ECHO is committed to providing the best resources available. Our collection of resources is curated to provide the most up-to-date reports, toolkits, research, and other information about connecting children to nature.

Nature Play Books & Guides

Get inspired! Learn how to create healthy, natural, and dynamic play spaces for young children.

How-To Guides / Guías de instrucciones

Developed by the National Wildlife Federation, these How-To Guides provide all the information you need to get started on building select components for your outdoor learning environment.

Components & Settings

Seed Starting Guides

Other Guides

Research Brief: Impact of Naturalized Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Environments

This Research Brief was created by the Natural Learning Initiative to highlight the importance of bringing nature play and learning to every community. It identifies several ways naturalized outdoor learning environments, or natural play and learning places, benefit children's physical health, social-emotional growth, cognitive growth, and more. 

Offsite Play and Learning Resource Guide

This guide was created through a collaboration between the National Wildlife Federation's ECHO initiative and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to help Colorado communities extend outdoor play and learning opportunities beyond the boundaries of home or center-based child care settings. It is intended to help child care providers think through the steps required to safely and successfully take young children off-site.

Naturalized Outdoor Learning Environment Stewardship Guidelines | Colorado

These guidelines were created through a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative to help communities manage and maintain their naturalized outdoor learning environments. It is intended for those working to engage children, youth, and families with nature and natural processes in the places of everyday life.

Playing by the Rules | Colorado

A Practitioner's Guide to Rules, Regulations, and Rating Systems for Outdoor Learning Environments in Colorado Child Care Facilities

Nature Play at Home / Juegos en la naturaleza en casa

Developed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative, this guide shows easy, affordable ways you can turn your backyard or other types of domestic outdoor spaces into vibrant nature play spaces for children so they can reap the physical and mental benefits of playing outside. Creating natural play opportunities can be part of the solution to increasing the amount of time kids spend in the great outdoors for the health of their minds, bodies, and spirits.

Download the full Nature Play at Home guide above, or select a nature play space from our individual guides below:

Nature Play & Learning Places

These National Guidelines were created through a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative to bring nature play and learning to every community. It is intended for those who create, manage, or promote the development of nature in the everyday environments of children, youth, and families, especially in urban/suburban communities.

Download the full Nature Play and Learning Places book above, or read through Chapter 6 - Risk Management, below:

Funding Resources

ECHO Grants

Nationwide Grants

Colorado Grants

Nature Play Programs

Natural Learning Initiative

Through environmental design assistance, professional development, research, and education, the Natural Learning Initiative promotes the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children. Visit their Green Desk for activities, tips, and other information about creating high quality, healthy outdoor environments for young children.

Children & Nature Network

The Children & Nature Network connects children, their families, and their communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration, and support of grassroots leadership.

National Wildlife Federation Programs

Garden for Wildlife

By creating habitat for wildlife, people can build a daily connection to the natural world, literally just outside their door.

Schoolyard Habitats

Schools can create and restore wildlife habitat on school grounds while providing outdoor classrooms for learning across curricula. 

Butterfly Heroes

By pledging to create new habitats for monarch butterflies, Butterfly Heroes are bringing awareness to the declining monarch population and connecting gardeners, kids, and families to help monarchs and other pollinators.

Ranger Rick Kids

For more than 50 years, Ranger Rick publications have inspired children to connect with wildlife and the great outdoors through a wide range of outdoor activities that are both fun and explorative.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More