This study aims to explore a comprehensive understanding of children’s experiences of spirituality in two kindergartens in China and two early years settings in England
Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) addressed the importance of spirituality through his writing focusing on the Unity, which connects the child with family, community, humanity, nature, divinity and the wider unknown worlds (Froebel 1887, 1896, 1903). Religious thinking around Christianity is key part of Froebelian philosophy but Froebel’s ideas were at odds with the orthodoxy of the time. The essence of spiritual education in Froebelian tradition is the cultivation of holistic development of the child’s body, mind, feelings, aesthetic awareness, creativity, morality and engagement between the inner and outer (Best 2016). Bruce (2021) argues that Froebel’s concept of Unity is the key to the fact that freethinking educators are embracing Froebelian philosophy in practice and addresses the importance of further investigating spirituality in early childhood across cultural contexts, where educators might either have different religions or none.
Spirituality is an important dimension of young children’s holistic development linking to autonomy, resilience, responsibility and wellbeing (Lin, 2014). Not addressing spirituality in schools deprives children of an important aspect of their learning experience as spiritual development can bring new understanding and relevance to various aspects of learning and life among children (Kirmania and Kirmanib, 2009). It is important to create safe learning environment and space, where children feel safe to speak, talk and express their feelings, wonderments, confusions and puzzlement about nature, faith, religion and the unknown aspects in their lives. This supports children to develop deeper, wider and diverse ways of thinking and understanding of the worlds around them (Stockinger 2019).
The proposed research by Fengling Tang at the University of Roehampton working in collaboration with Juan Zhao from Hebei University, China, aims to further explore the role of spirituality in supporting young children’s holistic learning and wellbeing in Chinese and English contexts. The research questions to guide this study are:
• What does spirituality mean to young children, practitioners and parents in Chinese and English contexts?
• What provisions are on offer in Chinese kindergartens and English early years settings to support young children’s spiritual development?
• How does spirituality support young children’s holistic learning and wellbeing?
• How do practitioners and parents see challenges and obstacles in practising spiritual education in Chinese and English contexts?