BCIRPU Scientist Dr. Mariana Brussoni has received an additional $1.3 million in funding for the second phase of her project to improve outdoor play among young children three to five-years-old who attend daycare.

Dr. Brussoni’s lab received the uplift from the federal government’s Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Innovation Program for the PRO-ECO, or “Promoting Early Childhood Outside” study. The study began in 2021. The announced funding will support a second phase of the PRO-ECO study over the next two years. The project will involve a partnership with First Nations and Métis child care organizations to expand and support children’s outdoor play at 10 ELCC centres. The first phase, funded by the Lawson Foundation, partnered with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver to promote children’s outdoor play opportunities at 8 ELCC centres.

The PRO-ECO project focuses on four components: modifying physical outdoor play spaces; providing training and mentorship for early childhood educators; engaging parents and caregivers; and updating policies and procedures around outdoor play.

“Outdoor play helps increase children’s mental health, resilience, physical activity, cognitive development, socioemotional learning, in addition to the rich learning opportunities that are uniquely available outdoors. We want to make sure that all children have access to these opportunities every day.”

—Dr. Mariana Brussoni

“PRO-ECO supports early learning and childcare centres in their critically important work of giving children the best start. We’ll work with them to build skills, establish policies that align with their core values, engage families, and enhance their outdoor play spaces,” said Dr. Brussoni, who is also a researcher at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR) and director of the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“We’re delighted that the federal and provincial governments have made the commitment to build a Canada-wide affordable early learning and childcare system, and to work with Indigenous partners to implement a culturally appropriate Indigenous early learning and childcare system.”

The funding was announced on July 11, 2022, at a media event at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. In attendance: Dr. Mariana Brussoni; Dr. Quynh Doan, BCCHR Interim Senior Executive Director; Dr. Rob McMaster, UBC Vice-Dean, Research; Mr. Taleeb Noormohamed, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville; the Honourable Karina Gould, Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.