Froebel reminds us that children – like the rest of us – have a right and a desire to participate fully in life from the very beginning.

The young child feels already that he is a part of the whole world and belongs to the whole of Nature, and he wants to be recognised and treated as such.”

Froebel, cited in Lilley 1967: 38

In turn, practitioners, policy-makers and settings which deeply and responsively adapt their practices to continuously accommodate “the demands of children’s lives” will develop young citizens far better equipped for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.

Scotland’s Curriculum For Excellence offers us one important view of citizenship, based on the four capacities. However, as we have seen, to fully nurture these we must admit the ways children challenge us to make way for alternative ways of doing things. A Froebelian childhood not only embraces the four capacities, but goes wider:

Looking ahead

In enabling this full citizenship of children, from the beginning of their lives, we welcome in limitless perspectives and realities, wondering together about different needs and experiences, embracing creativity and diversity (and challenging coloniality) in the most concrete, non-tokenistic ways. We make critical thinking a lived experience, rather than a momentary exercise. We model openness of heart, hand and head. We set boundaries together, respectfully, rather than imposing them in ways that discount children’s agency. We honour AND rewrite our stories.

To do so well amid the day-to-day pressures of Early Learning and Childcare takes time, commitment and a willingness to challenge prevailing attitudes about children’s capacities. It means being clear that Article 12, the child's right to be heard about all matters which effect her or him, applies at all times, not just "when time allows". Equally, it asks us to welcome mistakes, show courage and take risks. It requires us to look again at our routines, policies and priorities, and to lead from the front – with children – in getting out of our comfort zones.

Children’s Participation, A Toolkit – Table of Contents

1. What is participation     2. Limits of participation    3. Children’s resistances    4. Children’s right to shape the world    5. New worlds     6. A co-learning community     7. A new kind of citizenship     8. Resources