Grant holder
Dr Nicola Kemp, Canterbury Christ Church University and Dr Jo Josephidou, Open University
Project status
In Progress

A research project investigating the potential of a Froebelian inspired pedagogy ‘in, with and for nature’ in urban babyrooms.

How can English Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings in urban contexts be supported to develop democratic and inclusive nature engaging & enhancing pedagogies for babies and toddlers?

This project explores:

  • Birth to twos – emphasising inclusion
  • Outdoor provision – emphasising biodiversity
  • Outdoor pedagogy – emphasising nature engagement and enhancement

"This research project is inspired by Froebelian philosophy and seeks to understand the potential for developing democratic and inclusive outdoor practice for the youngest children (Tovey, 2016)." Dr Nicola Kemp (project leader)

Interim project report - published October 2023

"In the rich and vibrant multicultural context of England, there is a need to engage with diverse perspectives of the outdoors and its value. Similarly, research has identified that children and families living in less affluent contexts may be marginalised through lack of access to green spaces (Natural England, 2019). The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the significance of access to outdoor space and exacerbated social justice concerns. Babies and toddlers are themselves marginalised within outdoor research and practice (Richardson et al, 2019). By focusing on the youngest children in the context of their families this project addresses Froebel’s concern that all parents feel part of their community and have a sense of belonging (Bruce, 2021: 126)" Dr Nicola Kemp (project leader)

Research aim 1

To develop understandings of nature engagement from the diverse cultural perspectives of families with babies/toddlers attending ECEC settings.

This first stage of the project will focus on families with children up to two who attend one of five participating ECEC settings.

A photovoice methodology will be employed to capture their experiences and perspectives of nature engagement.

Families will select a small number of photos to submit and will then be invited to discuss these.

The discussions will be audio recorded and all data will be analysed by the research team.

Research aim 2

To work collaboratively with the families and practitioners at five ECEC settings located in contexts of socio-economic deprivation and cultural diversity to ‘naturalise’ their outdoor areas.

This second stage will involve the planning and development of the outdoor areas for babies and toddlers.

Each of the five early years setting swill be allocated two specialist advisors (one environmental, one early childhood education) and a budget of £500 to develop their outdoor area.

A series of stakeholder meetings between the participating families, ECEC practitioners and the advisors will be hosted by the research team to agree shared priorities.

Research aim 3

Create an inclusive and democratic model of nature engaging and enhancing pedagogy for babies and toddlers.

This final stage of the project will involve a multi-sited ethnographic study of the five settings involving observation of practice, discussion with practitioners and families and visual methods.

A series of practice-focused case studies will be produced as a resource.

The research team will also produce an outdoor practice toolkit for babies and toddlers based on the shared learning from the project.

A toolkit for educators and a final report on this research project is expected in Spring 2025.

Other Froebel Trust funded research by Dr Nicola Kemp & Dr Jo Josephidou

Developing an ECEC response to the global environmental crisis - Dec 2022

Recent publications

Josephidou, J. & Kemp. N. (2022) A life "in and with nature?" Developing nature engaging and nature enhancing pedagogies for babies and toddlers Global Education Review 9 (2)

Josephidou, J., Kemp, N. & Durrant, I. (2021) Outdoor provision for babies and toddlers: exploring the practice/policy/research nexus in English ECEC settings

Kemp, N & Josephidou, J (2021) Babies and toddlers outdoors: a narrative review of the literature on provision for under twos in ECEC settings Early Years

Kemp, N. and Scoffham, S. (2021), "The paradox model: towards a conceptual framework for engaging with sustainability in higher education", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education,

Read the midway project findings. Interim report 'From weeds to Tiny Flowers' published in October 2023