Who is John the Snail and When Can We Meet Him?: Parent Perspectives on Children’s Engagement in a Forest Nature Program


forest nature program
early childhood
risky play


This study explores parent perspectives on how time spent in nature and natural settings, including their own experiences with the natural world, might influence their child’s play, learning and holistic development and connections in and to the natural world. Through a survey and focus group, parents identified benefits of participation in a forest nature program including increased time outdoors, play confidence, risk-taking opportunities, improved health, wellness and the developing seeds of environmental stewardship and reciprocity. Parents reported that benefits far outweighed risks related to weather, insects and injuries. The study’s findings strongly support The Ontario Ministry of Education’s pedagogical guidelines for the early years and national and global recommendations that advocate for active play in nature and outdoors, with its risks, as essential for healthy child development. The research contributes to the expanding literature and efforts on how best to collectively support and advocate for accessible land-based programs in the early years. 

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