The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children, has revised their Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) position statement to define a child’s need for daily “opportunities to interact with the outdoor world” (2009. p. 17).  This crucial interaction with nature however is definitely not contemporary knowledge.  Friedrich Froebel understood this need when he founded the first ever Kindergarten in 1837


Froebel believed highly in the value of children’s nature experiences and began creating his idea for the children’s garden based on the ideas of Rousseau and Pestalozzi.  Froebel took Pestalozzi’s principals of observation and combined them with actions, specifically through inventive activities (Marenholtz-Buelow, 1887, para. 1).   From the beginning, Froebel’s Kindergarten was always within nature, a garden of streams, trees and natural areas devoted specifically for young children (Johnson, Christie & Wardle, 2005, p. 362).

Urie Bronfenbrenner, the father of Head Start, looked at a child’s development within a system of relationships that make up the child’s environment, his Ecological Systems Theory.  All four different systems within this theory, Microsystem, Mesosystem, Exosystem and Macrosystem, relate in part to the outdoor environment.  Within his theory, Bronfenbrenner proposed that development is influenced by all of these systems collectively.  Meaning that a child’s opportunity to experience nature is effected by his family, his school, and his community (1998). 

Here at Little Tot's we highly value the outdoors and provide significant time each day for children to play in our natural outdoor classroom.  A founding principal at Little Tot’s has always been that children have the right to learn and grow in a healthy natural environment which includes the opportunity to play and learn outdoors as well as indoors.  Experience and research have shown that there are a multitude of cognitive as well as physical, emotional and social benefits to experiencing natural outdoor settings.  It has also been found that children need that direct connection to the earth to restore wellbeing and peace in their minds. 


Johnson, J., Christie J., & Wardle, F. (2005).  Play, Development, and Early Education.  Pearson Education:  United States

Marenholtz-Buelow, B. (1887). Reminiscences of Froebel. Retrieved from

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving

Children from Birth through Age 8.  Retrieved from

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Children & Nature



In 2010, our proprietor Lisa Boni, began an action research study on the subject of the restorative effects of natural environments on children’s health and wellbeing.  This research led Lisa on to devote her time to reviewing literature on the topic, and ultimately to writing her master’s thesis on the subject of advocating for children’s right to freely experience green settings.  Below you will find various resources for parents centered around our philosophy here at Little Tot's.

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