Toward a pedagogy for nature-based play in early childhood educational settings

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Truscott, J 2018, 'Toward a pedagogy for nature-based play in early childhood educational settings', in A Cutter-Mackenzie, K Malone & EB Hacking (eds.), Research Handbook on Childhoodnature (Springer international handbooks of education), Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 1-28. ISBN 9783319519494

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Peer Reviewed



Reflecting the growing momentum around childhoodnature, there has been enormous interest in increasing opportunities for young children to experience nature-based play. This has resulted in considerable efforts by early years’ settings to naturalize their outdoor play areas, introducing polymorphic natural features, such as pebbly creeks, mud pits, and willow arches. Inherent in these efforts is an assumption that children will connect with and become immersed in nature as they play. However, there has been little research exploring how young children experience nature through nature-based play, particularly when it occurs within the confines of an early childhood (EC) setting. Further, little is known about what might influence their experiences in this context.

This chapter draws upon qualitative data from Australian preschool children and their educators to build these areas of knowledge. Informed by sociocultural theory, along with notions of flow, the data indicate that children’s experiences of nature and nature-based play in EC settings occur across a continuum, from immersion in nature-based play to nature acting as a backdrop to play. Critical to this section of the handbook, it is educators’ pedagogy that emerges as playing a central role in shaping these experiences. In examining the data, this chapter explores the facets of pedagogy – educators’ values, beliefs, and behaviors – that appear to best afford children the opportunity to become immersed in their nature-based play.