Designing Early Childhood Outdoor Environments

Registration Eligibility
Open to landscape designers, landscape architects, architects, green industry professionals, extension agents, and students pursuing these disciplines
Start Date
End Date
This certificate program goal is to transfer knowledge about participatory design processes and tools to improve outdoor play and learning environments for young children and adults accompanying them in the locations of daily life: childcare centers, schools, neighborhood parks, children’s gardens, museums, nature centers, zoos, botanical gardens, and similar institutions. The overall objective is to stimulate children to learn in, through, and about nature, while supporting healthy, active lifestyles.
Program Modules are intended to immerse the learner in design thinking focused on young children and their outdoor settings with a strong focus on nature. Modules will help learners understand the power of community-based participatory design as a decision-making strategy to achieve sustainability. Content is based primarily on material generated by NLI in early and middle childhood outdoor design since the founding of NLI in 2000. Extracts from Nature Play & Learning Places provide an introduction to the participatory environment-behavior approach to design with nature in communities. Selected case examples will help learners understand the more global context of designing outdoor learning environments for young children. The NLI OLE Toolkit guides, emphasizing implementation of best practice indicators in childcare centers, will introduce learners to detailed design thinking for preschool children. The importance of intergenerational design recognizing the needs of accompanying adults (parents, grandparents, teachers, playworkers, etc.) will be emphasized.

Module 1
1.Become conversant with environment-behavior design approach, including concepts of territorial range, behavior setting, and affordance applied by design to early childhood developmental stages. 2.Understand landscape design as a health intervention.
3.Explore the locational contexts of nature play and learning.

Module 2
1.Learn about early childhood developmental stages (0-7 years old) in relation to outdoor design.
2.Discover the influence of culture and environment on children's behavior.
3.Identify daily, healthy spaces for children and families.

Module 3
1.Become conversant with design thinking processes supporting nature play and learning in early childhood environments.
2.Understand how community-based landscape design can serve as a health promotion intervention and strategic tool for early childhood outdoor play and learning environment system change.
3.Learn the basics of outdoor play and learning environment assessment.

Module 4
1.Recognize domains of development in early childhood related to early childhood outdoor design.
2.Become conversant with existing design principles and guidelines related to early childhood environments.
3.Understand how different design principles and guidelines are applied to creating effective early childhood environments.

Module 5
1.Become conversant with best practice design for childcare centers.
2.Explore the meaning and application of outdoor quality as a relationship between user, site, teacher, and site management.
3.Become conversant with fruit and vegetable (FV) production gardening as a critical health promotion setting.

Module 6
1.Become conversant with project implementation processes, tactics, and challenges.
2.Understand cost as a project implementation factor.
3.Apply incremental development as a site development strategy
4. Understand the broad range of community engagement steps and tools available and when and how to apply them
Module 7 Manage Site Development
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Parks & Recreation
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
Learn design methods that encourage young children in outdoor settings to be active, practice motor development skills, engage in outdoor learning, and be connected with nature.

Discover how to create high quality environments to support early childhood outdoor experiential learning.

Understand the influence of design on physical activity and healthy eating in young children.

Recognize landscape design as a human/environment health intervention and system-change strategy.
Robin Moore, Nilda Cosco, Muntazar Monsur, Daniel Jost
Course Codes
Natural Learning Initiative

Contact Us

Subscribe to RSS feed of new LA CES approved courses

American Society of Landscape Architects © Copyright 2024 All rights reserved.