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

A research project exploring outdoor provision in baby rooms in nursery settings in England.

Research exploring outdoor provision for children from birth to two attending baby rooms in nursery settings. This research reveals that whilst the pedagogic potential of the outdoors for babies and toddlers appears to be generally recognised, there is little emphasis on supporting them to engage with the natural characteristics of the outdoor environment.

Project summary

Developing high quality ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) provision for young children remains high on the political agenda in England (Bilton et al., 2016).

However, there is a lack of research into babies’ access to the outdoors when they are being cared for in ECEC settings despite increasing public concern about young children’s connection and relationship with the natural world. This is particularly the case for children living in areas of disadvantage. The recently published environment plan (DEFRA, 2018) recognises inequitable access to outdoor and natural environments and tasks schools and educational settings with addressing this.

Whilst there is considerable literature on outdoor learning experiences for 2-5 year olds, the nature and extent of provision for 0-2s is unknown with a dearth of research on the subject. Anecdotal and peripheral evidence (NICE, 2008; Bruce, 2012; Clare, 2012; Goouch and Powell, 2013) suggests that a concern identified by Jolley more than twenty years ago in the Netherlands may be extant in England today:

“often in group care situations, where a preschool also provides care for infants and toddlers, the available outside space is very limited…Infants and toddlers who are fortunate enough to attend a center offering a separate space for them outdoors, often spend little time in these areas because the activity choices to be found there are limited” (Jolley 1995:5).

The situation may be changing with the growth of nature and outdoor nurseries but little or no research evidence exists.

The project explored outdoor provision for 0-2s attending baby rooms in nursery settings. This focus chimes with the centrality of outdoor learning in Froebelian education traditions (Tovey, 2012; Read 2012; Werth 2018). In addition to a review of literature, the research involved an audit of environments and explored practices in settings in the county of Kent, which has diverse geography and demography and includes some of the highest levels of socio-economic deprivation in the South East of England.


In December 2019, the findings of a review of international literature was published in the journal Early Years (Kemp & Josephidou 2021). The full text of the article is free to download.

In October 2021, an article by the researchers was published in the European Early Childhood Education Research Journal: Outdoor provision for babies and toddlers: exploring the practice/policy/research nexus in English ECEC settings

In July 2023, Early Years, international research journal, published the researchers' paper: Creating spaces called hope: the critical leadership role of owner/managers in developing outdoor pedagogies for infants and toddlers

Research update

'Developing nature engaging and enhancing pedagogies with infants and toddler' An article for the The Open University by Dr Jo Josephidou, Feb 2023

Read the article
Dr Jo Josephidou & Dr Nicola Kemp share findings from their research exploring outdoor provision for children from birth to two attending baby rooms in nursery settings during a Froebel Trust webinar held in March 2021.

Online course

A free OpenLearn Course has been developed from the project's findings - 'Young children, the outdoors and nature'

After completing this free Open Uinversity online course, you should be able to:

- understand how to develop outdoor opportunities for babies and toddlers

- consider how to develop outdoor opportunities in practice

- describe and discuss some of the key aspects of Friedrich Froebel’s principles and how they inform ideas about outdoor play

- identify the barriers to babies and toddlers engaging with the outdoors and nature and consider how to overcome these barriers.

You can find out more about the course (launched July 2023) via the Open University.

An introduction to the OU OpenLearn Course based on this research project

Download the project reports

Report 1 Where are the babies
Report 2 Making connections with their world
FT Nature Campaign Logo RGB

Developing an ECEC response to the global environmental crisis

A special research report, commissioned by the Froebel Trust, to explore Froebel’s ideas about children and nature in the context of the 21st century emergency in climate change and biodiversity. Published in December 2022.

The researchers (Dr Jo Josephidou, Dr Nicola Kemp and Dr Tansy Watts) outline a new ‘nature engaging and nature enhancing’ (NENE) pedagogy for early childhood education and care.

The report includes practical ways that educators can adopt a Froebelian-inspired NENE pedagogy in their school or setting. The concept was derived from their Froebel Trust funded project ‘A life in and with nature in the period of earliest childhood: understanding provision for 0-2s in English babyrooms.’

Download the report for free
FT NENE Pedagogy report Dec 2022