play / 2021

CDI Early Learning Center Reseda Outdoor Garden Area

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Child Development Institute

The CDI Early Learning Center (ELC) in Reseda Outdoor Garden Area will provide children ages 0-6 and their families in this underserved community with a multipurpose space to play and bond with other children and families, and participate in classes that promote children’s healthy development and parent-child attachment. Families will also have access to CDI’s free child developmental screening and food programs. This resource will be critical for helping families – primarily low-income and Latinx – recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Optimal brain development requires a stimulating and enriching environment, adequate nutrition, learning opportunities and social interaction with attentive caregivers. The pandemic’s disruption to everyday life has severely restricted access to these opportunities, compromising the healthy developmental trajectory of many young children (UNICEF). The families most impacted are those who are economically poor and unaware of the resources that can help them through this challenging time. The vast majority of the families CDI serves are low-income and Latinx. These families commonly have language barriers and a distrust of government agencies, which can affect their willingness to seek out services. Many live in dense housing areas, often in apartments without access to safe, developmentally appropriate play spaces. Our ELC is uniquely positioned to reach high-risk families who might otherwise shy away from formal support programs with resources to support healthy child development.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Replicated after our successful ELC model in Canoga Park, CDI’s new Early Learning Center in Reseda will connect underserved children ages 0-6 and their families to a multiplicity of free child development services. The Center has a large outdoor area, with 16 raised garden beds, that is ideal for safely welcoming families as we recover from the pandemic and begin to allow in-person activities. The outdoor garden area will provide many opportunities, including: 1) Safe play and leisure space. Our large, enclosed outdoor area will allow for children to play and for families to connect, while providing space to physically distance, as necessary. 2) Gardening classes. Classes will cover such topics as growing your own food, nutrition, cooking, and composting. 3) Other parent-child activities. We will offer other structured activities that engage children in reading, singing, movement, and sensory stimulation, while helping parents develop tools to support their child’s development. Families will also have access to CDI’s free developmental screening and food distribution programs. We expect most activities in our outdoor garden to be led by our corps of 100+ volunteers, which includes university and high school students, young adults with special needs, retirees, and others. This infusion of volunteers from different ages and backgrounds creates intergenerational opportunities and a shared purpose in building a community that is truly supportive of healthy child development.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

5,675
Direct impact
7,500
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

This project is driven by CDI’s vision that all children will thrive in the care of families and communities where their needs are respected and provided for in culturally congruent and developmentally appropriate environments. All programs and services provided through this project will be based on Strengthening Families, an evidence-based approach that focuses on building five protective factors in families: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. Research has shown that when these protective factors are well established in a family, family strengths are increased, child development is enhanced, and the likelihood of child abuse and neglect is reduced. Our intended impact is to build protective factors in families; promote the development of children of all abilities; and ensure early identification and intervention for children with special needs.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

CDI will track quantitative data, including the number of people served; family participation in activities; the number of children who receive a developmental screening; and the number referred for additional services. We will also gather qualitative information on families’ behaviors, experiences, and perceived benefits from using the ELC. We expect outcomes similar to our ELC in Canoga Park. Prior to the pandemic, that ELC had grown to serve 8,000 children and their families annually. According to an independent survey, ELC activities had a positive influence on families’ development of protective factors, even more so for regular ELC visitors who account for 80% of families. Over 90% of parents reported the center helped them better understand their child’s development. Moreover, through the ELC, we have provided over 1,000 developmental screenings, linking hundreds of children with a potential delay to additional services during a critical window for early intervention.

Which of the play metrics will you impact?​

  • Prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences
  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Parks with intergenerational play opportunities

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to CONNECT
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE