This article is based on an ethnographic study of children’s everyday life in Swedish preschools. The ethnography is used to explore children’s strategies for influencing, defending and constructing the social order of a preschool institution. The focus of our concern is on how the children, in their interactions with each other and with the preschool teachers, manage the collective regulation and how they negotiate their participation in collective activities. There is an inherent tension between free play and the high degree of routinised and collective activities within the preschool institution. The study shows that children are active in playing at the border, acting as if the institution is the children’s place. It also shows how they draw on different strategies as resources for managing the regulations, accounting for personal autonomy and negotiating the social order. In taking a child perspective and acknowledging children as active agents, it is possible to see how they influence and shape their everyday life in a preschool context. In addition, the article illustrates individual children’s strategic and pragmatic use of resources and in doing so contribute to their own childhood and thereby become part of a social and cultural construction process.
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