ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Children's Participation(Barnardos, 2021) BarnardosEarlier this year, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth (DCEDIY) published the National Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making. The Framework, underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is based on the child-rights model of participation developed by Professor Laura Lundy, Queens University, which provides guidance for decision-makers on the steps to take in giving children and young people a meaningful voice in decision-making. The Framework is to be much welcomed as it plays an important role in ensuring that Ireland is a country where all children and young people are respected and listened to, and where the views of children and young people are at the heart of government decision-making. It is also an important tool at individual level in ensuring that each child’s views are considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her. The first article in this issue of ChildLinks gives an overview of the Framework, including the context and background to its development, and considers key initiatives from Hub na nÓg, a national centre of excellence and coordination on giving children and young people a voice in decision-making, on the future implementation of the Framework. The following article looks at the development of Barnardos own Participation Framework, which also embraces the Lundy Model of Participation. The Barnardos Framework is based on a vision that seeks to embed a culture of participation across all functions within the organisation by establishing a set of key objectives and activities to inform all levels of participation and consultation involving children, young people, parents and adult service users. Further articles in this issue consider the participation of our youngest citizens and how this can be embedded in early childhood education and care in Ireland. In the first of these, Sandra O’Neill of Dublin City University identifies some of the critiques levelled against the implementation of participation rights in ECEC settings to date, and explores recent empirical research to provide examples of how the UNCRC has inspired changes to practice in these settings. Better Start, the National Early Years Quality Development service, then consider children’s participation and The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM). AIM, which provides targeted supports, enables settings to cater for the individual needs of children with disabilities, promoting their active participation into the ECCE programme and ensuring each child has a voice. Finally, Dr Sheila Long, Programme Director of Professional Social Care Practice, Institute of Technology Carlow, seeks to initiate a dialogue between stakeholders to illuminate how Higher Education contexts can strengthen their role as sites of children’s rights education as an effective way of teaching about child participation while also responding flexibly to an ever-changing legal and policy context. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Nature-based Preschools(Barnardos, 2021) BarnardosSpending time in natural outdoor environments offers many positive physiological and psychological benefits for us all, reducing stress and increasing our general feeling of well-being. For children, the opportunities for physical exercise and outdoor play that natural environments offer impact positively on all facets of development including gross and fine motor skills, cognitive development, co-ordination, memory, language development, and communication and social skills. Free outdoor play in nature also increases children’s confidence and independence, and offers opportunities for children to persevere, take risks and solve problems, as well as nurturing their curiosity and enhancing their innate love of nature. In today’s world, many young children have limited opportunities for free outdoor play, instead spending time engaged in structured and supervised activities and, in particular during recent Covid restrictions, indoors using electronic devices of one kind or another. For some children, their local area may have little or no natural outdoor space for play, and playgrounds with manufactured equipment do not offer the rich play and learning environments that allow children to experience the vegetation, animals, insects, water, sand and mud the natural outdoors offers. Indeed, the outdoor area of their early learning and care setting may provide some young children with the only outdoor play opportunities they experience. In this issue of ChildLinks we look at nature-based preschools, where children spend most of their time engaged in free-play outdoors in a natural setting. Natural environments are the ideal place for children to develop the confidence and skills to explore, take on new challenges and test their theories about how the world works. In articles from Ireland, Lesley McIvenna from DCU considers how the outdoors provides opportunities for children to learn through play, movement, and communication and sensory experiences on a much larger scale outdoors in nature, as well as allowing children to explore and experience the natural world. Two providers of Irish preschools then outline how children thrive in their nature-based settings, eating, relaxing, playing and exploring outdoors in all weathers. Finally, Joan Whelan from the Irish Forest School Association outlines the history and development of Forest Schools in Ireland and how these work in practice, explaining how they offer positive outcomes for children’s learning and development. Also in this issue, researchers from the US outline how nature preschools can help cultivate a successful transition from preschool to school while other international articles consider how sustainability education can be cultivated in nature-based early childhood programmes and how a socially- and ecologically conscious critical pedagogy can be applied to nature-based programmes in early childhood care and education.