Life on the Arctic Coast: The Sea Route to Kindergarten

Helligvær (High North News): Out in the middle of the sea in Northern Norway, we find Løvetanna kindergarten with its three employees and six children, two of whom have an unusual route to kindergarten.

Les på norsk

The wind is blowing softly as the boat "Helligvær" docks as the only boat in Vokkøya harbor.

On land, Tommy Ingebrigtsen and Marit Skogsholm are arriving with their daughters Maja (2) and Tilde (4). They also have the sheep Penny with them.

The sheep is acting much like a dog and would like to join the family on the boat but must wait on land until Marit returns. 

It is obvious that they have done this many times. Everything seems to happen seamlessly. It has become a routine.

Tommy and Tilde walk aboard the boat while Marit wheels Maja in the stroller.

Unusual route. It is obvious that they have done this many times. Everything seems to happen seamlessly. It has become a routine.



The family of four lives on the largest and northernmost island in Helligvær. Helligvær is a small fishing village north of the Arctic Circle, located outside of Bodø.

Tommy and Marit keep Norwegian Wild Sheep, which roam freely and graze all over the island. They also operate Nordvær Cafe and Gallery.

Tommy works as a janitor at Væran school and kindergarten in Sørvær, where his daughters go to kindergarten.

To get to work and to kindergarten, they must commute using the local boat route. And they do so practically every day. That is when the weather permits. If the weather gods do not permit traveling between the islands, the family is isolated on the island.

The boat is the nerve between the islands.

"I think they are the only ones to travel by boat to kindergarten, so that is quite cool."

"Helligvær" sets course for Sørvær, the most populated island with a fish landing, high-speed ferry dock, school, kindergarten, and a grocery store.

It is quite calm at sea. The weather is cloudy with a fresh breeze. Yet it is clear that not all days are like this. Seaspray has settled like a filter on the windows.

Båt til barnehagen
Tommy Ingebrigtsen travels by boat to the kindergarten in Helligvær with his daughters Maja (2) and Tilde (4). (Photo: Marie Staberg)

"An eagle," says Tilde, pointing out the window.

This is part of everyday life for Tilde and Maja. They do not seem bothered and appear to have a pleasant morning.

Tommy pulls out a lunchbox with sliced apples and bananas.

After a short boat ride, we start our walk to the kindergarten, about a hundred meters from Helligvær harbor.

Little steps are made up the hill to the kindergarten.

Speed and excitement

The other children are already heading out as Tommy, Tilde, and Maja arrive.

Irene Johansen and Amanda Kildedalen, both kindergarten assistants, meet the family at the door while they dress the other children.

"There is never an issue with drop-off at kindergarten," says Tommy by the entrance to Løvetanna kindergarten before saying goodbye to the children and wishing them a good day.

Tilde and Maja barely notice that their dad leaves.

After a short boat ride, we start our walk to the kindergarten, about a hundred meters from Helligvær harbor.

There is only one thing on the children's minds. They are going to play.

Everything happens quickly and easily. 

Suddenly, all the children are dressed and headed to the sandbox at full speed.

There are swings.

And a slide.

There is also a climbing frame and a playhouse. Everything and everyone must be played with.

Climbing trees and, not least, a big sandbox seems to be popular.

"Look, I have made a city," says one of the children, having emptied a bucket of sand upside down.

"I have made a lemon cake. Do you want to taste?" asks another and offers a shovel of sand.

"Important to maintain"

The kindergarten, located in the middle of nature, makes use of the surrounding areas, with opportunities to pick berries or go for walks by the ocean and in the terrain.

"I think they enjoy being outside. We try to make it cheerful to be outside. It is a part of everyday life. The weather must be quite bad for us to not be outside," says Irene Johansen.

Irene Johansen, barnehageansatt i Løvetanna barnehage på Helligvær
Irene Johansen, kindergarten employee in Løvetanna kindergarten in Helligvær. (Photo: Marie Staberg)

"We are not wimps. We go outside, put on rain gear, and get some air. We have the play area here, and if we get sick of that, we go outside the kindergarten."

Irene moved to the island in 1986. Back then, she worked as a daycare provider as there were not enough children on the island.

When the kindergarten opened in 2002, Irene was quickly hired.

"I worked for a few years before the kindergarten closed down. There was only one child left, and we had to close."

But then more children came, and Irene could return to the kindergarten after one year.

The kindergarten is part of the Væran childcare center and shares its building with the school.

"It is really important that we keep the school and kindergarten open here. Living here and attending kindergarten and school in the city is way too difficult. It gets hard. We have falls and winters with such bad weather that the boat gets canceled. That would be completely hopeless."

Irene enjoys working in the kindergarten and following the children. Amanda Kildedalen feels the same way.

Amanda Kildedalen
Amanda Kildedalen, an employee in Løvetanna kindergarten in Helligvær. (Photo: Marie Staberg)

Amanda believes that children who grow up in places such as Helligvær are more used to being outside than children who grow up in cities.

"They are out in the rain, smiling. There is no 'No, I want to be inside.'"

"It is very nice. I really enjoy playing with the kids. It is nice that we can be outside a lot. There is a lot more freedom to work in a kindergarten in a small place. If we want to go for a walk, we do."