Date of Submission



Over the past three decades, the term “spirituality” has been included in the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki (Te Whariki, 2017), the Australian Government’s Belonging, Being and Becoming: Early Years Learning Framework (Belonging, Being and Becoming: Early Years Learning Framework, 2009), and the Welsh Foundation Phase Framework (Early Years Team Department for Educations and Skills, 2015).

Despite the use of the term in these countries’ early childhood curriculum documents, little to no pedagogical assistance is given to early childhood educators in describing or defining spirituality that recognises children’s lived experience of spirituality, or further nurturing it once it is recognised. Due to this lack of guidance and support, many early childhood educators tend to ignore spirituality and focus on more easily identified and measurable aspects of education such as physical and mental development. In order to address this issue and explore the expressions of spirituality in young children, this research set out to identify and analyse children’s lived experience of spirituality within an early learning setting informed by the philosophical framework of Reggio Emilia and situated in a natural outdoor environment.

This qualitative case study drew upon the sociocultural theory of Lev Vygotsky, which posits that meaning arises and is constructed from interactions between individuals. A new framework of spirituality for early childhood education is proposed that draws upon Vygotsky’s (1998) concept of perezhivanie, a process of reflection and awareness following an event that can lead to transformation and growth in the child. Perezhivanie, combined with the practices of Reggio Emilia philosophy and the stimulated-recall process (Thomson, 2008), creates a robust and productive process with which to recognise and nurture the lived experience of young children’s spirituality in early childhood settings in ways that help educators meet curriculum requirements.

This thesis argues that spirituality is an important aspect of children’s growth and development and, when nurtured, can assist them in building increased levels of awareness of themselves, others, and the outside environment as well as help them to make meaning of and negotiate their identity.


Learning Sciences Institute Australia

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


227 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.