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Canadian Public Health Association

Play is the business of childhood


Ottawa, Ontario

Like a game of broken telephone, somewhere along the line the importance of play, particularly outdoor play, got distorted. Play is crucial for children’s physical, mental and emotional health, and it can reduce their experiences of depression, anxiety, aggression, and sleep problems. Play provides children with skills necessary to thrive as adults. Yet children spend less time in active, outdoor play today than previous generations.

Today the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) launched a Toolkit of resources targeted to a range of audiences to promote children’s outdoor play. The project was funded by the Lawson Foundation through its Outdoor Play Strategy.

“The project is a culmination of more than three years of research and development. Throughout this time we’ve developed strong relationships with parents, municipal managers, researchers, play workers, teachers, school board representatives, non-governmental organizations, and lawyers. They helped to develop the content so that it is trustworthy, user-friendly, and relevant. The next phase is making sure that the material is available and adopted by a range of audiences,” says Frank Welsh, Director of Policy at CPHA.

What’s in the Toolkit?

  • Infographics

A series of evidence-based infographics convey the benefits of unstructured play, explain the linkages between play and mental health, respond to myths that restrict time spent playing, and identify recess as an opportunity to enhance space and time for unstructured play. The infographics can inform decision-making and are useful for parents/caregivers who want to learn more about the topic in a user-friendly format.

  • Research Summaries

Seven brief research summaries on a variety of topics are available including the definition of play, risks vs. hazards, playground injuries, parental perceptions, educators’ perceptions, recess, and accessibility and usability of play spaces can inform decision-making.

  • Decision Making Tools

Six practical tools have been developed for use by decision-makers to improve children’s access to unstructured play. These tools include approaches to policy development, a summary of the current laws, and responses to frequently asked questions.

  • Discussion Document

Underlying access to play are a series of complex problems that are difficult to solve due to incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people or opinions involved, the economic burden, and/or the interconnected nature of the problem with other problems. This in-depth discussion document investigates five wicked problems associated with play.

  • Promising Practices

Several promising practices showcase select communities that have improved access to unstructured play through a range of policies and programs within schools and municipalities across Canada.

CPHA also released a position statement on Children’s Unstructured Play. The statement provides contextual information and provides recommendations to promote unstructured play.

For more information contact:
Emma Mallach, Communications Manager
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 160

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions which are necessary to achieve health for all.

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