Reframing Parenting Practices Associated With Children's Outdoor Risky Play: A Randomized Controlled Trial

We explored the impact of Outside Play, a web-based learning tool, on mother’s risk assessments for their child’s outdoor play.


The Digital Lab



Digital Learning


Outdoor play has been the focus of recent research in terms of its varied benefits for kids. However, outdoor play has some natural risks in terms of injury, accidents, and other outcomes. Risky play can include things like climbing trees, building dens, and even walking home from school without adults. These types of play are important in terms of kids’ physical activity levels, as well as their physical, social, and mental development.

It is important to balance the risks of these types of play with the many benefits they present. Understandably, parents and especially mothers are often worried about the levels of risk presented by these types of play.

Parental risk assessments, especially by moms, are a meaningful barrier in terms of kids’ access to risky play opportunities. We wanted to see if Outside Play, a website that aims to reframe parents’ risk assessments of outdoor play was a useful tool to reframe moms’ risk assessments in order to find a balance between access to risky play opportunities for kids, and keeping kids safe.

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The Go Play Outside! randomized controlled trial took place in Canada from 2017 to 2018. We recruited participants through social media, community notices, and having participants suggest other possible participants. We selected over 450 moms with kids ages 6-12 years old in this process. After confirming eligibility and gaining consent, we randomly assigned participants to either our online tool, an in-person workshop, or the control group who read the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, a document that describes barriers to outdoor play.

A week after the intervention, moms completed assessments of their assigned intervention. We looked at tolerance related to risky play and self-reported behaviour change related to goals set within the program.

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Mothers who used our online tool (Outside Play) or received the in-person program had significantly higher tolerance towards their kids engaging in risky play by 1 week after the intervention, compared to mothers who read the position statement. Mothers who used Outside Play continued to report significantly higher tolerance towards their kids’ risky outdoor play by 3 months after the intervention, even though mothers in the in-person group no longer reported this. This suggests that our website can be used to promote behaviour change and increase tolerance for children’s outdoor play.

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Our trial showed that our web-based intervention was effective in increasing mothers' tolerance for risk in play. This means mothers were more comfortable allowing their kids to engage in play outside after using our online resource. This is important, as outdoor play is a valuable component of learning, exercise, and development for kids. Parental views on risk are often a limiting factor in outdoor play for kids, and the Go Play Outside! website is a viable tool to educate mothers about the risks and benefits outdoor play. The website is accessible and free.

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