11 May Breaking News: Governor Inslee Signs Outdoor Preschool Licensing BIll!

May 11, 2021

Olympia, WA – Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5151 into law, making Washington the first state in the country to permanently license outdoor preschools.

The bill, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, was co-sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle). The bill was drafted by the Department Of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), and makes key administrative changes that improve equity and access in our early learning system.

What does this mean?

Outdoor preschool is now a permanent part of Washington’s early learning system. This bill makes the Outdoor Preschool Licensing Pilot permanent. This means programs like Tiny Trees and other outdoor preschools in Washington can be permanently licensed childcare facilities. Outdoor preschools in Washington will be able to:

  • offer full-day programs that meet the needs of working families
  • participate in coaching and quality improvement initiatives
  • provide more free and reduced tuition to eligible low-income families through state subsides
  • diversify our revenue streams with public support for greater financial sustainability
  • apply for federal grant dollars allocated to rescue childcare businesses impacted by COVID closures.

“This has been a historic legislative session demonstrating a public commitment to investing in our kids and families,” said ED Kellie Morrill. “This pandemic has exacerbated the existing childcare crisis our communities are facing. Outdoor preschools provide a safe and high-quality solution for kids and families to get the care they need. This bill makes finding a full-day program easier, provides an affordable and safe choice, and best of all gives kids an awesome childhood: one full of play, adventure, and wonder in the great outdoors.”

Still have more questions about licensing? Find more information about licensing here. For all new early learning providers, licensing fees will be waived through June 2023. In Washington State, childcare and early learning providers are most often women and minority-run small businesses or community-based non-profits. Reducing start up fees makes it easier for the childcare industry make a comeback after thousands of programs in our state closed due to COVID.

As part of this bill, DCYF will also create a child-specific foster caregiver license for family members or other suitable adults to care for a loved one in foster care. This new pathway has a tremendous positive impact, particularly for Black and Brown communities in keeping children connected to community and culture, which strengthens all aspects of their lives, especially learning.


Our community came together to make this happen. Whether you called or emailed your representatives, testified in a hearing, or helped to spread the word in your networks, this is your shared victory. SB5151 is a big win for kids, families, and early learning providers in Washington state, but it’s also a powerful model for the rest of the country. Outdoor learning options are critical, especially while COVID-19 is still spreading in our communities. Families now have greater choice in early learning options for their kids that provide safe, healthy, high-quality learning.

This is a big win for equity and educational justice. While we celebrate this win, we also want to acknowledge that it’s thanks to years of advocacy and work. We want to thank our colleagues and allies who have been working for years to develop and participate in a wildly successful three-year pilot. Here’s a timeline of major milestones in this work:

This work proves what we’ve known all along: kids and nature are better together, and every model of early learning could be improved by adding a nature-based play. We’re excited to share with you what this means for Tiny Trees this fall.

Learn more about Washington’s outdoor preschools

• Watch children play, explore, and learn at Tiny Trees Preschool (video).

• Read this press release about current research measuring the health outcomes of outdoor preschools.

• Watch this this REI video about how outdoor preschools can help reduce inequity in access to high quality preschool.

• Read this study by Children’s Hospital that found kids in child care spend only 12% of their time being physically active, well below the minimum necessary to develop healthy bodies and healthy brains.

People available for comment

Primary Sponsor: Senator Claire Wilson (D–Auburn)

Tiny Trees Preschool, seven locations in Seattle & King County Parks
Kellie Morrill, Executive Director, kellie@tinytrees.org

Washington Nature Preschool Association


Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)

Aliza Yair, Outdoor Preschool Pilot Program Specialist, aliza.yair@dcyf.wa.gov

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