In recent decades, refugee immigration has had significant impact on educational contexts in Sweden, with preschools the primary arenas for young children’s language learning experiences. The present study examines second language and literacy training practices for immigrant children (aged 1–5) in preschools in Sweden. The empirical data consist of video recordings of teacher-guided play activities. These were designed to create rich linguistic and cultural environments facilitating active and democratic participation by the children. Guided play activities were developed in close collaboration between teachers and researchers during action-based interventions that were aimed at constructing child-oriented participatory language learning practices in ethnically and linguistically diverse ECEC settings. The children’s first languages were Tigrinya, Arabic dialects, Somalian, Kurdish dialects, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. The participatory learning potential of guided play was collaboratively analyzed and assessed, and new and revised activities were implemented, based on the goals of inclusivity and children’s active engagement in play and language learning. The analysis shows that teachers’ use of multimodal semiotic means, such as questions, texts and cultural artifacts (stories, material story-related objects, play spaces) were important strategies for the preparation of appealing play environments and activities that contributed to children’s curiosity and participation. These resources served as affordances for guided play, allowing the simultaneous scaffolding of children’s play competencies and their language learning. © 2023, The Author(s).

DOI: 10.1007/s13158-023-00370-1
ISSN: 00207187