Jumping in Sidewalk Puddles

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Abstract

In early childhood education (ECE), the promotion of children’s interactive relationships with the natural world is a crucial first step in teaching about concepts such as sustainability and environmentalism. Although many children’s experiences in and with nature during the early years of life include daycare or school field trips beyond city limits, locating the more-than-human within urban environments also offers unique, accessible, and enriching opportunities for ecological learning. Expanding on previous place-based and decolonizing environmental education (EE) research, this literature review discusses the ways in which eco-pedagogical practices can be made developmentally relevant to very young children, and especially toddlers. By allowing children the opportunity to explore urban environments and the more-than-human components within these spaces, early childhood educators and caregivers can rely on ever-emerging, teachable moments to foster children’s interest in and love for the natural world. In the current context of the global climate crisis—and as the responsibility for innovative, creative, and sustainable solutions to these problems disproportionately fall to younger generations—the field of ECE must prioritize eco-pedagogical and social justice approaches to learning. Supporting children’s developing relationships with the more-than-human creatures alongside whom they live, learn, and play in urban environments therefore offers transformative potential for teaching about sustainability during early childhood.