Today marks an exciting day as the Lawson Foundation launches its Outdoor Play Strategy and announces 14 newly funded outdoor play projects and an evaluation to capture the learning.

The Outdoor Play Strategy aims to increase children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings – at home, in school, in child care, the community and nature. The $2.7 million dollar funding Strategy seeks to help us better understand how to support Canadian communities to foster outdoor play.

“Children’s play is in decline,” says Lawson Foundation President & CEO Marcel Lauzière. “Kids actually need unstructured outdoor play – play that includes taking risks – because we know that this is important for their healthy development.”

As this Strategy marks a new area of focus for the Foundation, the open funding call provided us with an opportunity to connect with unusual actors and got us thinking outside the box. The process has resulted in a diverse but complementary group of organizations and projects that we will convene periodically in a cohort approach to support one other.

You may be surprised to find among those in the cohort: an injury prevention project advocating for risky play, environmental education organizations that are shifting from traditional literacy projects to play in nature and the outdoors, and a community recreation organization that is shifting paradigms of adult-directed organized sport to include unstructured play for kids. You may also notice that the play-based and inquiry focus of early childhood education is pushing its way up and out across different professions that engage with children and youth. The commonality is unstructured outdoor play as the project focus and the growing understanding across sectors that play is a central mechanism for healthy child development.

“It’s exciting to see that while many of the organizations in the cohort are working within the traditional parameters of their expertise, other are working on the edges of practice in their sector and exploring new avenues to carry out their mission and expand children’s opportunities for outdoor play,” says Lauzière.

We look forward to supporting this cohort of projects, learning from this process and collectively making a difference when it comes to getting kids outside and enjoying unstructured, risky play.

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The Lawson Foundation is a national family foundation with a mission to invest in and engage with ideas, people and organizations that contribute to healthy outcomes of Canadians throughout their life course. Its overall focus is on the well-being of children and youth and it invests in three inter-related strategic areas that they believe will have a significant impact on young people’s healthy development: early child development, healthy active living, and a new area of interest, children and the environment. | Strategic Direction