Athletes Damian Warner and Ellie Black stand with a group of children on an outdoor path

Playgrounds are as important as podiums; Cadillac Fairview invests in keeping kids active and involved in play

Many athletes have started on their path to the Olympic Games from the playground. Not with drills or targeted practice under the eye of a coach, but with arguably the most important element of all sports–play with peers.

Playgrounds are a foundational space for unstructured play. They are where we learn to bond, to foster tolerance, test our boundaries, and trust ourselves. It is on the playground that we often learn our first lessons in resilience, friendship, and teamwork–all vital skills not only in sport, but in life.

Despite its importance, unstructured play has been on the decline in recent years. Only 28% of kids in Canada aged 5-17 are meeting national guidelines for physical activity, while over 80% are exceeding the recommended amount of daily screen time. In Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, one in four schoolyards have been assessed as unsuitable for play.

In response, Cadillac Fairview is launching CF Play Makers, a program designed to bring back play. Through CF Play Makers, Cadillac Fairview is committed to refurbishing play spaces so that communities can thrive.

For the Bring Back Play campaign, CF Play Makers has teamed up with the Canadian Olympic Committee, as well as Team Canada Olympians Damian Warner and Ellie Black. The goal is to remind adults, often the gatekeepers of play, how important unstructured play is to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of kids.

Black, an artistic gymnast heading towards her fourth Olympic Games, has a skill named after her on the uneven bars. It’s not hard to imagine kids across the country trying to emulate her on the monkey bars.

“Every kid in Canada deserves the opportunity to benefit from the power of play,” says Black. “The bonds that kids create and the trust and creativity they develop through playtime, whether in sport or otherwise, is invaluable.”

For Warner, the reigning Olympic champion in the decathlon, play isn’t just how he got started in sport, but has also been an important aspect of refocus in his life, since welcoming his son, Theo, in 2021.

“When kids play, we all win,” says Warner. “For many Team Canada athletes, myself included, playtime as children and teens was formative in our athletic journey. We wouldn’t be where we are today without it.”

Warner is evidence that play isn’t only positive for kids. So let’s all make getting back to the playground a priority.

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