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04 Dec, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Encourage a life-long love of nature

There’s no doubt about it, nature is good for us. Whether you’re a toddler, parent, or grandparent; spending time outdoors and surrounded by fresh air and wildlife is beneficial to our health and overall well-being.

Children and youth who spend time in nature have the opportunity to move freely, developing motor skills and boosting physical fitness levels. Research has found that children who spend time in natural settings have less anger and aggression, and time in nature reduces stress and depression levels in people of all ages.

But it’s not always easy to find time or space to appreciate the natural world, this year especially.

Children’s outdoor play declining

ParticipACTION’s 2020 report card on physical activity for children and youth noted that only 21 per cent of 5- to 11-year-olds engaged in active play and non-organized/unstructured leisure activities for more than 1.5 hours per day on average. Students in Grades 6 to 10 reported playing outdoors for a mere 15 minutes per day. ParticipACTION’s report card grade for active play declined from a D in 2018 to an F in 2020.

Additional research done by ParticipACTION during COVID-19 restrictions showed that 62 per cent of children and teens were less physically active outdoors, and 79 per cent were spending more leisure time on screens. And evidence shared by Nature Play Canada shows that children today play outside less than the generation before, and that children’s play has become more structured and increasingly indoors. Adults don’t fare much better, with ParticipACTION reporting that those 18 to 79 years living in Canada are sedentary for 9.6 hours per day, excluding sleep time.

To put it simply, we need to get outside and be more active.

Life-long love for nature 

A program from the David Suzuki Foundation is encouraging teachers, parents, and caregivers to spend time outside with kids. Besides being good for the brain and body and helping with sleep and eyesight problems, spending time outside will give children and youth an appreciation for nature and spark their curiosity about the natural environment. According to a Foundation survey, “people who spend time outside when they’re young are 20 per cent more likely to take part in outdoor programs or to explore nature on their own when they’re older.”

Getting families active outdoors

The four-week Suzuki Superhero Challenge offers the opportunity to learn about environmental issues and inspires kids to make a superhero difference in our world. Four fun active outdoor challenges are available to download for free and come complete with step-by-step instructions. Activities such as a water relay race teach about safe and accessible water, and an obstacle course involving apples shows the importance of eating locally.

Each challenge aims to help teach kids about their right to a healthy environment and create connections with nature.

With the outdoors being increasingly recognized as beneficial for student’s cognitive and social development, resources are also available for educators. Teachers can register a class, download the free Nature as a Classroom guide, and access the Connecting with Nature educational guides for Kindergarten through Grade 8.

The challenge runs all year and can be started at any time. The activities are designed to be done outdoors, and while there is no age limit, the challenges are designed for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 6.

Register for free at davidsuzuki.org/take-action/act-locally/connecting-youth-with-nature/


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About the challenge

First launched in 2012, The Suzuki Superhero Challenge has been known by a few different names over the years including Fall Family Challenge, Get Back Outside, and Nature as a Classroom. Since its start, approximately 34,000 unique users have downloaded the files and engaged with the program(s). “Currently, the program is designed to run on its own in an ‘evergreen’ format (i.e., people can simply download the materials and run with it, without much support from the Foundation), and we plan on continuing this way indefinitely,” said Brendan Glauser, Communications Director, David Suzuki Foundation.

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