The importance of play on long-term benefits to childhood mental, emotional, and social health cannot be overstated. Ultimately, it will be collective efforts to promote unstructured play that will have the greatest impact on meaningfully impacting overall childhood health and well-being.

For the attention of: City authorities and their parks and recreation agencies. Public health practitioners and others with interests in child development and children’s play

The problem: Play is key to healthy childhood development, yet, there is growing international concern around decreasing opportunities for children to engage in unstructured, outdoor play. While municipalities are well-situated to take a leadership role in developing play-friendly cities, there are few practice-based examples describing the process.

What we did and why: Together with practice partners from The City of Calgary, the Alberta Parks and Recreation Association, and The Government of Alberta Ministry of Culture and Tourism, we used a case study method to explore how The City of Calgary used a collective impact model to promote and support local play opportunities, specifically by initiating the creation of a Calgary Play Charter.

What our study adds: We describe the preconditions that supported the initiation of a collective impact process. Through this we identify facilitators challenges to municipal leadership across the three core phases the collective impact process.

Implications for city policy and practice: The findings demonstrate the impact of a shared leadership approach, and provide direction and key learnings for municipal leaders interested in creating local play opportunities.

  • Our findings could be used to inform policies and practices at the provincial/state or national levels to bolster local efforts that support and promote play.
  • Our paper also outlines the city Play Charter vision and highlights the City’s ‘Mobile Adventure Playground’ pilot program as an example of an activity to support and implement the vision.

Full research article: Promoting children’s play in Calgary, Alberta: A case study of collective impact and municipal leadership

Authors: Nicole M. Glenn, Krystyna Kongats, Heather Cowie, Julie K. Guimond & Candace I. J. Nykiforuk (@nykiforuk_c). Editor: Marcus Grant (@MarcusxGrant)