International Play Association Canada

IPA Canada is a national NGO whose mandate is to protect and promote the child’s right to play. Canada has a long association with the International Association. In 1978, Canada hosted the World IPA Congress in Ottawa, Ontario. In 1990, on behalf of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth, the Children’s Play Resource Centre in Vancouver undertook to organize and promote IPA Canada.

The current membership is made up of dedicated child advocates from a variety of backgrounds including early childhood education, recreation, teaching, post-secondary institution instruction, research, landscape architecture and playground equipment supply.


Board of Directors


Marjorie Cole, President – Marjorie has over twenty-five years experience in the education field. She is an Alberta-certified teacher and has taught children of all ages ranging from preschool to post-secondary, from public to private schools, and from provincial to international settings. Marjorie is located in Calgary where she currently works in the field of early intervention for a play-based service provider as well as teaches part-time in early childcare certificate and diploma-based programs. In addition, she delivers presentations and workshops for a variety of organizations. All of these interests allow her to share her passion for play and for helping children and their educators achieve their potential. Marjorie is a mother to two children and a dog named Sophie who also loves to sail.


Alex Smith, Vice President – Alex is an independent writer/researcher and founder/editor of the award-winning blog, PlayGroundology. Over the past 10 years, Alex has become an ardent play advocate producing original content and curating material for international audiences in over 150 countries on a variety of social media platforms. Alex programs public play events, presents at conferences and participates in panel discussions. The family backyard, aka the PlayLAB, in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia is a magnet for neighbourhood kids looking for some loose parts adventure. Over the last several years he has appeared in a variety of media venues – CTV, HuffPost, Global TV, CBC Radio and TV, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Press, Today’s Parent, News 95.7, The Chronicle Herald and The Signal –to share stories about the transformative power of play. Alex is a father of five and a grandfather of two.


Heather Coe-Nesbitt, Secretary – Heather has been an educator for over fifteen years. She is an Ontario certified teacher and started her education career as a Kindergarten teacher in Shanghai, China, where she worked within a multilingual, play-based learning environment. Through this experience, Heather came to truly appreciate the power of play as essential to young children’s well-being and found that play was the common language among the children in her classroom. Heather is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University. As a researcher, Heather is interested in the ways that educators and learning environments help to support student thriving and well-being, and endeavours to incorporate the voices of young children into her work. She is a mother of a very active and inquisitive three-year old daughter, who keeps her busy and playing both indoors and out.


Pierre Harrison, Past President – Pierre has been involved with IPA Canada since 2005, serving as president from 2009 to 2019. He is an Ontario certified teacher, a learning through play and inquiry specialist, and a children’s right to play advocate. Since 1985, Pierre has been involved in non-formal learning and has worked at various education centres in North America and Europe. In 2003, Pierre launched PLAYLearnThink, a social enterprise focused on promoting child-directed play as a fundamental necessity for a healthy and fulfilling life. Pierre facilitates Adventure PlayDays in school and community settings across Canada. He keynotes nationally and internationally on play, inquiry and learning at conferences as well as facilitates training workshops for adults across the country and in Europe. Pierre appears in print, radio, TV and Web media in Canada and abroad and has authored a chapter on play in a book for parents. Pierre lives in an off-grid straw bale house in the beautiful forest of Northern Ontario with his partner Susanne and their ten-year old son Tom.


Janet Loebach, Director at Large – Janet has been a Board Member of IPA Canada since 2008, serving as Vice President from 2012-2019 and now serving as a Director at Large. She also served as the Program Chair for the IPA 2017 World Conference in Calgary.  Janet is currently based in Ithaca, New York where she is a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University.  Janet’s research, practice and advocacy work centres on the study and design of healthy, inclusive environments for children and youth.  In recent years she has focused particularly on examining patterns in children’s outdoor play and neighbourhood mobility, as well as the design and influence of natural playspaces on children’s play, learning and development. Janet believes that daily, child-led free play, outdoors and in nature whenever possible, is essential to children’s development and well-being, as well as their basic human right.


Peter Kells, Director at Large – Peter has been involved with IPA Canada in one capacity or another since 2004. He acts as an advisor in helping designers, owners and operators of playspaces reconcile the requirements of playspaces standards and regulations with the need to create interesting environments that satisfy the play needs of children. Peter accomplished this by combining his thirty-five years of experience as an industrial designer with three decades of involvement in the development of playground standards at both the Canadian and international levels. Peter works as a consultant to landscape architects, municipalities, school boards and child care centres. Peter’s motto: As much play value as possible, as much safety as necessary.


Kirsten Anderson, Director at Large – After 25 years in the toy industry, a decade as the play expert on Global TV, Kirsten sold her award-winning toy store to bridge her expertise in business leadership and the benefits of play for all ages – especially at work. As the founder of the boutique training corporation Integrate Play Solutions Kirsten now keynotes around the world to diverse industries working with teams to help solve their messiest challenges with experiential methods like LEGO® Serious Play®.  When Kirsten isn’t playing big with her family and friends you will find her advocating for children’s right to play, nature play and loose parts adventure play sitting on executive boards such as the International Play Association of Canada, Spare Parts Adventure Play, Parent Advisory, Do What U Luv, and is also honored to be a Play Ambassador for the US Play Coalition


Mary Ann Rintoul (MA), Director at Large – Mary Ann is a Faculty Lecturer in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta in the area of children’s physical activity and play leadership. She is the director of ‘Play Around the World’, an academic cross-cultural service-learning course where students facilitate play and recreation for children of all abilities worldwide. As a passionate advocate for the Child’s Right to Play, she has served on the IPA Canada board since 2014. Mary Ann believes that play is so much more than an activity; it is a mindset and essential to growth, learning and joy. 


Paul St. Arnaud, Director at Large – Paul currently lives at Spring Lake in the Edmonton Region of Alberta. The majority of his work, volunteer time and as a parent over the last twenty-five years has been involved in planning and developing play spaces and leadership as well as promoting child friendly cities. Paul has been on IPA Canada committees and board for over 20 years. His favourite quote is: Time is a game played beautifully by children – Heraclitus.



Caileigh Flannigan, Director at Large – Caileigh has a Master’s Degree in Child and Youth Study from Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University (2012-2014) and currently works as a Play Therapist at the Northumberland Child Development Centre in Port Hope, Ontario. Caileigh is a professional member of the Canadian Association for Play Therapy (CAPT) and is currently pursuing certification as a Certified Play Therapist (CPT). Caileigh is a published outdoor play and loose parts researcher. She advocates for risky play in early childhood, and promotes natural outdoor play in city spaces.