Why should access to early childhood education be prioritized during the pandemic?


PRESS RELEASE –  October 26th 2020

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of closing early childhood programs on the long-term well-being and development of children aged zero-six needs to be taken into more careful consideration.  In the immediate urgency to prevent the spread of the pandemic, long term risks and impacts are being ignored, whereas the benefits of such closures have not been able to be clearly demonstrated by emerging research.  The following arguments offer important points in support of keeping early childhood care programs open, so policymakers can take into account the specific needs of very young children. 

It is well established that the early childhood years from zero-six,  are an extremely important formative period for neurological development and life long well being.   During this period, positive, meaningful relationships, active play, and exploration are essential to children’s well-being and development.   

Already, studies in the past years from researchers around the world are finding evidence that screen time damages young children’s developmental outcomes.   The World Health Organisation officially recommend no more than an hour of screen time for children between 2-4, and that less is better. However,  with early childhood programs closed, many children are now be exposed to far more than these recommended limits. 

While online learning may be a viable option for older children that are able to work relatively independently, it is clearly not a developmentally appropriate option for the early years.  An NIH (National Institute of Health, USA) started in 2018, already has been collecting data that shows that children that spend more than two hours a day in front of screens score lower on language and thinking, and those spending more than seven hours daily experience a thinning of the brain’s cortex which is related to critical thinking and reasoning.  More importantly, the highly addictive, dopamine stimulating effect of games that have short reward feedback loops damages children’s neurological ability to develop patience, reduces their attention span and self-regulation abilities. 

Parents that cannot access early childhood services because of closures, must juggle work responsibilities with supervising their own children, often leading to increased exposures to screentime, or even leading to neglect. Many are not in a situation in which it is feasible to hire a nanny or involve grandparents. 

In addition, the closure of structured early childhood care options forces many parents to find ways of integrating their children into their work lives.  For example,  in  Bucharest, Romania, in the past week when kindergartens were closed, many parents were found bringing their children along with them to work, to go shopping, or to public playgrounds, all of which present a lot more risk factors than bringing their child to a stable early childhood environment that must carefully respect hygiene requirements.

Meanwhile, the rate of unemployment is much higher amongst women, who are disproportionately involved in childcare.  In Romania, two-thirds of those currently unemployed due to the pandemic are women. This has a negative economic impact on the country, but it also represents a backward step in obtaining greater gender equality in the workforce.

The period of the pandemic has created additional stress on vulnerable families that are already suffering from domestic violence, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or neglect.  Indeed, the number of cases of domestic violence has increased considerably since the beginning of 2020 until the present moment.  Closing childcare programs both reduces or eliminates the time away from a potential perpetrator while simultaneously increasing pressure on the volatile family units, putting such children at increased risk for traumatic experiences, or even potentially endangering their lives.

Keeping safe, appropriate early childhood care programs open during this period is essential for guaranteeing the long term well being of an entire generation of children.  Early childhood programs, that are strictly following the health recommendations for the prevention of the spread of the pandemic, offer a safer, more protected environment that ensures children’s overall development, than when they must stay at home in situations in which parents are not able to offer them the same level of attention, stimulation, and socialization available in a structured program. 

Indeed, there is a study from – Enric Alvarez in Spain analyzing data following the reopening of schools across five communities in Spain which did not find any consistent correlation with a spike in cases, as would be expected,   had the reopenings accelerated the spread.  A study from Yale University also did not find a higher rate of infections amongst early childhood care workers that continued to work with children in the first three months of the pandemic versus those that stayed at home.   As young children are at low risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID0-19,  these findings would seem to indicate that the benefits of face-to-face early childhood programs, especially in terms of long term impacts, may far outweigh any short term potential benefits in reducing the spread of the virus.

We request policymakers and the emergency committee in Bucharest to keep early childhood education programs open – not only daycare and after schools, but both public and private kindergartens, with, of course, all of the necessary hygienic precautions that have already been defined, and closures to happen on a case by case basis if hotspots emerge in a particular institution. 

For more details, you can contact:

Denise Deshaies

President of Neohumanist Education Association /






Video: Children in Permaculture

What is permaculture, why is it vital in the quest for viability on planet earth, and how can it play a key role in the education of children? This short video offers a succinct glimpse of the vision that guided the “Children in Permaculture” project, as well as introducing practical resources now available for free online.




First International Children in Permaculture Conference in Prague

The international Children in Permaculture conference was a great celebration of a learning journey, enriching teamwork, inspiring networking and a precious seed for the future steps.

This event which took place in Prague, Czech Republic 4-5 May 2018, brought together more than 150 people from different countries and fields, such as educators, school and kindergarten teachers, head teachers, permaculturists, trainers, children’s and outdoor learning NGO, families and children of course. Several Czech and international volunteers supported the conference with their active and lively contribution. All shared a dream of including children in permaculture and embedding its ethics and principles into education. Read More

New C.I.P. Manual ! Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share in Education

At last, after several years of intensive collaboration during the Erasmus Plus project “Children in Permaculture”  – the C.I.P. manual has been published!  “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share in Education”  was co-authored by Lusi Aldersrowe, Gaye Amus and Didi A. Devapriya (the president of the Neohumanist Association of Romania) but many more were involved in the three year process that included seven partner organizations from five countries – including the U.K., Romania, Slovenia, Czechoslavakia, Italy.
The manual is the fruit of a rich exchange of best practices and theory between permaculture experts, experienced practitioners of outdoor education, forest kindergarten leaders, educators and Neohumanist education experts.  The manual is now available in entirety online, as well as in printed form for participants in C.I.P. trainings!

The manual has received excellent reviews from  by some of the leading experts in the fields of outdoor education, nature education and permaculture  including Richard Louv, Dr. (Fil lic) Anders Szczepanski,  Rosemary Morrow, Janet Millington and Carolyn Nuttall. You can find more details below and in the manual itself:

Read More


Children in Permaculture Training


 A fresh, innovative approach to ecological education in the early years

  • Are you inspiring or educating children between 3-12 years old (as a teacher, parent, grandparent, child-care worker, etc)?
  • Do you love nature and want to find ways to share that passion with children?
  • Are you concerned about the future of the planet and want to be part of long-term, sustainable solutions?

This two day workshop offers practical tools for embedding ecological attitudes and love for nature into the education of young children Read More

CiP Peer Learning in Scotland!

The Children in Permaculture partners met in Scotland, in September 2017 for a practical peer-to-peer learning experience. Each partner organised a learning experience in the outdoors for children from the local schools of Gatehouse and Twynholm.  It was an opportunity to test out activities designed within the “Children in Permaculture” curriculum and receive feedback from peers, teachers and most importantly, the children.

Activities organised by the CiP team included creating a rainwater catchment system on a greenhouse, learning about birds, storytelling and play in the forest, puppet play, making a wormery and many more. Many of the successful activities will be included in the teacher’s manual that the team is busy editing.

The event was covered by the local newspaper:

cip news article

aen CIP erasmus plus logos


Video: Children in Permaculture Romania trip “It was the chance of a lifetime!”

As the group of 19 Scottish school children from the “Children in Permaculture” (CiP) project, all wearing matching green baseball hats, waited in the Otopeni airport in Bucharest for their delayed flight home, they decided to use the opportunity to interview each other about their experience over the previous five days in Romania.

“It was the chance of a lifetime,” enthused one of the boys, “I hope to come back, and meet all my friends again.”

“I really loved the Romania trip” another girl said, then proceeding to list her favorite memories of the trip.

“I got to learn a lot about permaculture and the ethics and principles. It was great fun!”

“I hope to come back with my family, because I think they would really like it too.”

What made the experience so memorable?

Every day was packed with learning through novel adventures, exploration and hands-on outdoor activities in nature.  It was not your typical touristic trip, visiting monuments and museums. Rather, the children had an experience from the “inside”, playing alongside Romanian children their own age at the “Fountain of Hope” afterschool center in Panatau, a small rural village in the mountains of Buzau county.

Read More


Article about Romanian Scottish School Trip in Green Report

From May 15- 19, the Neohumanist Education Association hosted an exchange experience for 30 children from Gatehouse and Tynholm Scotland, to learn more about permaculture and experience Romanian traditions and agriculture. The project was part of the “Children in Permaculture” project, funded by Erasmus Plus.

Ana Racheleanu published an article about the experience in Green Report.

aen CIP erasmus plus logos


YiP: Youth in Permaculture begins

Youth In Permacultue (YIP) is a new initiative to support and empower young people to create resilient, fulfilling and fun lives inspired by permaculture.  Didi represented AEN at the first visioning meeting in Spain with organisations from many different countries in Europe and beyond.

Encouraged by Children in Permaculture (CIP), young people involved in permaculture and leaders from the permaculture community gathered, creating a team from over eight countries to begin this exciting project.

We have a web page with resources, tools, opportunities, networks, youth projects and voices. We’ve begun the planning stage of organizing events, activities, workshops and exchange programs and will send out surveys to people interested in supporting this project. For more information visit

What is sociocracy?

Sociocracy is an easy to learn, systematic process for facilitating group dynamics that encourages full participation, shared responsibility and greater efficiency in decision making.  It is based on the idea that each of us has a valuable perspective, and that the best decisions find ways to include everyone in the process, thus drawing on the collective wisdom of the whole group. Sociocracy has been effectively utilized to run everything from international Erasmus projects, to eco-villages to an electric engineering company. Find out more here.