Play Spaces for Vulnerable Children & Youth: A Synthesis


This project addressed the safety of outdoor play spaces (including playgrounds, green spaces, urban areas such as parking lots and vacant lots, and the street) available to vulnerable children and youth in Canada. The Canadian Standards Association and Canadian Playground Safety Institute currently address playground safety, however the safety of all outdoor play spaces being used by children, specifically among vulnerable populations in Canada, was a recognized gap.

Focusing on vulnerable children and youth in Canada, including their parents and caregivers, the broad Safe Play Spaces project aimed to: (1) Describe what we know about current outdoor play spaces for vulnerable populations in Canada; (2) Develop an online training tool for inspecting outdoor play spaces for safety issues; and (3) Share outdoor play space safety issues and information with stakeholders, municipalities, parents and caregivers.

A literature review was conducted to learn about play spaces for 6-12 year olds. A key informant survey was also carried out with adults who worked or lived in vulnerable (low SES) communities and who were aware of where kids played in those communities. In addition, we implemented a small-scale pilot research project that employed Participatory Photo Mapping in order to gain a better understanding of children’s experiences of play spaces in two low SES neighbourhoods. Recognizing the rights of children and youth to participate in the decisions that affect their lives [14], this project directly involved children in gathering information about outdoor play spaces.

This report presents a synthesis of all three studies and includes an overview of overlapping findings on children’s play space preferences as well as a description of safety issues and concerns regarding children’s play spaces.

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