I am excited to announce that in three weeks I will be embarking on a coast-to-coast speaking and workshop tour of Canada. It will take in BC (Vancouver and Victoria), Alberta (Lethbridge and Calgary), Ontario (Niagara and Toronto) and Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a near-final itinerary near the end of this post.
Why the trip? For my part, it is an opportunity to debate the shrinking horizons of childhood: a story that has been unfolding across the English-speaking world. My Canadian collaborators and clients have invited me to share my views on the need for a more balanced, thoughtful approach to risk; for more contact with nature; and for more child-friendly communities that allow children and young people to expand their horizons and learn through play, outdoor exploration and everyday adventures.
So what are the issues that most concern Canadian outdoor educators and play advocates, and what might my input bring to the table? I would welcome your answers to these questions (you know where to head). And I will offer some initial thoughts of my own.
Stories of risk aversion and its impact on children’s lives are as topical in Canada as they are in the UK. Here, we read news stories of police stopping children from building dens in the woods and schools banning children from having best friends because they might get upset. Across the Atlantic the stories are of councils banning those most Canadian of pursuits, tobogganing in parks and street hockey.
In the face of stories like these, my message is simple: what is needed is a balanced, thoughtful approach to risk, and people with the vision and drive to build that approach throughout society. That means parents, educators, advocates, regulators, legislators and opinion formers: anyone who has any role in childhood and influence over children’s day-to-day lives. I hope that the successes we have achieved here in the UK will show that there is nothing inevitable about what I called in my book No Fear the zero-risk mindset.
Other related topics will also feature, including need to reconnect children with nature, the value of free play, and the challenge of creating more child-friendly communities. I am looking forward to hearing about how Canadians are tackling these issues.
Regular followers of this website will know that I have been on speaking tours to Australia on a number of occasions. While the climate may be rather different in Canada, my hunch is that the story will be very similar. Growing numbers of adults are asking themselves: how has a country whose playful, adventurous spirit is at the heart of its self-identity become so confused and fearful about its children’s everyday freedoms?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers to this question. But I will try to offer some insights and ways forward. And as ever, I am keen to hear your thoughts and views, from Canada and beyond.
Mon 4 May 7 – 9 pm
North Vancouver: talk on risk and play for North Vancouver Recreation & Culture Commission
Tue 5 May 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Vancouver: talk on risk for Wild About Vancouver & partners
Weds 6 May am
Victoria: keynote and workshop on risk for BC Rec & Parks Association symposium [pdf brochure]
Fri 8 May eve
Lethbridge: Keynote at University of Lethbridge conference on childhood
Mon 11 May am/pm
Calgary: two events (on risk and child-friendly cities) for City of Calgary [links to follow, or contact me]
Tues 12 May pm/eve
Calgary: Two events (on play policy and nature) for City of Calgary [links to follow, or contact me]
Weds 13 May eve
Niagara: talk on risk, play and early learning for Early Childhood Community Development Centre
Thurs 14 May 6 – 9 pm
Toronto: talk on play, risk and the child-friendly city for Play By Nature [Facebook link]
Sun 17 May 2:30 – 4 pm
Halifax: talk on risk and play for Halifax and Stepping Up Halifax [Facebook link]
Tues 19 May 10 am – 3 pm
Halifax: Practitioner talk and panel on risk and play for Halifax and Stepping Up Halifax
Acknowledgements: my thanks to Bob Yates, Adam Bienenstock and Alex Smith for their help in pulling these events together.
Have a wonderful trip, Tim
Tim, what great news re Canada – many congratulations! No doubt t you will make a great contribution to their thinking. Best wishes, Judy
Tim, we are looking forward to your visit here in Halifax. There’s a great group of people working on the events and excitement is beginning to build. We’ll all enjoy meeting you a little later in May. As an added bonus, looks like the snow should be melted too. Cheers, talk soon, Alex.
Martin, Judy, Alex – thanks very much!
We are looking forward to your talk in Toronto enormously, Tim. It’s a big city and while there is support for children and recreation, scattered over many departments and agencies, we don’t have an articulated play policy. Hopefully we will be able to move the conversation forward, with your help.
Hello Tim, you don’t know me but we know some of the same folks – I delivered Play Wales’ Playwork: Principles into Practice course for 10 years through Dynamix training co-op in Swansea. I now tutor for Pop Up Adventure Play’s on-line course, and I live about 10 minutes from your North Vancouver gig on May 4th! I’ve booked in and I’ll come and say hello after your presentation :)
Nice to hear from you Sophie – looking forward to meeting you!
Sophie it is good to see another avid play advocate here in the Lower Mainland. Would love to meet for some Play chat and take you for coffee if you are interested. You can get in touch on Linkedin: Kirsten Anderson or Facebook Kirsten Anderson-Pochodaj. Was SO disappointed to have missed Tim’s talk.
I’m so annoyed. I just discovered this tour via FB but I am literally one day too late to see you speak. Would have loved to attend. Next time, I hope. Hope you are having a great trip.
Hi – sorry to hear that, but – as you say – maybe next time!
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Tim – we really enjoyed “Popping the Bubble Wrap” this afternoon. A few of us came together, hearing of you through Playgroundology.
Thank you for all your efforts, worldwide, helping children embrace risk for a fuller childhood.
Hi Jeff, and thanks for this generous feedback!
It was great to hear you speak in Niagara and it was well worth the 2 hour drive to and from to hear. I would encourage people to hear you speak if given the chance and hopefully some would see things in a different light. Children need the risks to develop and learn and us having a new natural playground at our centre, we are seeing the benifits of it everyday. The play value that the children are now experiencing is amazing. Keep up the great work!!
Belated thanks for this generous feedback Danielle – and it’s great to hear of the impact of your new playground and approach.
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