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

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2.3 The Natural Learning Initiative

The Natural Learning Initiative [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] was set up in North Carolina in the United States with the stated mission of ‘Creating environments for healthy human development and a healthy biosphere for generations to come’ (2022).

It is based on the principle that ‘the health of humankind, animals, and the biosphere is interwoven in a single, interdependent system’ (Moore and Cosco, 2014, p. 169). This one-health model, with its dual consideration of ‘naturalization as a health promotion strategy’ positions ECEC settings as ‘land restoration sites.’ (Naturalise means ‘to cause a plant or animal from another place to begin to grow and live in a new area’. The vast majority of childcare centres can be visualised as sites where natural ecosystems can be restored, designed, and managed (naturalised) to engage children while increasing biodiversity.)

The development of features such as pathways, shade/shelter, trees, shrubs, vegetable gardens and edible landscapes as well as more modest elements such as planters are recognised as encouraging or ‘pulling’ young children outdoors to engage with the natural world as well as enhancing the biodiversity of sites. Although it has a strong physical activity focus, it provides a contemporary holistic model for ECEC that could be developed, bringing together human and environmental concerns through ECEC practice.