Health Care for ECD

We love emergent curriculum in nature-based programs. But even emergent approaches require some element of planning. Now is the time to explore ways to plan and document learning that are dynamic and motivating inside, outside and beyond!

Join international early childhood natural program expert Dr Claire Warden to learn out how to embrace and support emergent curriculum with responsive planning, documentation, and family engagement. This exciting session will include how to overcome some of the barriers and challenges program leaders often encounter when leading nature-based programs. Dr. Warden will share the magic of her unique Floorbooks™ approach.

And it’s not just my kids. I swap stories with other parents, and we all see the same thing. Everything is fluid and expansive to these kids — their identities, their vocabularies. But when it comes to adolescent development, they’re like players on the bench. They’re sitting this one out.

Something’s going on with Gen Z, we whisper. They know so much; they do so little. What’s wrong with them?

Nothing, according to Haley Stephens, PhD. In fact, in her mind, they’re “brilliant and resilient.” I spoke with her to try and understand this conclusion.


Our kids seem reluctant to bust out into the world, learn to drive, seek adventure. Left to their own devices — quite literally — they’ll steep in the glow of their phones for hours.

They use labels that didn’t exist when we were high school: neurodivergent, pansexual, nonbinary. They call out toxic masculinity and structural racism.

While their vocabulary to describe forces of politics and culture is sophisticated and worldly, they seem content to stay in their bedrooms, watching from a safe distance. “Are they ever going to leave?” my wife groans.

We’re confounded. When we were 16, we couldn’t wait to drive. Gen X adults remember early years of risk-taking and pushing against our parents’ rules, with equal parts ruefulness and wistfulness.

None of us want our kids to go against the rules. But experimentation shaped who we are. When we were kids, we had to go through rough times. Rites of passage tested the mettle of our beliefs. We look at our children and worry they’ll never break out of the cocoon if they never break anything. We wonder what we’ve done wrong. Or that something’s wrong with this generation.

When I talk to Stephens, she laughs in recognition. “I couldn't wait to get my license. I couldn't wait to get my first job. And I was just so excited for these things.”

Like me, interacting with teens makes her feel “like that old grumpy person. I push myself to reframe my thoughts and contextualize.”

She gives me the bigger picture.


Most parents have witnessed their kids’ physical developments happening faster than expected. Which makes it all the more confusing to find that “kids are socially and behaviorally developing more slowly,” Stephens says. “They're less likely to want to hit milestones.”

Fewer teens are:

Getting part-time jobs
-Having sex
-Drinking alcohol
-Learning to drive
-Why? A shift in demographics and parenting. We’re different and the way we parent is different, so our kids are different.

“A slow life development is more common when families have fewer children, more time to cultivate each child's growth and development. Families now have 2 children on average. We structure opportunities for them to prepare them for college. Organized sports are starting earlier,” Stephens says. “And so it makes sense that our children are not hitting the milestones at the same pace.”

Stephens contrasts this to the mid-20th century, when the average woman had 4 kids. Parents “had a lot less time to devote to each child’s development. Kids were on their own. So they moved faster through these milestones.”

Slower maturation has positives, like a lower teen pregnancy rate. We tell our teens to slow down — and they are.

“They’re slowing down, and they're in less of a hurry to do the kind of anxiety-provoking things that adults do,” Stephens says.

“And by the way,” she adds. “We’re finding these trends to be true across economic and social spectrums. This isn’t just a white, upper middle-class phenomenon.”


My 16-year-old started 9th grade in her bedroom. All her extracurricular activities shut down. She seemed to emotionally shut down, too.

Stephens explains that quarantine and virtual schooling in the COVID-19 pandemic distanced teens from their peers. It caused barriers to social development that slowed down teen maturation.

“Even if they wanted to get their driver's license, they couldn’t,” she says. And anyone already reluctant to do new things had a built-in reason not to.

The rashness that characterized my teen years is absent from my daughter’s because she hasn’t had the same opportunities.

Stephens explains why teens tend to be impetuous. “Teenagers are still developing their prefrontal cortex. Their brains are still in a stage of rapid growth. We know that often in adolescence, the gas comes before the brakes in terms of decision making. And that phenomenon is exacerbated when peers are around each other. And during the height of the pandemic, teens had fewer opportunities to be together.”


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