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Canadian Public Health Association


About Unstructured Play

Unstructured play is a child's right and is integral to healthy development. It is play where children follow their own ideas without a defined purpose or outcome. Unfortunately children’s access to this type of play is increasingly limited. The goal of this project is to reduce this trend by providing tools and undertaking advocacy.

The term unstructured play does not have an academic definition, but has come to be used as a generic term to represent child-led play that takes place preferably outdoors but also indoors, and includes the concept of risky play. Its use was developed to reflect the concerns of decision-makers regarding the use of the term “risky” to describe play.

CPHA acknowledges and thanks the Lawson Foundation for its generous support. We also thank all those who were funded through the Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy for their continuing support in reviewing and providing directions for various components of this work. We especially thank the Project Advisory Committee for its ongoing direction and support.

Children's Unstructured Play Position Statement

The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) recognizes unstructured play as a child’s right and a critical component to child and youth health and well-being. Actions are necessary to reduce the barriers limiting opportunities for unstructured play at school and in the community. CPHA calls upon all parents/caregivers, educators, child care providers, school boards, public health professionals, the private sector and all levels of governments and Indigenous peoples’ governments to improve access to unstructured, child-led play.

Project Reports

As part of the project, CPHA conducted key informant interviews with legal experts, school boards, insurers and risk managers, municipal council members and department leaders, play researchers, advocates, and workers, as well as playground designers and inspectors and a survey of parents/caregivers to guide development of the toolkit.

Download as PDFSummary Report: Key Informant Interviews

Download as PDFSummary Report: Parent Surveys