Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is more that just fun for kids. It is — with its risks — essential to healthy child development.

In 2013, the Lawson Foundation started rethinking how we could help shift kids’ behaviours toward healthier lifestyles. We decided to explore outdoor play as a lever to reverse the inactivity crisis and as an essential element to support healthy child development, the Foundation’s ultimate goal.


We started by co-funding three academic papers (risky play, outdoor time, active outdoor play) and supported the convening of a working group to develop the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play under the leadership of Dr. Mark Tremblay. The Position Statement was released to resounding positive media attention in June 2015 by ParticipACTION via the Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. This was followed by our funding call to identify projects that collectively would help inform how communities can increase children’s opportunities for unstructured outdoor play.

For the next few years we will be working with organizations across Canada and ranging across physical activity, recreation, injury prevention, public health, early childhood education, environment, education, mental health, but all focused on children’s outdoor play. Collectively the projects will produce tools, resources and training to build practitioner and decision maker capacity to support outdoor play, test delivery models for community implementation, and use research and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of various approaches. We are using a cohort approach where the projects will convene periodically to network, share and learn together. We’ll be learning throughout this process, meeting new stakeholders, discovering more about what’s already underway across Canada and abroad, and engaging in a developmental evaluation to understand how the learning from the projects could collectively make a difference for Canadian kids.

Lawson Foundation Outdoor Play Strategy

An exploration of children’s unstructured outdoor play in Canada. Download PDF

Understand our Impact

Coming Soon.

Have an idea?

We are always interested in hearing about new ideas. If you have carefully read our Strategic Direction and believe that your work is closely aligned to it, we invite you to put your innovative ideas forward for potential funding support via our Ideas Portal.

Related News and Updates

Recommended Resources to Support Outdoor Play

Recommended Resources to Support Outdoor Play

Recommended Resources for Increasing Outdoor Play in Early Learning and Child Care Programs in the Context of COVID-19 Resources listed here are grouped by topic and arranged by level, from introductory to advanced. The resources areCanadian and freely available...

Reflections on outdoor play in Canada from across the pond

Reflections on outdoor play in Canada from across the pond

In October 2018, the Lawson Foundation invited Henry Mathias, Head of Professional Practice and Standards with the Care Inspectorate in Scotland to give the keynote address at its Outdoor Play and Early Learning Policy Research Symposium. Henry shared Scotland’s...

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