Outdoor play is critical: OC’s Dietze and other experts contribute to new recommendations by Lawson Foundation

By Public Affairs | July 16, 2020

Beverlie Dietze, Director, Learning and Applied Research
Beverlie Dietze, Director, Learning and Applied Research

Outdoor play is good for kids and good for our communities.

A new statement released on July 13 by the Lawson Foundation highlights why opportunities for children to play outside are critical to their development and learning – both during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement also outlines the role of outdoor play in mitigating COVID-19 exposure risk for children in a variety of settings, from childcare facilities to schools. Read the full statement online.

It was prepared with the input of advisors from public health and the early learning and child care (ELCC) sector and includes guiding principles and recommendations to support the reopening and ongoing implementation of high quality ELCC programs during and after the pandemic.

One of those advisors was Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Applied Research, a renowned outdoor play expert and the author of numerous works on the subject.

“The importance of the outdoors is underestimated,” says Dietze. “When you look at the current research for healthy children and communities, we know that the outdoors needs to be prioritized in those early years.”

“The Lawson Foundation has been supporting the outdoor play movement for a long time and I applaud them for that. This statement offers up new recommendations for policymakers, educators and administrators – now we need to look at how we can actualize them.”

“There’s an established base of research that points to the cognitive, emotional, social and other benefits linked to children playing outside,” notes Dietze. “And as the Lawson Foundation’s statement points out, during the pandemic, being outdoors means fewer shared surfaces to touch, it means children are moving around more, they are using their lungs differently – so there are immediate benefits in our current context, and there are many other important long-term benefits we need to think about for the best interests of children.”  

Over the past several years, with support from the Lawson Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and a growing number of private sector partners and community organizations, Dietze has advanced outdoor play research in the Okanagan and nationally, along the way introducing many families to the concept of unstructured outdoor play – and its benefits.

In fall of 2017, she launched a series of outdoor community opportunities that allowed children to discover the creative joys of playing with loose parts. The sessions were also a chance to collect feedback on a unique outdoor play space proposed within the New Monaco master planned community currently being developed in Peachland. In February of 2018, Dietze led a Canadian delegation to Scotland during which representatives from Okanagan College and Inspiring Scotland came together to gain new insights into outdoor pedagogy research and application in early childhood programs in Canada and across the Atlantic.

In late March, Dietze shared her insights on the importance of outdoor play for families adapting to the new realities of working and learning from home during the early days of the pandemic in B.C..


Tags: Learning and Applied Research, Play, COVID-19



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