Outdoor Play

Outdoor Play Strategy: Phase 2 (2021-2023)

We are pleased to announce the launch of the second phase of our Outdoor Play Strategy and an investment of $4.95 million in 8 demonstration projects that will benefit Early Learning and Child Care across Canada.

This strategy and investment are aligned with our long-standing advocacy for universal, high-quality, publicly funded Early Learning and Child Care and advance our pursuit of equitable access to outdoor play-based early learning for all young children in Canada. 

With the federal government’s recent commitment to expand access to Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) across Canada, the quality of children’s experiences in ELCC is of primary importance. This strategy and investment focus on demonstrating what’s possible through projects with the potential to affect systemic change in the areas of ELCC legislation, post-secondary education, ongoing professional learning for educators, and the implementation of ELCC programs in communities everywhere. 

We believe the next innovation in ELCC quality is poised to happen through outdoor play and learning, enhancing developmental outcomes for children through the provision of healthier, engaging learning environments that spark children’s natural curiosity. Our work in outdoor play is integral to our advocacy for high quality ELCC and is even more relevant during the pandemic when being outdoors reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

While the benefits and importance of outdoor play for children are supported by research, there is a significant gap in training and resources for adults to support high quality outdoor play programs and experiences. We believe that the greatest lever for change is to increase adult capacity to implement and support outdoor play. That is why our strategy is focused on building that capacity to benefit licenced child care settings. 

Demonstration projects across the country will serve as regional centres of outdoor play leadership and capacity, enabling stakeholders to see and experience what is possible. In addition, we have engaged Taylor Newberry Consulting to conduct a robust evaluation to ensure credible results can inform policy and practice as well as the application of learning elsewhere in Canada. We will use a cohort approach to working with these eight projects to learn from one another, collectively advancing outdoor play and Early Learning and Child Care in Canada.

For more details about our approach and anticipated outcomes, please read our theory of change (théorie du changement). For more information about the eight funded demonstration projects, please see below.


Project Summaries (Résumé des projets)

Outdoor Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: From Colleges to Communities
Okanagan College, Kelowna, BC

This project will demonstrate a model of outdoor pedagogy learning, teaching and mentoring to shift post-secondary systems for ECE programs with benefits for colleges and communities. Faculty at three post-secondary ECE programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick will increase their theory and application of outdoor pedagogy, create shareable teaching resources, and transfer learning to their students and community ELCC programs. Each college will develop and implement one outdoor pedagogy course and practicum. Internal and external evaluations will examine the model and the scholarly learnings, leading to peer-reviewed articles for publication.   

For more information about this project, please contact:
Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research — bdietze@okanagan.bc.ca  


A Two-Eyed Seeing Approach to Land-based Play and Co-learning in Early Learning and Child Care Ecosystems
Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Toronto, ON

This project will shift post-secondary early childhood education, in-service professional development and early years programming to advance a pedagogy of land-based play and co-learning. A Two-Eyed Seeing/Etuaptmumk approach braids the strengths of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing as a guiding principle for co-learning through: holistic engagement on the land; nurturing relationality (with place, plants, animals and people); and practicing reciprocity (giving back in return for what we receive from the earth). Evaluation will demonstrate the effectiveness of training and practice on adult capacity to implement and advocate for a pedagogy of land-based play and learning.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Louise Zimanyi, Professor, Early Childhood Education, Faculty of Health Science and Wellness —Louise.Zimanyi@humber.ca or Lynn Short, Indigenous Education Specialist, Indigenous Education & Engagement — Lynn.Short@humber.ca

Solidifying the Pan-Canadian Infrastructure for Forest and Nature School Training
Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, Ottawa, ON

The Child & Nature Alliance of Canada aims to solidify the existing pan-Canadian infrastructure of its flagship program, Forest School Canada, for Forest and Nature School training by focusing on quality assurance to meet increasing demand from wider audiences. This objective will be achieved by (1) conducting a national Forest and Nature School practitioner needs assessment, (2) co-defining a set of indicators of quality practice with and for the sector, (3) strengthening and growing the Forest School Canada facilitation team, and (4) developing a formalized quality assurance model for programs.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Marc St. Dennis, Project Lead, Forest School Canada — mstdennis@childnature.ca

Embedding Outdoor Play Training: A YMCA National Early Learning and Child Care Transformation
YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, London, ON

This project embeds outdoor pedagogy across the YMCA national network and curriculum through a train-the-trainer model, reaching over 3,000 Early Learning Professionals, Directors, and Senior Leaders and impacting 320 ELCC centres and 87,000 children annually. The training focuses on incorporating outdoor play research and theory into practice, and re-evaluating beliefs and attitudes about outdoor pedagogy. Emphasizing a leadership approach, the training involves self-reflection, documentation of new learning, quality practices, shared mentorship, and development of policy and assessment tools. A participatory evaluation will document changes in attitudes and practice, policies and procedures, and inform understanding of systems change across ELCC networks.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Jennifer Gilbert, Regional Manager Quality — jennifer.gilbert@swo.ymca.ca or Cyndi Frizelle, Regional Manager — cyndi.frizelle@swo.ymca.ca


PROmoting Early Childhood Outside (PRO-ECO): An Outdoor Play Intervention for Children Aged 3 to 5 Years in Early Learning and Child Care Programs
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

This project aims to increase time spent by children in quality outdoor play in Early Learning and Child Care. The PRO-ECO intervention integrates four core components: development of policies and procedures, early childhood educator training and mentorship, outdoor space modifications, and parent/caregiver engagement. This project is co-developed, implemented and evaluated in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver with support from scientific advisors and public health and licensing professionals. A Randomized Controlled Trial will evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and how it can be modified to tackle barriers. Findings can enhance outdoor play practice and policy in ELCC settings.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Mariana Brussoni, Associate Professor — mbrussoni@bcchr.ubc.ca  


Creating Optimal Outdoor Spaces for Infants and Toddlers in Early Learning and Child Care
Regroupement des Centres de la Petite Enfance de la Montérégie, Saint-Hubert, QC

This project will demonstrate the design and use of outdoor spaces for infant and toddler education and care in three ELCC centres in Quebec, exploring different contexts: (1) renovating an existing space; (2) designing a new space while renovating an existing indoor facility; (3) designing a new space while designing a new, purpose-built, indoor facility. The project will integrate theory and practice for infant/toddler education and care while addressing quality and regulatory challenges. Evaluation will document promising practices and the impact of design innovations on child development, informing a government publication about developing outdoor spaces for infants/toddlers in ELCC.  

For more information about this project, please contact:
Sylvie Melsbach, Responsable du soutien au partenariat et aux aires de jeu –  sylviemelsbach@rcpem.com


Informing Early Learning and Child Care Legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador
O’Brien Farm Foundation (in partnership with Cloudberry Forest School), St. John’s, NL

This project demonstrates Cloudberry Forest School as a “learning lab”. Government child care licensing inspectors will participate as observers to explore and inform the potential for Forest and Nature Schools to be licensed (if feasible) via the 2022 legislative review process in Newfoundland and Labrador. The project uses evaluation to help identify best practices, risk management procedures, appropriate ratios, health and safety practices, and other quality assurances. The project concludes with community engagement activities to disseminate evaluation results and a potential capacity building initiative for early childhood educators and government child care licensing inspectors to acquire Forest and Nature School training. 

For more information about this project, please contact:
Laura Molyneux, Project Manager — laura@cloudberryforestschool.org  


Outdoor Play Canada
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute Inc., Ottawa, ON

Outdoor Play Canada (OPC) is a network of advocates, practitioners, researchers and organizations working together to promote, protect, and preserve access to outdoor play. OPC aims to galvanize the outdoor play movement across Canada and power it to new levels. This project focuses on five areas: 1) establish and operate OPC, 2) provide leadership and strategic direction for the outdoor play sector, 3) serve as a central portal of credible information on the outdoor play sector in Canada, 4) amplify efforts and successes related to outdoor play, 5) convene and facilitate collaborations among members of the outdoor play movement.

For more information about this project, please contact:
Louise de Lannoy, Research Manager — info@outdoorplaycanada.ca



Staff Contact

Christine AldenChristine Alden

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"Funding for Outdoor Play in Canada" supports funders and grant seekers in finding common ground and building partnerships to advance the multiple issue areas that overlap with outdoor play July 29, 2021 - A new report from The Lawson Foundation and Outdoor Play...

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