What is it

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! The Outdoor Play Working Group believes the highest quality forms of Outdoor Play are unstructured, freely chosen and child-directed outdoor activity. 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 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 Outdoor Play Working Group supports the national report “A Common Vision for Increasing Physical Activity and Reducing Sedentary Living in Canada: Let’s Get Moving”. The Working Group is working in partnership with the Government of Saskatchewan to implement the recommendations from this report.

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

The Working Group is a member of Outdoor Play Canada and the PLaTO-Net (Play, Learn and Teach Outdoors Network) which is a global network of thought-leaders interested in advancing research and practice related to outdoor play, risky play, outdoor learning and teaching through play.

We support the Outdoor Play Canada definitions related to Outdoor Play.

Play - Voluntary engagement in activity that is fun and/or rewarding and usually driven by intrinsic motivation.

Active play– A form of play that involves physical activity of any intensity.

Free play – A form of play that is unstructured and self-directed. Free play is a synonym for unstructured play. Activities such as organized sports are not considered free play. Free play can happen within an organized program when it is freely chosen. It is important to note that play often becomes more structured when individuals are given time and repeated experiences in the same space.

Nature play – A form of play that takes place in a natural environment and/or involves interaction with natural elements and features (e.g., water and mud, rocks, hills, forests, and natural loose parts, such as sticks, pinecones, leaves, and grass). Nature-based recreation is a specific form of nature play.

Outdoor play – A form of play that takes place outdoors, where the outdoors is defined as any open-air, wild, natural, or human-made space. Outdoor recreation is a specific form of outdoor play.

Risky play – A form of play that is thrilling and exciting, which involves uncertainty, unpredictability, and varying degrees of risk-taking. Risky play is subjective. Risky play can be categorized as:
1. play with great heights, such as climbing trees
2. play with high speed, such as cycling fast
3. play with dangerous tools, such as hammers or saws to build things
4. play with dangerous elements, such as fire or water
5. play where children can ”disappear”/get lost, such as when children are allowed to roam their neighbourhoods without adults
6. rough-and-tumble play, like play fighting
7. play with impact, like children crashing into something repeatedly just for fun and
8. vicarious risk, 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.