How can going for a walk in early childhood education and care be interconnected with rights and democracy?

Research output: Other contributionBlog


Have you ever thought about how early childhood services, including schools, nurseries or children’s centres “are portals into the community” (Cameron and Moss, 2020: 226)? That was one of the provocations from Professor Peter Moss’s edited book that we discussed at our recent online reading group. At Edge Hill University we host a research network that foregrounds the agency and rights of children and part of that means hosting online reading groups. In May of this year, we looked at some of the chapters of this edited text and Peter kindly joined us to think about some of these provocations and bigger political questions around early childhood and democracy. One point that really resonated through the discussion was about the significance of educational experiences that are rooted into local communities.

It made us think about how experiences that we take for granted in our everyday practice that engage with places, things and experiences really matter. Simple things such as walking to the local park, making connections with local shops and services or even walking to the post box with letters to send to family members are all everyday thrilling adventures when you are a little child. But they are also doing bigger work. All these seemingly mundane activities are packed with social capital and can enable early childhood education and care to feel rooted into communities that open the potential to, “connect diverse groups, which is essential for expanding networks and opportunities, and so promote social inclusion and cohesion” (Cameron and Moss, 2020: 226). Sharing common experiences that build connections and promote the fostering of listening to children is a valuable everyday lived experience (Moss et al. 2005).

Whenever you see and feel a locality with young children, you notice things they notice, and this offers an opportunity for them to share what is important to them, like the way to their grandparents’ house, or the little cat they spy over a wall or a puddle with a whole world of splashy excitement. They are a way for children to share the places they come from and an opportunity to revel in what they already know about the places they live. Tuning into children’s talk helps foreground their voice in expressing how they think and feel that are all characteristic of Article 12 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989).

Learning beyond the classroom does so many important things. It empowers children to feel confident about their place in the world and their sense of identity that closely links to general comment 7 of the UNCRC (United Nations, 2005). In this way, we see early childhood as a public service that is widely inter-connected with belonging. Such interconnections bring the realisation that education has a long and significant relationship with ideas related to social inclusion, community coherence, children’s rights and democracy itself. Education here goes hand in hand with care and, the space where they both meet might just be what makes the interconnections meaningful beyond the demands of curriculum policy (Moss and Mitchell, 2024).

When you go for a walk, you might find that learning moves beyond what can be predicted. What is left is room for children themselves to foreground their way of seeing and sensing the world as protagonists and agents of their own lives. In making room for children to explore beyond what is planned for, other opportunities can arise through those spontaneous relationships that unexpectedly happen (Rouse and Hadley, 2018). This culminates in nurturing an ethos that goes beyond the curriculum and embraces ideas of children as citizens, the value of early childhood, home learning environment and the place of community in children’s lives.

So, what are you waiting for? Not only does going for a walk offers co-constructed educational experiences it is so much more. It is worth the time spent with risk assessments because it opens pedagogy outside of walls and allows children (and educators) vital time and space that is so often marginalised by a transmissive pedagogy and ‘school readiness’ agendas (Clark, 2022).

You can relisten to the reading group with Peter, along with staff, students and participants all in dialogue about early childhood as a site of rights, agency and democracy. Please come and join our CARE research network future events, whether you are a student, educator or researcher, they are free to attend, and you will get a great Lancashire welcome.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputWebsite
PublisherEdge Hill University
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2024

Research Groups

  • Children's Rights and Wellbeing Research Network


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