Research suggests there are important benefits of outdoor risky play for children.

ParticipACTION gave Canadian children a “D” grade for Overall Physical Activity in 2022 and a “D-” for Active Play.1


The idea of promoting children’s outdoor risky play may sound counter-intuitive in keeping children safe. However, research suggests that there are important benefits of outdoor risky play for children’s health, development, and well-being. Yet, children’s opportunities have decreased over time, largely due to excessive safety concerns. This trend must be reversed, and it requires a societal shift.

The target is for children and youth to engage in active play and non-organize/structured leisure activities for several hours per day. Boys tend to spend more time playing outdoors than girls, but in general, children of all ages are not meeting these targets.1

BCIRPU Scientist Dr. Mariana Brussoni and her research team have developed an online risk reframing tool to help parents and early childhood educators learn the importance of outdoor risky play and develop strategies for promoting healthy outdoor risky play for children.

To see more research on outdoor risky play, visit the Dr. Brussoni lab website.

Children are more physically active when they are outside doing risky play.2


Playability (funded by CIHR)

This mixed-methods study aims to better understand physical and socioecological factors that influence children’s outdoor play. Between April 2016 and June 2018, 105 families in three neighbourhoods (Grandview-Woodland, Lower and Central Lonsdale, and Steveston) in Metro Vancouver participated in the study. Various data were collected, including seven days worth of children’s GPS and accelerometry data, qualitative interviews, neighbourhood photos and map drawings, daily diaries, and demographic and other surveys. Dr. Brussoni’s team has published several articles on their research findings and continues to do analyses on the qualitative and quantitative data. These analyses will contribute to informing best practice for design of sustainable and child-friendly urban environments that recognize and include children as active users and meet their needs to positively influence their development and well-being.

Early Childhood Outside! Study (funded by the Government of Canada)

Expanding on the previously developed behaviour change tool to help parents make a plan to support their children’s outdoor risky play, this study’s goal is to develop a risk-reframing tool for early childhood educators. This tool will help early childhood educators learn the importance of outdoor play, reframe perceptions of risk, manage safety fears and guide development of a plan for changing service delivery. Guided by focus group interviews with 40 early childhood educators, students, and licensing officers, the tool will address their needs and concerns in promoting children’s outdoor play at their centre. Included in the tool are six interactive video scenarios (communicating with parents/caregivers, rough and tumble play, play at high speed, play at heights, conflict resolution and play with tools) using a combination of animated characters and props with live action environments. The tool was launched in December 2020.

Early Childhood Outside! Randomized Controlled Trial Study (funded by the Lawson Foundation)

This randomized controlled trial study is to test the efficacy of the risk-reframing tool developed for early childhood educators. This study is recruiting 300 + early childhood educators and/or administrators currently working in Canada.

Eligible participants who agreed to participate will be randomly assigned to one of the two groups: 1) Control group, or, 2) Intervention group, and invited to complete the survey questionnaire at three different timepoints (i.e., baseline, 1–week post–intervention, and 3–months post–intervention). This study is still ongoing.

2019 BC Ministry of Education Play Today Handbook

Dr. Mariana Brussoni’s research on outdoor risky play was cited in the BC Ministry of Education’s 2019 report, Play Today, a guide for BC educators, parents, and families to help facilitate high-quality, play-based learning experiences in children.

City of Vancouver VanPlay Asset Targets

Dr. Mariana Brussoni’s research on outdoor risky play influenced the 2019 City of Vancouver set VanPlay Asset Targets for 2040 to “Improve quality and diversity of play areas such as nature and adventure play, risky play, potential for all-ages play features, and more universally accessible designs.”

Taking risks outdoors during play can help build risk management skills.2


If you want to learn more about what outdoor risky play is and how it can benefit children, or to effectively change your behaviour so you can provide children with a positive outdoor risky play experience, visit OutsidePlay.ca. The tool uses a series of interactive video scenarios to help guide you through a personalized journey, where you can reflect on your own childhood, and identify the underlying reasons and motivations for fear. At the end of the tool, it will guide you in creating a personalized plan to help you make changes in your own context that makes sense to you and your child.



1. ParticipACTION. (2022). The 2022 ParticpACTION report card on physical activity for children & youth. Available at: https://www.participaction.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/2022-Children-and-Youth-Report-Card.pdf

2. Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Sandseter, E.B.H., Bienenstock, A., Chabot, G., Fuselli, P., Herrington, S., Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M., Stanger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M.S. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12 (6), 6423 – 6454. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120606423