Outdoor Play

The role of the Outdoor Play Working Group is to encourage, inspire and expand opportunities for Outdoor Play, Risky Play, Active Play and Nature Play. Each of these is essential to healthy childhood development!

Check out our resource section about Outdoor Play for ParentsTeachers and Early Childhood Educators.

Outdoor Play can combine elements of Risky Play, Active Play and Nature Play and vice versa. Research shows that kids are the most active (Active Play) when engaged in Outdoor Play in nature settings (Nature Play). These settings provide for more opportunities for Risky Play. Risky Play provides developmentally and age appropriate opportunities for kids to test their limits.

The Saskatchewan - Outdoor Play Working Group supports the Outdoor Play Canada position statement on Active Outdoor Play and its benefits.

Outdoor Play Canada - Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play


Access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks—is essential for healthy child development. We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings—at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.

Outdoor Play Canada 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.

Outdoor Play Definition

Outdoor play is unstructured, freely chosen and child-directed outdoor activity.

Risky Play Definition

Risky play can have many different shapes, but always involves the thrill and excitement of children testing themselves and finding out what happens. Some examples of risky play are:

-play at heights, such as climbing a tree
-play at speed, such as cycling fast
-play with dangerous tools, such as hammers or saws to build things
-play with dangerous elements, such as fire or water
-play when there is a chance of getting lost, such as when children are allowed to roam their neighbourhoods without adults
-rough-and-tumble play, like play fighting
-play with impact, like children crashing into something repeatedly just for fun and
-vicarious play when children experience thrill by watching other children (most often older) engaging in risk.

Risky play can look really different for different children, depending on children’s capabilities and comfort levels. For example, for a toddler “getting lost” could mean hiding behind a bush and feeling independent, even though mom and dad know exactly where she is. Likewise, two eight year olds might have different comfort levels with climbing a tree, so that one goes to a lower branch and another heads right to the top of the tree.

Active Play is play that includes light, moderate, and/or vigorous physical activity.

Nature Play is play that happens primarily outside in a natural environment and/or involves play with natural elements and features, such as water and mud, rocks, hills, forests, and natural loose parts, such as sticks, pine cones, leaves, grass etc.