The Lawson Foundation is buzzing as we release this 2015 Funding Opportunity for Active Outdoor Play! It’s been a busy few months of preparations that are both a culmination and a beginning. This funding call marks the end of a tentative two year journey exploring outdoor play through research and knowledge translation, but also the beginning of the Foundation’s commitment to take this Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play and invest in putting it into action to impact Canadian children and youth.

About 2 years ago, we started rethinking how we could help shift kids’ behaviours towards healthier lifestyles. Dr. Mark Tremblay, of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, has been a longtime advisor to the Foundation, and he made a simple case – if we want healthier kids, we’re going to have to provide better alternatives to the lure of screens and sitting on the couch.

Mark argued that getting kids playing freely in the outdoors is an essential element in healthy child development and key to solving the inactivity crisis. That vision resonated with the Lawson Foundation – not just because kids would be more active and less sedentary, but because they would develop social and cognitive skills, and benefit from playing in the outdoors. Playing outside reflects our evolutionary biology – we were born to do it!

So we co-funded 3 academic papers (risky play, outdoor time, active outdoor play) to learnbiggest risk more, and then the formation of a pan-Canadian working group to develop the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play. It was released just 2 days ago by ParticipACTION through the 2015 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth with a thought provoking message – “the biggest risk is keeping kids indoors.”

The news coverage and early public reaction to the story is promising. It seems to have struck a chord with many. We hope the Position Statement will inspire Canadians to think critically about how our children are spending their time and encourage adults to open the doors to outdoor play.

The stakeholder organizations that developed the Position Statement brought together Lawson Foundation Active Outdoor Play Funding Callexpertise ranging across child development, play, education, health, green cities, parks, nature, landscape architecture, physical activity and injury prevention. This multi-sectoral, collaborative approach reflects the way the Foundation strives to work. During the same period of exploration into active outdoor play, the Foundation had also begun working towards a renewed strategic direction focused more holistically on healthy child development. The Position Statement reflects our new vision.

So as we embark on this funding call, we are eager to see which organizations answer the call and what ideas they offer to get kids outside to enjoy unstructured play. We’ll be learning from this process, meeting new stakeholders, discovering what’s already underway across the country, and what types of projects could collectively make a difference. It’s a journey we’ll undertake together, learn from one another, and share through this blog and our website, so please stay tuned!

Christine Alden

Christine Alden

Christine has been with the Lawson Foundation as Program Director in the areas of Early Child Development and Healthy Active Children since 2012. She is currently pursuing her PhD in early learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education / University of Toronto.

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