What is PLAYbynature?

PLAYbynature is working to put freely chosen self-directed outdoor play back into the lives of Toronto’s children,  as a natural part of their day to day lives.

Play is vital to children’s healthy physical, mental, emotional and social development, yet it is a diminishing resource for many children in today’s fast-paced urban environments. Increasingly the statistics around childhood obesity, ADHD, behavioural, learning and mental health problems are becoming a matter of global concern for children in developed as well as developing countries. Canadian children are at risk, ranking poorly, at 27th place among the 29 most developed economies of the world for childhood obesity.

Lack of robust and reliable play opportunities for children, ages 3 – 15, presents a constant source of stress for parents, who must account for every minute of their children’s day. Most parents have little choice except to sign their children up for programs or default to the entertainments of the screen.  There is little space for free active creative time.  As a result, our children endure a steady stream of intrusions into their developing autonomy, along with surveillance, instruction and social herding, all of which wear away at their emerging sense of independence and agency.  These conditions may be contributing to an epidemic of anxiety among teenagers, who feel unprepared for the challenges of young adulthood.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to play is protected and recognized as a distinct activity from sports, education or arts-based activities, even when these are fun and engaging.  True play is self-directed and spontaneously invented by children interacting with their environment, alone or in social groups. 20120920_105937Children at play experience the pleasure of making their own worlds, managing their own social learning and sensing their own personal agency unfolding.

PLAYbynature is dedicated to improving play opportunities for children by working with communities to bring thoughtful and effective play provision into neighbourhoods, reducing social and environmental barriers, identifying and enhancing opportunities, building on community engagement and small successes.

Our program will include a range of projects that will:

  • invite children and families into outdoor play in parks and green spaces
  • engage local communities in discussions about priority improvements, as well as long-term neighbourhood renewal that will support their playing children
  • assist local communities in developing high quality play provision based on playwork principles
  • work with neighbourhood agencies, schools, recreationists and municipal planners to include the right to play in their planning and decision-making

With upwards of 80% of the world’s children destined to grow up in cities in the next millennium, planning and policy decisions should include an informed understanding of play as integral to the health of children and families.

Here in Toronto, the city is alive with construction cranes and the excitement of rapid growth, yet our parks, playgrounds, and school grounds have seen little investment over the last 20 years.  PLAYbynature wants to put play value at the centre of our efforts to renew these green spaces.  When play value informs our landscaping decisions, we get more value for every dollar spent on planting and landscaping.   We create interactive parks for everyone to enjoy.