Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play
|Active Outdoor Play||Active outdoor play, sometimes referred to as active free-play or self-directed play is defined here as, “unstructured physical activity that takes place outdoors in the child’s free time .”|
|Harm||Physical or mental damage or injury: something that causes someone or something to be hurt, broken, made less valuable or successful |
|Hazard/ Danger||A source of harm that is not obvious to the child, such that the potential for injury is hidden [32,47]. The potential for injury can be immediate or long term.|
A source of danger 
|Hyper-parenting||“‘Hyper-parenting,’ ‘invasive parenting,’ or ‘intensive parenting,’ in which a climate of ‘inflated risk’ leads parents to micromanage all aspects of their children’s lives in an effort to protect the child from adverse experiences” .|
“Parents attempt to become experts on optimal parenting strategies, and child health and development so as to ensure that their children achieve their full potential” .
“A variety of different types of highly involved parents (from ‘‘helicopter parents’’ to ‘‘tiger moms’’)” 
|Joint and Several Liability Reform||Joint and Several Liability is a legal principle that permits the injured party in a tort action to recover the entire amount of compensation due for injuries from any tortfeasor who is able to pay, regardless of the degree of that party’s negligence . Entities that are often viewed as those with the greatest amount of liability insurance are seeking reform to this principle so that the amount they pay towards an injured party directly correlates with the degree to which they were negligent.|
|Natural Environments||Environments that include natural elements such as plants, soil, and water. These may be human made (e.g., gardens, nature playgrounds and urban parks) or wild and naturally occurring (e.g., wooded areas, meadows and beaches).|
|Nature||“The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations” .|
|Physical Activity||“Any body movement produced by skeletal muscles resulting in a substantial increase over resting energy expenditure” .|
|Public Entities||Municipal governments, regional governments, local economic development legal entities or authorities, sectorial representative organizations.|
|Risky Play||Thrilling and exciting play that can include the possibility of physical injury. Types of risky play include play at height, speed, near dangerous elements (e.g., water, fire), with dangerous tools, rough and tumble play (e.g., play fighting), and where there is the potential for disappearing or getting lost [44,56,57].|
|Sedentary Behaviour||“Any waking activity characterized by an energy expenditure ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents and a sitting or reclining posture” .|
|Consensus Group Participant||Sector||Home Organization|
|Mark Tremblay (Chair)||Physical activity research||HALO (www.haloresearch.ca)|
|Casey Gray (Project Manager)||Physical activity research||HALO (www.haloresearch.ca)|
|Shawna Babcock||Healthy children and communities||KidActive (www.kidactive.ca)|
|Mariana Brussoni||Risk and safety research||University of British Columbia (spph.ubc.ca/person/mariana-brussoni/)|
|Dawn Carr||Parks||Canadian Parks Council (www.parks-parcs.ca/)|
|Guylaine Chabot||Community health research||Laval University (iucpq.qc.ca/fr/recherche)|
|Louise Choquette||Early childhood development||Health Nexus (www.healthnexus.ca)|
|David Chorney||Outdoor Education||PHE Canada (www.phecanada.ca)|
|Cam Collyer||Green cities||Evergreen (www.evergreen.ca)|
|Christa Costas Bradstreet||Public health||ParticipACTION (www.participaction.com)|
|Shannon Devane *||Municipal insurance||OMEX (www.omex.org)|
|Pamela Fuselli *||Injury prevention||Parachute (www.parachutecanada.org)|
|Susan Herrington||Landscape architecture research||University of British Columbia (www.sala.ubc.ca/people/faculty/susan-herrington)|
|Katherine Janson||Health communications||ParticipACTION (www.participaction.com)|
|Ian Janssen||Physical activity research||Queen’s University (www.queensu.ca/skhs/faculty-and-staff/faculty/ian-janssen)|
|Richard Larouche||Active transportation research||HALO (www.haloresearch.ca)|
|Claire LeBlanc *||Pediatrician||Canadian Paediatric Society (www.cps.ca)|
|Will Pickett||Injury prevention research||Queen’s University (www.queensu.ca/phs/will-pickett)|
|Marlene Power||Forest schools/outdoor education||Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and Forest Schools Canada (www.childnature.ca)|
|Ellen Sandseter||Risky play research||Queen Maud University College (Norway) (dmmh.no/en)|
|Brenda Simon||Lawyer and nature play advocate||PLAYbynature (www.playbynature.org)|
|Christine Alden (Observer) **||Philanthropy||The Lawson Foundation (www.lawson.ca)|
- “Parachute very much appreciated the process and are supportive of the work of this group. After a review by our Expert Advisory Committee, unfortunately Parachute is not able to endorse the position statement as it is currently written. One particular area of concern was the way the reference to the CSA standards for playgrounds was worded”.
- “The Canadian Paediatric Society enthusiastically supports the promotion of outdoor play. However, the CPS is concerned that the statement as written does not strike an appropriate balance between encouraging children’s self-directed outdoor activity and appropriate risk reduction. We also note that the broad scope of the recommendations may hamper their implement ability. For this reason, we are unable to endorse it”.
- “OMEX was pleased to participate in the process and supports the spirit and intent of the Position Statement. We agree with Parachute's position with respect to the wording regarding CSA standards. Our role as insurers and risk managers is to promote safety and prevention of risk which conflicts with what the paper is promoting for children play in public places i.e., reducing guidelines and standards”.
3.1. Position Statement Evidence
3.3. Stakeholder Survey Findings
|Section Title||Section Clearly Stated||Agreement with Section|
|Total N||Strongly Agree||Somewhat Agree||Combined Agreement||Total N||Strongly Agree||Somewhat Agree||Combined Agreement|
|393 (22.8%)||1683 (97.7%)||1727||1388|
|298 (17.3%)||1686 (97.7%)|
- We believe the CSA Z614 Standards need to be re-examined to ensure that they consider the latest injury data and research on children’s outdoor play and the importance of risky play in children’s health and development. Because currently funding tends to be tied to meeting CSA Standards, we are not convinced that the other side of the healthy development equation (i.e., health benefits of play with an element of risk) are adequately considered in the science and injury statistics used to date. We know very little about how the denominator of “child use hours” is considered when interpreting injury statistics.
- Of the nearly 2,000 stakeholder survey respondents (a presumably informed sample) 21/1 199 comments provided even mentioned CSA (positive or negative) suggesting that to the larger sector represented by stakeholders sufficiently engaged to not only answer the survey but provide comments is generally supportive of this recommendation.
- Based on the experience of many on consensus group, the CSA guideline is frequently cited by school and recreation administrators as a barrier to the development of more nature-based play spaces. The CSA Z614 Standards’ focus on structures, equipment, and surfacing materials  results in play spaces that are more likely to consist of equipment than natural play environments with loose materials and as the Position Statement points out, this may limit children’s interest, enjoyment and participation. The research indicates that play in nature is more complex and diverse than equipment based playgrounds, and is longer in duration [130,131,165,166]. Play in nature also increases moderate-to-vigorous physical activity ) and light to moderate physical activity among children [168,169]. Play in nature fosters self-determination  and helps children with emotional and behavioural problems [170,171]. Natural play environments are also more gender neutral and offer more gender equity .
- From the consensus group deliberations, the comments received in the stakeholder survey, and the evidence supporting natural play spaces for children, there is ample support to consider alternate options to the CAN/CSA Z614 guideline. We are not recommending the elimination of the guideline, but rather revision or allowance of alternate approaches. For example, the guideline could be revised to better accommodate natural play spaces; the guidelines could allow for other guidelines to apply; or a different approach (e.g., Play Safety Forum: Managing Risk in Play Provision ) could be employed.
- Finally, a very engaged youth group submitted the following quote after in-depth discussions on the Position Statement: “From our experience as Canadian young people, this statement coincides with what we believe contributes to fun, healthy, and active child development. From our perspective, which stems from our research and personal experience, this statement accurately identifies priorities for child active outdoor play.” (Child health 2.0 Youth Advisory Board and Child health 2.0 Research Team). While it could be argued that this group is not intimately familiar with CSA guidelines, their resounding support provides a further layer of reassurance that the core intent of the Position Statement is aligned with what youth want.
- Future research should further compare the benefits and harms between active play in natural environments and other outdoor environments, as current evidence is mixed. For instance, Coe et al.  found that children (aged 3–5 years) were more active in natural environments, while another study indicated that both natural and traditional playgrounds interventions can increase the time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, but the more traditional playground interventions were more effective at increasing physical activity in children (aged 8–9 years).
- Future research should also evaluate promising approaches to risk reframing, especially regarding the perceptions that society has on the role of women who are responsible for the care of children. Despite societal changes, mothers tend to remain responsible for the care of children and the accompanying risk management. This responsibility felt by mothers, influences their children’s outdoor play .
- Research that concurrently considers the benefits and harms of active outdoor play is required, including exploring age and gender-related differences. Research tends to study the benefits and harms in isolation rather than looking at the overall health and well-being of the child.
- Further research that investigates if engagement in active outdoor play and risky play during the childhood years offers some protection against unintentional injuries during the adolescent and adult years is required. For example, what risk management skills are gained by these experiences and how do they influence the individual’s ability to navigate risks in different environments and circumstances both short- and long-term?
- Further research is needed to assess the influence of active outdoor play and risky play on children’s risk management. A 14-week risky play intervention that showed improved reaction time in detecting risk  provides emerging evidence. Additional research should explore the influence on executive functioning and on real-world risk decision-making.
- Injury surveillance that includes measures of exposure would provide a more accurate sense of the likelihood of serious injury while engaged in active outdoor play. Nauta et al.’s  systematic review indicated lower injury rates for unstructured play, compared to sports and active transportation, when the magnitude of exposure was considered. Consistency in measurement strategies and definitions of serious injury would also improve estimates.
- Additional research on the barriers and enablers for parents, teachers, care-providers and policy-makers to promote and facilitate active outdoor play that is required to inform and improve future interventions.
- More evidence from stronger research designs (e.g., randomized controlled trials) with valid and reliable measures is needed.
Supplementary FilesSupplementary File 1Supplementary File 1
Conflicts of Interest
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