It used to be common for a parent to tell the kids to “go outside and play” and children would spend hours organizing games of hide-and-seek, Red Rover, Frisbee or street hockey.
But unfortunately those days are long gone; in fact, in a recent report by Active Healthy Kids Canada, researchers assigned an “F” grade for the number of hours Canadian children spend doing physical activity. Approximately 46 per cent of the children surveyed were getting three hours or less a week.
“Unstructured play is declining with each generation and this is having a negative effect on the health and wellness of our children and youth,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief Scientific Officer for Active Healthy Kids Canada. He notes that physical activity is shown to improve other skills like motor function, creativity, problem-solving and social skills.
Some of the factors cited for this inactivity are too much screen time and parental worries over safety. Canadian kids in Grades 6-12 are spending seven hours and 48 minutes per day in front of screens, which is radically higher than the two hours per day suggested by various health organizations. As well, 58 per cent of Canadian parents said they are over-protective and are highly concerned about safety so they don’t encourage their kids to play outdoors.
If the fear of letting your child play outside is part of the problem, then parents should organize outdoor activities as a family, such as going for a walk after supper or taking a bike ride together. Take little ones to the park, even if you bring along some reading or work to do while they play. Consider getting kids involved in outdoor chores like raking leaves or gardening.
Finally, keep this interesting fact in mind. In a 2010 Play Report conducted by IKEA, 92 per cent of Canadian kids said they would rather play with friends then watch TV. So help your child by encouraging physical activity with friends and the entire family.