Using the storytelling method to hear children’s voices of their relational conflicts

Eija Salonen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (
Eija Sevón, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (
Marianne Notko, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (
Sanna Moilanen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (

Background: Relationships within family and early childhood education and care (ECEC) play a central role in the development and wellbeing of young children. Everyday conflicts and power dynamics in their close relationships are therefore especially significant to young children. However, young children’s own voices have seldom been heard concerning this issue.

Aim: To understand young children’s perspectives on their relational conflicts within family and ECEC contexts.

Method: We use playful, narrative method called Story Magician’s Play Time (SMPT) to hear young children’s narratives of their relational conflicts. During the SMPT sessions, 4- to 7-year-old children narrate stories based on pictures of everyday situations that typically include conflicts. After narrating, the children enact their stories in play.

Results: In our presentation, we will discuss our preliminary observations concerning the usage of the SMPT method, interaction between the child and the researcher, and the main themes of relational conflicts that the participating children narrate.

Conclusions: We conclude with discussing the suitability of the SMPT method for listening to young children’s voices concerning relational conflicts and power.

Implications for children: In our study, we find it important to try to capture your perspectives and thoughts concerning conflict situations in your daily relations with your family members, educators and peers.  This knowledge is highly needed in order to improve your wellbeing and possibilities for agency in close relationships.

Implications for families and practitioners: Young children’s close relationships at home and ECEC are very meaningful to them. With our study, we will help you to understand how young children make sense of conflicts and power in close relationships. This is important for the promotion of their agency and social emotional wellbeing.

Funding: The study is funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Key words: children’s voices, qualitative methods, innovations, research with children, storytelling

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: