Skip to content

In many classrooms in England, teachers are struggling to prioritise the nurturing of children’s personality, as recommended in Article 29(1a) in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that the education of the child should support the development of personality, talents and mental and physical abilities. This reflective piece discusses how teachers can explore the development of relationships and consider how this affects pedagogical preferences and practices as they become aware of the uniqueness of each child.

At a time where there is a global drive towards future targets with the constant obsession to categorise children according to a numerical score (Bradbury & Roberts-Holmes, 2017; Batra, 2013), we have systems that do not appreciate children for who they are but rather for who they might become in order to fit into a prescriptive agenda (Holloway & Santori, 2024; Campos Martinez et al., 2022). These pressures can often mean that the spontaneous demonstrations of cariño, a term that refers to the implicit emotional responses such as care, fondness, affection, kindness, endearment and attachment that can occur during interactions (indoors or outdoors); can often be disguised and, as a result, undervalued, as suggested by Blanco-Bayo (2022).

‘We have systems that do not appreciate children for who they are but rather for who they might become in order to fit into a prescriptive agenda.’

It is important to remain mindful of the inadvertent learning that can take place and could leave children feeling as though they are not enough by being who they are (Hanson, 2017; Qvortrup, 2004). For example, a comment from an educator who does a height chart and praises children for getting taller, only sympathising with those who have not, could lead to children feeling inadequate. These types of responses highlight the absence of care within educational practices which values each child’s personality. Outdoor learning could be a vehicle for equity in terms of providing children (and educators) with educational experiences in and with nature (Mann et al., 2021). In the post-Covid-19 pandemic era, there is even more evidence to suggest that children’s limited outdoor experiences reduced their affinity with nature (Friedman, et al., 2023). It has, therefore, become paramount to offer children opportunities to access natural spaces, ranging from wild to remote to urban on their doorstep, to enhance children’s socio-emotional development (Lanza et al., 2023).

While safeguarding policies are crucial to ensure all children are protected from harm (DfE, 2023), as outlined in UNCRC Article 19(1), it is also important to recognise that the caring relationships between children and educators could be characterised where cariño is present. Drawing from Reyes’s (2020) perspective regarding the importance of positive relationships that can healthily develop between children and teachers, there is a prudent call to actively and respectfully advocate for the implementation of relational pedagogies, that acknowledge the impact of the spontaneous bonds in daily interactions. This type of relational pedagogy that can happen in the outdoors becomes a nurturing process of emotional labour where the educator and the child, both, give and receive the emotional reward, as cariño is organically exchanged (Ortiz-Ocaña, 2013). Exposure to nature could offer teachers the chance to focus on respecting children’s right to be loved as true value is placed on the flourishing of individual personality, talents and mental and physical abilities.


Batra, S. (2013). The psychosocial development of children: Implications for education and society – Erik Erikson in Context. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 10(2), 249–278.

Blanco-Bayo, A. (2022). CARIÑO IS THE PEDAGOGY: Assessing 4-year-olds whilst making sense of their behaviours: An analysis of policy and practice [PhD, Lancaster University].

Bradbury, A., & Roberts-Holmes, G. (2017). The datafication of primary and early years education: Playing with numbers. Routledge.

Campos Martinez, J., A. Falabella, J. Holloway, & D. Santori. (2022). Anti-standardization and testing opt-out movements in education: Resistance, disputes and transformation. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30(132).

Department for Education [DfE]. (2023). Working together to safeguard children. A guide to multi-agency working to help, protect and promote the welfare of children.

Friedman, S., Imrie, S., Fink, E., Gedikoglu, M., & Hughes, C. (2022). Understanding changes to children’s connection to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for child well-being. People and Nature, 4(1), 155–165.

Hanson, K. (2017). Embracing the past: ‘Been’, ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ children. Childhood, 24(3), 281–285.

Holloway, J., & Santori, D. (2024). Legitimising capital: Parent organisations and their resistance to testing in England. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 36, 277–294.  

Lanza, K., Alcazar, M., Chen, B., & Kohl, H. W. (2023). Connection to nature is associated with social-emotional learning of children. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 4, 100083.

Mann, J., Gray, T., Truong, S., Sahlberg, P., Bentsen, P., Passy, R., Ho, S., Ward, K., & Cowper, R. (2021). A systematic review protocol to identify the key benefits and efficacy of nature-based learning in outdoor educational settings. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1199.

Ortiz-Ocaña (2013). Pedagogía del amor y la felicidad. Bogotá: Ediciones la U.

Qvortrup, J. (2004). Editorial: The waiting child. Childhood, 11(3), 267–273.

Reyes, G. (2020). Borderland pedagogies of cariño: Theorizing relationships of care from teacher practice with Latina mothering students. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 1–14.