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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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3.2 Adults matter

Froebel’s pedagogic approach provides a potential model for practitioners to be ‘attentive and responsive’ adults who closely observe children in outdoor environments and follow their lead. However, his approach assumes that adults will have developed a strong connection with the natural world, so they are able to fulfil this role:

And very, very little is needed from those around the child, to give it what the years of childhood require. We need only to designate, to name, to give words to what the child does, perceives and finds.

(Froebel, 1887, p. 41)

Being knowledgeable about the natural world and being able to name elements that attract a child’s interest can feel like a barrier but is easily supported in contemporary practice by identification books or apps. Froebel’s thinking is unique in highlighting the two-way learning that observational and attentive practice can facilitate – in both adult and child. Rather radically, he suggests that adults can (re)learn to take delight in the natural world by observing young children – this turns conventional ways of thinking about the learning relationship upside down. Importantly, it suggests that both adults and children need to feel comfortable and have opportunities to engage with things that interest them during the time spent outside.

Listen further to Sacha Powell as she describes how Froebel’s ideas can help you to understand how best to support young children:

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