“She’s only two": Parents and educators as gatekeepers of children’s opportunities for nature-based risky play

Laura McFarland, Shelby Gull Laird

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Exploration of the natural world begins in infancy and is a vital part of a childhood that includes rich nature-based experiences. Children need opportunities to take age-appropriate risks in natural outdoor settings. The social ecology model suggests that children’s experiences are influenced by a variety of contexts in their environment. As such, adults often act as gatekeepers of children’s nature-based risky play opportunities, either promoting or restricting such experiences, within cultural and regulatory contexts. Therefore, a greater understanding of early childhood educators’ and parents’ attitudes and practices in relation to nature-based risky play for children is needed. Even though there are a variety of possible dangers inherent in the exploration of nature, it is natural that children are drawn to these experiences regardless of the safety concerns of modern parents. This Chapter takes an ecological systems and cross-cultural approach to discuss the role that nature-based risky play has in children’s exploration of the natural world, its importance in quality early childhood education (ECE), and its benefits. The authors draw on studies of parents and early childhood educators from Australia and the United States to explore perspectives and practices related to the provision of opportunities for children to engage in nature-based risky play. Beyond the typical discussion of implications for research and practice, further insights are given for parents and educators alike on the ways in which outdoor risky play can be promoted, with a focus on connecting children with the natural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch handbook on childhoodnature
Subtitle of host publicationAssemblages of childhood and nature research
EditorsAmy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Karen Malone, Elisabeth Barratt Hacking
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319672861
ISBN (Print)9783319672854
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Mar 2020

Publication series

NameSpringer International Handbooks of Education
ISSN (Print)2197-1951
ISSN (Electronic)2197-196X


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