress. Due to the many assistance tasks, for example assistance with meals, changing diapers and using the toilet, playing, dressing and undressing, which have to be performed when working with small children, skilled workers have a high risk of musculoskeletal injuries. These can lead to high levels of sick leave, possibly even leading to the need to change jobs. How can the everyday movements in the assistance tasks be designed to be low-risk?
  2. The health development of the child who is in a steadily advancing sensorimotor development process. The specialist has to adapt to these ongoing changes in the nonverbal dialogue with the child in movement and touch.
  3. The mutual interaction between the professional and the child. How well is the child supported in building scripts through dialogical relationships? How can a professional support the child in building up self-care skills through participation?
  4. Space, health and well-being: The environment design should be ergonomic and supportive for both the professional and the child. What characteristics must the environment have for this?
  5. Touch – movement –emotionsHandling training includes reflecting on one’s own touch biography: thinking about positive and negative touch experiences. It 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 in the sense of Pikler Approach
    c. Handling in the sense of Strub (Pikler-Hengstenberg)
    d. Bobath Handling
    e. Nidcap Approach

All educational specialists in a childcare center need comprehensive handling training in terms of health promotion and health maintenance. Another important aspect is that educational professionals conduct their contact and movement dialog with the children in a similar and comparable manner. Pikler’s “Choreography of Care” is now considered to be confirmed: Children can adjust to the individual skilled workers better their styles in movement, gestures and voice as well as language support is similar. Sub-topics in the project from 2012 to 2020 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 prep). Mindful and Responsive Handling in Childcare and Family Day Care. Available at: https://www.ece-in-germany.info/
  • Gutknecht, D., Stehmeier, S. & Daldrop, K. (2022, in prep). Handling und Ergonomie in der Kita. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Project 6 - Scientific Perspectives on the Pikler Approach


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 Interviews, Stimulated Recall, Group Discussions


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

The new working group will focus on the state of Pikler Pedagogy in the context of current research. With the focus on the overall pedagogy of Pikler, essential principles of the Pikler Approach are to be examined in more detail which must be considered as coherent, for example care and play – Care Moments and Play Moments. Above all, it should be considered how everyday pedagogical life in Pikler Pedagogy is designed to meet the needs and interests of children under three years of age in childcare settings.

The working group will work consistently on an interdisciplinary basis: for example, the nursing approach recommended in Pikler Pedagogy should be discussed with experts from nursing, midwifery and therapeutic sciences. On the subject of play, there should be an exchange with experts from play research.

The project involves a worldwide collaboration with researchers in the context of the Pikler Approach.


  • Gutknecht, Dorothee (2021, in Vorb.). Die Pikler- Säuglings- und Kleinkindpädagogik im wissenschaftlichen Fokus. In: Thilo Schmidt, Ulf Sauerbrey & Wilfried Smidt (Hrsg.). Frühpädagogische Handlungskonzepte – Eine kritische Bestandsaufnahme. Münster: Waxmann.
  • Gutknecht, Dorothee & Bader, Christine (2021 in prep). Infant and Toddler Education and Care according to the Pikler Approach.
  • Gutknecht, Dorothee (2021 in Vorb.). Bildung in der Kinderkrippe. Wege zur Profes-sionellen Responsivität (3. überarbeitete Aufl.). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
  • 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/network-quality-in-childcare-and-family-day-care-freiburg/?lang=en/#presentation
  • Gutknecht, Dorothee & Bader, Christine (2018). Die Kleinkindpädagogik nach Emmi Pikler. In: Michaela Rissmann (Hrsg.). Didaktik in der Kindheitspädagogik. Grundlagen der Frühpädagogik Band 3. Wolters Kluwer (Carl Link). 276-295.
  • Gutknecht, Dorothee (2011). Die Säuglings- und Kleinkind-Pädagogik nach Pikler. In Christoph Mischo, Dörte Weltzien & Klaus Fröhlich-Gildhoff (Hrsg.), Beobachtungs- und Diagnoseverfahren in der Frühpädagogik. Grundlagen der Frühpädagogik Bd. 3. Neuwied: Wolters Kluwer. (S. 79-84).
  • Gutknecht, D. (2010). Professionelle Responsivität. Ein hochschulbezogenes Ausbil-dungskonzept für den frühpädagogischen Arbeitskontext U3: Kinder unter drei Jahren und ihre Familien. Dissertation, PH Heidelberg. Verfügbar unter: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:he76-opus-75225 [aufgerufen am 10.10.2020]Summary: Gutknecht, D. (2010). Professional Responsiveness. An approach at higher educational level to serve for the preparation of professionals in the field of early childhood care and education in the work context u3: Children 0-3 years and their families

    The dissertation submits a guiding concept called “Professional Responsiveness”. This concept is designed for higher education of early educators in the field of u3/education in childcare. It is differentiated in its´s didactics of early and higher education. The Professional Responsiveness of the specialist for early education appears as the main competence in her/his interaction with little children in a vocal-musical, motional and linguistically mode and the mode of touch. This competence has to be developed systematically across the categories of interaction in everyday life of a day nursery. The educational quality turns out as a distinctive adaptability of the professionals in a childcare setting to modify the above-named modes of interaction under the requirements of development, gender, inclusion and migration. Professional Responsiveness is also used as a concept in terms of co-operative relationships of professionals with parents. Large scaled, the dissertation shows methodical-didactical ways to work out the Professional Responsiveness of students in a BA-course of early educational studies by working with simulation clients, profiling, working with models, using video feedback, and working on selected cases.


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)