Levelling the playing fields: Developing strategies to promote outdoor play in schools and communities
Free outdoor play—such as jumping in a pile of leaves, and climbing trees—is a child’s right and has a wide range of benefits. It is active, fosters creativity, teaches children about their natural environment, and promotes positive cognitive, social, and emotional development. Over the past decades, outdoor play has declined sharply while sedentary activities have increased steadily. This trend is linked to serious health problems, including childhood obesity and mental health problems. Scholars and child’s right activists globally are concerned and have called for action to offset this trend.
Our Roundtable intends to develop a strategy for systematically creating opportunities for outdoor play in communities and schools in Canada.
- Expert researchers, stakeholders, policy makers, and practitioners will develop a common theoretical framework for defining and measuring outdoor play by synthesizing the diverse theoretical and practical perspectives that are held on this topic.
- We will identify key indicator questions for measuring outdoor play, and make a plan for developing, validating, and testing a “Play Assessment Module”; a foundational step towards advancing advocacy efforts and develop policies and practice.
- We will discuss how to incorporate the “Play Assessment Module” into an existing infrastructure for population-level longitudinal child development assessment across Canada, including the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP, UBC). This step is critical to achieve a sustainable system of assessing, monitoring, and improving outdoor play in communities. Through our discussions, we expect to achieve the consensus that is needed to advance and catalyze research, policy, and practice of outdoor play.