The City of Boulder has recently joined a national initiative to advance policies, programs, and infrastructure to connect more infants and children up to 5 years old to nature regardless of race, income or ability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important nature – and for children in particular – is for the Boulder community. Research has shown that when children spend regular time in nature, it can improve their mental, emotional and physical health and better prepare them for school. While time outdoors benefits all children, research shows that access to nature has the greatest positive impact on youth of color and those in poverty.

With the support of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) – a joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network that includes more than 35 cities nationwide – the city will collaborate with CCCN experts to:

  • Learn how it can support young children’s connection to nature by enhancing parks and public spaces with natural elements and adding nature-based programs to city facilities.
  • Help expand access to green spaces and nature-based programs to areas where young children live, play and learn.

“The City of Boulder shares in the vision that all U.S. communities offer equitable access to nature to enhance children’s healthy development, school readiness, community wellbeing and positive environmental impacts,” said Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett. “Together, with support from CCCN, we envision a successful early childhood nature connection initiative for Boulder that can also serve as a model for others.”

Six city departments have been working together for two years to take a city-wide approach to deliver nature programs for children. The city team that will work with CCCN experts currently includes staff from the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks, Boulder Public Library, Parks and Recreation, Housing and Human Services, Communications and Engagement, Climate Initiatives, and Utilities departments, along with staff from Growing Up Boulder and Thorne Nature Experience. They will learn about core fundamentals for equitable early childhood nature connection efforts, including:

  • Building and forming cross-sector teams
  • Analyzing the local early childhood and nature connection landscape
  • Assessing equity gaps in early childhood access to nature, funding resources, and best practices in family and community engagement.

The City of Boulder joins a growing network of CCCN cities connecting children to nature in green schoolyards, early childhood settings, libraries, and natural play areas in parks and other city facilities. City staff will work with CCCN through October 2023 to create an action plan focused on expanding or implementing at least one early childhood nature connection pathway.

“During the last 2 years, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of access to safe, outdoor greenspaces within walking distance of residents’ homes. Nature has become more critical than ever,” said Vera Feeny, senior program specialist, children and nature, at the National League of Cities. “Early childhood nature connection is a way to recover more equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in communities that lack nature access. We are excited that City of Boulder leaders and community partners understand that.”

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About Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN). Cities Connecting Children to Nature, a joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network, with funding from The JPB Foundation, supports municipal leaders and their community partners in shifting planning, policies and programs to connect children to the benefits of nature more often and more equitably.

About the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families (YEF Institute). The YEF Institute at the National League of Cities is the go-to place for city leaders seeking to improve outcomes for children and families. With expertise in early childhood success, education & expanded learning, promoting a culture of health, youth and young adult connections, and economic opportunity and financial empowerment, the YEF Institute reaches cities of all sizes and brings together local leaders to develop strategies via technical assistance projects, peer learning networks, leadership academies, and Mayors’ Institutes. Learn more at nlc.org/iyef.

About the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) believes that nature makes children healthier, happier and smarter. C&NN is a US-based non-profit organization leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children—and natural places—can thrive. C&NN achieves its mission by investing in leaders and communities through sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions, and driving policy change.

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