Mud kitchens, tricycle trails, vegetable gardens, shady reading nooks and other natural playscapes will soon replace plastic or metal structures at 100 preschool and child care playgrounds across Colorado, thanks to a new initiative spearheaded by Qualistar Colorado.
Chalkbeat reports the Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) program — a partnership between Qualistar, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University — is borne out of a decade of research showing that renovated natural playgrounds can increase social interactions and reduce altercations among children, and help prevent childhood obesity by increasing physical activity and counteracting sedentary lifestyles. The Colorado Health Foundation and Gates Family Foundation are philanthropic partners for the program.
ECHO prioritizes centers that serve children from low-income families or other vulnerable populations. Fourteen centers will get $10,000 awards for serving as demonstration sites willing to host visits for other Colorado providers; Step by Step in Northglenn and Wild Plum Learning Center in Longmont are the first two.
Additional demonstration sites (licensed child care centers and preschool sites and publicly-accessible sites serving Family, Friend, and Neighbor caregivers) will be selected to begin the program in Spring 2018 and early Fall 2018.