2018 Outdoor Play & Early Learning Policy Research Symposium

From October 24-26, 2018 the Lawson Foundation hosted the Outdoor Play and Early Learning Policy Research Symposium in partnership with Okanagan College, Cape Breton University, the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, and the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development, OISE/U Toronto

Download the Symposium Program (PDF)

We welcomed 120 participants from six countries, 11 Canadian provinces and territories, and several Indigenous communities. We had participants from municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments as well as researchers, practitioners and consultants. Our stakeholders represented diverse sectors that are part of the ecosystem of outdoor play and early learning including insurance, urban planning, public health, landscape architecture, physical activity, philanthropy, family resource, communications, parks and recreation, post-secondary training and research, early childhood education, education, and the environment. We engaged in working sessions about how to advance outdoor play and early learning against a backdrop of plenary and breakout research presentations, an outdoor research and practice poster session, outdoor experiential learning opportunities, and time for informal networking.

Participants indicated the opportunity to network and engage in these discussions together with diverse stakeholders had been invaluable. From the Lawson Foundation’s point of view, highlights included: fostering a framework for dialogue where Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives co-existed; holding our first conversations about outdoor play alongside government policy makers; building bridges to the insurance sector to advance mutual understanding; and, harnessing and leveraging the commitment of an incredibly engaged group of diverse participants, including our own grantees alongside old and new stakeholders.

The Discussion Paper Advancing Outdoor Play and Early Childhood Education shares the major themes of the Symposium and proposes concrete actions to advance outdoor play and early childhood education.



  1. Scottish early learning policy and outdoor play
    Henry Mathias, Care Inspectorate (Scotland)
  1. Scottish outdoor play initiative
    Michal Perlman, University of Toronto and Nina Howe, Concordia University (Canada) 
  1. Outdoor play and risk – Essential for healthy child development
    Mariana Brussoni, University of British Columbia (Canada)
  1. Nurturing curiosity in the outdoors: A kindergarten case study
    T-L. Scheffel, L. Hives, A. Steele, J. Scott (Canada)
  1. The Willow Trees Talk to us: Thinking with place and (re)storying young children’s encounters in a forest nature program
    Louise Zimanyi, Lynn Short (Canada)
  1. From policy to play provision: inclusion by design – design by inclusion
    Helen Lynch, Alice Moore (Ireland)
  1. Child friendly city planning policies, opportunities and tools
    Petter Åkerblom (Sweden
  1. Outdoor play in urban contexts
    Marketta Kyttä (Finland)
  1. Tools for reframing parents’ perception of risk to promote children’s outdoor risky play
    M. Brussoni, T. Ishikawa, C. Han, I. Pike, A. Bundy, J. Jacob, J. Tellez, K. Quach, F. Hasany, G. Faulkner, L. C. Masse (Canada) 
  1. The right to a bruise: professionalizing ECEC educators to increase children’s risk competence
    Martin van Rooijen, Mieke Cotterink (Netherlands)
  1. The view of outdoor play in Canadian early childhood education curriculum frameworks, legislation and policy
    Kerry McCuaig, Jane Bertrand (Canada) 
  1. Examining outdoor play policies in licensed childcare centres in Alberta
    M. Predy, N. Holt, V. Carson (Canada 
  1. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development
    Kristell Le Martret (Canada) 
  1. Partnering for outdoor play: A case study of forest and nature school programming in the context of licensed child care in Ottawa, Ontario
    Blair Niblett, M. Power, Kim Hiscott (Canada)

Canadian Research and Practice Poster Presentations

  1. When educational quality rhymes with nature… Grandir en Foret in Quebec
    Michelle Leboeuf
  1. The feasibility of a modified outdoor free play schedule in childcare centres: Adherence to the supporting physical activity in the SPACE intervention
    M. Driediger, P. Tucker, L.M. Vanderloo, S.M. Burke, A.M. Johnson, J.D. Irwin, B.W. Timmons
  1. Can digital technology enhance outdoor play and learning?
    M. McGlynn-Stewart, N. Maguire
  1. Get outside and play early childhood network in Alberta
    Christina Pickles  
  1. Outdoor play the Saskatchewan way!
    Denise Skuce
  1. Nurturing development of active play – A major project across Quebec
    Sylvie Melsbach 
  1. What’s the point? Why modeling handwork skills is relevant in nature-based early childhood programs
    Elizabeth MacEachren, Andrea Welz 
  1. Outcomes of natural play and learning spaces: A collaborative case study
    Zachary M. Stevens, Bryan S.R. Grimwood, Shawna Babcock 
  1. Wander, Be Wild and Always Wonder: Making Connections the Forest and Nature School Way as a Community
    Gail Molenaar

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