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

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3.1 People: practitioners, parents and carers

Adults play a vital role in children’s development. They respond to the children’s learning and development needs by providing an effective, responsive environment. This links to one of the Froebelian principles you explored in Session 3 about how knowledgeable and nurturing educators are important. Kemp and Josephidou (in their forthcoming paper) found that settings with successful outdoor learning for babies and toddlers were those where:

  • the managers and owners of those settings had a good understanding of relevant research which they used to develop the practice of the setting
  • there was an openness to risk-taking and sharing of practice with others
  • high levels of trust were placed in the practitioners who worked in their settings, valuing their work with babies and toddlers outdoors and recognising the challenges
  • they understood the importance of getting parents onboard, and so played a particularly significant role in determining the nature and extent of outdoor provision for these very young children.

Working with parents to develop their understanding of outdoor opportunities for under twos is important to ensure that children’s outside experiences are not just limited to their time in the early years setting, but while they are at home too. In research by Kemp and Josephidou (2020), some practitioners mentioned that parental perspectives could be a barrier to the youngest children going outside. They reported that parents did not always see the value in their children being outdoors and were also concerned about some health and safety aspects. Some parents even requested that their child was not taken outdoors particularly if they felt it was too cold. It is for this reason that practitioners should work with parents to share information about the importance of outdoor experiences, and information on what type of effective opportunities parents can provide for their children. Equally, practitioners should listen and learn from parents about what they do outdoors with their children, to build on children’s experiences beyond the settings’ gates.