From Weeds to Tiny Flowers: Rethinking the Place of the Youngest Children Outdoors

Kemp, Nicola; Josephidou, Joanne and Bolshaw, Polly (2023). From Weeds to Tiny Flowers: Rethinking the Place of the Youngest Children Outdoors. The Froebel Trust, London.



This report provides new knowledge and understanding about babies and toddlers outdoors. It starts from a point of concern about the way the youngest children are seen as ‘out of place’ or not belonging in outdoor spaces. We use the metaphor of “garden weeds” (after Jenks, 2005) to convey this idea.The evidence in the report is based on a systematic literature review conducted by the authors as the first part of a Froebel Trust funded project.Three types of outdoor spaces are important in the lives of the youngest children – those in the home, community and within ECEC settings. Research emphasises the
importance of specific environmental characteristics (greenness, the presence of natural features, enclosure) within these outdoor spaces.
Adults play a key role outdoors in supporting babies and toddlers in outdoor spaces. Research highlights the importance of connective care practices and interactions that facilitate familiarity with the natural world. The interactions between babies and toddlers, the adults who care for them, and outdoor spaces are complex and can either be connective (oriented towards inclusion) or disconnective (oriented towards exclusion). A range of intersecting social characteristics (socio-economic status, education, class, ethnicity, and disability), cultural, and environmental factors are understood to influence interactions outdoors. ECEC settings have a potentially critical role in developing more inclusive practices, and challenging the idea that the youngest children don’t belong outdoors.Drawing on Froebelian thinking, we suggest that babies and toddlers can be helpfully likened to ‘tiny flowers’ that need ‘space and time’ to flourish and grow ‘in
and with nature’.

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