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Where do the children play?: An investigation of the intersection of nature, early childhood education and play

Summary


Interest in nature’s role in early childhood is gaining momentum after an uneven past

This research summary examines the history of how early childhood theorists and practitioners have viewed the role of nature, of children as players in nature, and of places where children play. Also presented is a discussion about what we mean when we use the terms “nature” and “wilderness.” This report concludes with information about the current state of nature play and offers some ideas about promising directions for the future.

Four main topics provide a framework for this report: children’s places, early education philosophers and pioneers, nature as an inherently risky endeavor, and early childhood care and education as an appropriate site for nature play. A theme introduced in the first section but referred to throughout the review is that “places for children” — as defined by adults – differs from “children’s places” – as places where children have a stake. Another theme addressed in different sections throughout the paper is that children’s activities are often constrained by viewing nature as being an inherently risky place to play.

Recent research on the benefits of connecting children with nature is ushering in an intentional integration of nature, early childhood education, and play. Some related initiatives include the development of forest kindergartens, forest schools, and other programs promoting nature play. The authors, recognizing that “early childhood’s intersection with nature has and continues to be uneven and often contentious” call for teachers and institutions to assume the role of activists in promoting intentionally risky affordances for nature play in early childhood settings.

Citation

Brown, J.M., Kaye, C., (2017). Where do the children play?: An investigation of the intersection of nature, early childhood education and play. Early Child Development and Care, 187(5-6), 1028-1041.

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