Children Thrive Outside

Thank you for joining our virtual webinar hosted in partnership with New America. Find the full recording, a recap of key takeaways and actions you can take below!



Children Thrive Outside: Improving Outdoor Quality in America’s Child Care System

We stand at a critical moment for our planet and the future of our children. With major decisions and investments being made that will affect generations of children, the time is ripe for an innovative strategy that improves childhood development outcomes, supports the child care workforce, puts equity at the core, and improves habitats for kids and nature. Thankfully, such a strategy is literally at our fingertips and can be accessible to all young children with targeted policies, investments, and support. 

Recently, nearly a thousand registrants for the webinar Children Thrive Outside: A New Day for Outdoor Play in Child Care showed enthusiastic support for enhancing and activating outdoor spaces in child care settings. Expert speakers from around the U.S. summarized the research, illuminated examples of successful site enhancements, and discussed policy solutions by federal and state agencies.

Debbie Gray, Speaker for New America Webinar with ECHO

The discussion reinforced that the facilitation and activation of quality outdoor learning environments, and the policies to support them, is already happening around the country on multiple scales: in urban outdoor spaces covered in asphalt, in state policies in Texas, and in guidance given to Head Start programs around the U.S. But the work is just beginning, and together, we can take immediate steps to bring the benefits of nature-based play and learning to every young child - every day, everywhere.

Kim Shaw, Speaker for New America Webinar with ECHO

For Child Care Professionals: Start the journey to transform and activate your outdoor setting by taking an ECHO training, accessing our resources, or pursuing a certificate with the Natural Learning Initiative. With some know-how, a small investment, and support from your community, anyone can make incremental changes that will transform the daily experiences of the children in your care. To learn how ECHO may support your work, sign up for our newsletter here. 

For Policy-Makers and Agencies: Learn more about how safe outdoor play can be compatible with child care rules, regulations, and standards (see example from Colorado here). Incorporate outdoor quality improvements when setting child care quality standards and regulations, identifying funding priorities, and investing in facilities and workforce development. These Head Start Program recommendations, which prioritize nature-based outdoor learning and play, serve as a great example. 

For Parents and Families: Support your children and yourselves by spending time outside all year long, and consider using our Nature Play at Home guide to bring the benefits of nature into the daily lives of your kids and all the adults they spend time with.

For Advocates and Supporters: Join a growing network of advocates who want their federal, state, and local decision-makers to ensure that increased access to quality child care includes high-quality outdoor learning environments. 

Together, we have a unique opportunity to create a paradigm shift that embraces and instills nature-based, high-quality outdoor learning in a reimagined early childhood system. With your help we can bring together advocates from all areas of expertise to  create the conditions for healthy children, healthy communities, and a healthy planet.

Please get in touch with us at to discuss advocacy initiatives, policy improvements, collaborations or partnerships, interest in design assistance and anything in between. We want to hear from you and work together to bring nature to all young children. 

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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.

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