The Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play.
We conducted two systematic reviews to examine the best available scientific evidence on the net effect (i.e., balance of benefits vs. harms) of outdoor and risky active play. Other research and reviews were also consulted. The Position Statement applies to girls and boys (aged 3-12 years) regardless of ethnicity, race, or family socioeconomic status. Children who have a disability or a medical condition should also enjoy active outdoor play in compliance with guidance from a health professional.
In an era of schoolyard ball bans and debates about safe tobogganing, have we as a society lost the appropriate balance between keeping children healthy and active and protecting them from serious harm? If we make too many rules about what they can and can’t do, will we hinder their natural ability to develop and learn? If we make injury prevention the ultimate goal of outdoor play spaces, will they be any fun? Are children safer sitting on the couch instead of playing actively outside? We need to recognize the difference between danger and risk. And we need to value long-term health and fun as much as we value safety.
Risk is often seen as a bad word— by parents, neighbours, care providers, insurance providers, schools and municipalities. But in play, risk doesn’t mean courting danger—like skating on a half-frozen lake or sending a preschooler to the park alone. It means the types of play children see as thrilling and exciting, where the possibility of physical injury may exist, but they can recognize and evaluate challenges according to their own ability.1,2 It means giving children the freedom to decide how high to climb, to explore the woods, get dirty, play hide ’n seek, wander in their neighbourhoods, balance, tumble and rough-house, especially outdoors, so they can be active, build confidence, autonomy and resilience, develop skills, solve problems and learn their own limits. It’s letting kids be kids— healthier, more active kids.
This Position Statement was informed by the best available evidence, interpreted by a group of Canadian experts representing 14 organizations, and reviewed and edited by more than 1,600 stakeholders. Details of the process are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph].
Funding for the development of the Position Statement was provided by:
The Position Statement was developed and is supported by Professor Susan Herrington, MLA, University of British Columbia; Dr. William Pickett, Queen’s University, and: