DENVER, Colo. – The National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO), in partnership with the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) at North Carolina State University, has released strategies and considerations for both child care providers and regulators to maximize and improve the use of outdoor spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. These resources provide a set of tools for improving outdoor play spaces at child care centers, pre-kindergartens and other places young children spend time, while advocating for policy and regulations that support the health of children, providers and families.
“Public health officials have found consensus that time outside reduces risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission. This pandemic has highlighted not only the need for more time outside for young children, but for guidance and support for providers on how to utilize these spaces safely,” said Sarah Konradi, ECHO program director. “From sanitizing outdoor play materials to keeping the space engaging and more, these strategies aim to inspire and empower caregivers to feel confident in bringing learning outdoors through low-cost and actionable considerations.”
For Child Care Providers
While the immediate and long-term benefits of time outside in child care settings are clear, the large majority of child care facilities are not designed to support long durations of outside time with young children and their providers. The child care provider recommendations share strategies that immediately enhance child care outdoor spaces by promoting healthy, comfortable and engaging best practices.
Download the full child care provider recommendations.
For Child Care Regulators
Child care regulators play a critical role in keeping children and providers healthy. To support this role, the child care regulator recommendations provides tactics that policy-makers and regulators can utilize to support regular time outside for the immediate and long-term health of young children and their caregivers.
Download the full child care regulator recommendations.
"Substantial research shows the multitude of physical and psychological benefits gained by children and adults from being outdoors engaged with nature. The pandemic strongly underscores outside as a healthier option – and necessity for child care programs – to reduce the risk of transmission,” said Robin Moore, director of the Natural Learning Initiative. “Strategies and ideas are needed to help caregivers take confident action to diversify and naturalize their outdoor spaces, guided by supportive regulations that help define a clear path towards safe, healthy, engaging, natural, outdoor environments.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), spending more time outdoors is one of the highest priority strategies for reducing transmission of COVID-19 among younger children. Studies suggest that exposure to sunlight rapidly deactivates the virus in the air and on surfaces. Open-air spaces are less likely to concentrate the virus than confined indoor spaces and outdoor moving air disperses the virus, lowering the risk of transmission.
About Early Childhood Health Outdoors
Founded in 2017, Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) is a National Wildlife Federation program that collaborates with diverse communities to bring nature play and learning to young children and their families. Led by a team of landscape designers and early childhood experts, ECHO creates innovative outdoor designs that bring nature to the forefront of traditional rubber and plastic playgrounds and educates early childhood professionals on nature play best practices. Since its inception, ECHO has brought nature within reach to more than 10,000 children and trained more than 2,300 early childhood professionals in expanding nature play to their communities.
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