Early Years

Early years educators play an invaluable role in ensuring young children are active participants in living sustainably

preschoolers on a bushwalk through rainforest palms

Experiences in the early years provide an opportunity for life strong learning, that our habits of future years will be influenced by the actions of those around us now who help us to see, to feel, to question and to value our world (NSW ECEEN, 2022)

Early childhood education for sustainability is understood to be ‘a transformative and empowering process actively engaged in by children, families and educators who share an ecocentric worldview’ (Elliott, 2014). A holistic approach to early childhood EfS involves sustainable practices, people and pedagogy. 

EE NSW aims to bring together interested people to instigate and implement early childhood education for sustainability (ECEfS) in early childhood settings, contact us if you are joining our early childhood working group.  

EE NSW is supporting early childhood educators through:

  • professional learning seminars and conferences
  • good practice case studies
  • advocacy and engagement in cross sectoral strategies


Australian immersive nature play programs (INPPs), sometimes known as ‘bush kinder’ or ‘nature play’, are when children are provided with the opportunity to engage in child led and adult guided play in nature. A fundamental feature of INPPs is that children and educators spend long uninterrupted  periods of time on a regular basis in natural settings outside the usual service. Some programs might prefer having children and educators in one designated space, while others might prefer that educators and children walk to a destination, with playful interludes along the way (Hughes et al., 2021). Children experience new ways of connecting with each other and nature.

There is a strong research base to support the benefits of play in nature for children. Cited benefits include the following; health and  wellbeing; increased social, physical and language skills; increased motivation, concentration, creativity, resilience and confidence; deeper conceptual understandings and respect for the natural environment with early and meaningful connections perhaps leading to a stronger sense of sustainability later in life. Nature play also provides opportunities for children to connect in meaningful ways to First Nations Peoples perspectives and Western and Indigenous seasonal changes. 

Case studies
As part of the Take Me Outside NSW program, early childhood services shared their stories about how they were delivering immersive nature play programs. Every service and provider had a great story to tell, captured in these case studies. 

Supporting guidelines

Recent research and literature 

A professional learning support program Tackling waste in your early childhood service was delivered as part of the 2019 – 21 Midwaste Green Leaders program, supported by Return and Earn.

If you are an educator looking to refuse, reduce and reuse waste in your service, these online resources may be useful

Waste audit tools

Disposable & cloth nappies


Case studies 

NSW ECEEN have shared these case studies, developed as part of their EcoSmart program

Native Bee Hives: Balgownie & Hospital Hill 
Sustainable Gardens: Bonnyrigg HeightsJanice Crosio ELC
Community Gardens: Cabramatta & Short St
Wildthings: Casula
Playground to Plate: Kids Uni, UOW

NSW networks 

NSW Early Years Nature Connections 

Nature Play NSW 

NSW Early Childhood Environmental Education Network: ECEEN evolved from an early childhood advisory group established by the NSW Environment Protection Authority in 2003 to support environmental education in the early childhood sector. This voluntary network was incorporated in 2007, bringing together interested people and organisations to promote the paramount importance of integrating environmentally sustainable education into all facets of young children’s lives. The network engaged in advocacy, support and delivered a range of sustainability projects and professional learning opportunities. In 2022, the network wound up and will now operate as a special interest group within Early Childhood Australia NSW. The work of ECEEN will continue via regional ECA groups.

Across Australia 

Early Childhood Environmental Education, Victoria

Queensland Early Childhood Sustainability Network, Queensland

Early Education for Sustainability SA, South Australia

Little Green Steps WA, Western Australia

Sustainability Centre Hobart, Tasmania

Australian Early Childhood Sustainability Alliance 


Visit our online directory Sustainability Connect to find people or organisations that can support your sustainability education goals.