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Children’s Investment Fund Offers Hands-on Training for Developing Natural Outdoor Play Spaces

This summer, CEDAC’s affiliate Children’s Investment Fund (the Fund) hosted its “Let’s Take It Outside” (LTIO) training on outdoor play spaces at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center. The one-day interactive training offered 14 non-profit early childhood education (ECE) and out-of-school time (OST) organizations across Massachusetts an overview on how to successfully undertake high-quality natural outdoor play space projects.

LTIO covered the social, emotional and health benefits of natural play space, licensing regulations and guidance, and suggestions for incorporating outdoor play into a curriculum.  The training also included ideas, images and costs of natural play space elements.

Sessions were led by the Fund team as well as:

  • Mav Pardee, Consultant and former Director of the Fund
  • Kristin Metz, Education Consultant
  • Sharon Higgins, Teacher, Gertrude Townsend Head Start
  • Joanne Hiromura, Director of Landscape and Outdoor Playspace Design, studioMLA Architects
  • James Heroux, Principal, Copley Wolff Design Group
  • Claire Harris, Preschool Director, Boston Nature Center

Sharon Higgins led participants through a hands-on activity on how to use containers, compost, and worms to transform food waste into a new habitat. According to one participant, the activity was “very practical and fun—I’m going to start having my teachers do compost bins with our leftovers from snack!”

Of course, a training on natural play spaces wouldn’t be complete without a trip outside. Claire Harris led participants on a walking tour of the Boston Nature Center’s Nature Nook. This public learning space provides numerous possibilities for outdoor play, including sand and water play, music and movement areas, climbing areas, garden beds, and a gathering space.  Claire shared her perspective on the development process as well as inspiration and ideas for future projects.

Participants then had the chance to conceptualize their project plans by creating a model with natural elements such as dirt, sticks, and rocks along with their own photos and architectural drawings. They shared these ideas with Joanne Hiromura and James Heroux, two architects experienced in outdoor play spaces, and received feedback and recommendations for their projects.

As one participant noted, the training offered a “great general overview of how to create and build an outdoor play space that fits operational and program needs.” Moreover, it allowed providers to start bringing their projects to life and provided them with the guidance and resources they need to make these visions a reality.

The Children’s Investment Fund has assisted Massachusetts organizations’ efforts to build natural play spaces near their facilities. If you are an OST or ECE provider interested in developing enriching space outdoors for children, or learning more about the Fund’s trainings and technical assistance, please contact Theresa Jordan, Director of Children’s Facilities Finance at or call 617-727-5944 or visit

The Children’s Investment Fund is an affiliate of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). Click here to read the INSITES post on last year’s LTIO training.

Categories: CEDAC, CIF

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