ParticipACTION offers Play Suggestions for Youth

natural playground

natural playground

Unstructured Play a Missing Component

THUNDER BAY – As August heads into its third week, parents are starting to turn their attention to the end of summer and the start of the school year. For many Canadian parents that means a look at structured activities to get their kids moving. Soccer, and other organized sports are common for parents to look at for their kids.

Maybe one of the issues is that perhaps it is that unstructured play time that isn’t in front of a video screen that more youth need.

ParticipACION says, “Let’s not forget about the importance of free, unstructured play. The before-, during- and after-school periods are opportune times for spontaneous, outdoor play and getting to and from places on foot”. For back-to-school, ParticipACTION provides parents with a few backpack must-haves to encourage their children to be active throughout the school day.

“Sport leagues, programs and school activities are essential, valuable components of getting our kids to be more active, but kids need to do more than that, and more often,” says Elio Antunes, president and CEO of ParticipACTION. “Our kids are missing out on opportunities for spontaneous movement—such as getting to places on foot and playing freely outdoors. So, let’s pack our kids’ backpacks for active play!”

ParticipACTION’s backpack must-haves to encourage active play:

  • Pedometer – Let children log the total amount of steps they take in a day and make a game out of getting healthy
  • Rubber ball/chalk/skipping rope – 63 per cent of kids’ free time is spent being sedentary, so send kids to school with something to encourage spontaneous, active games with friends
  • Mobile phone – Parents worry about the safety of their kids. A phone can help them stay in touch while their kids walk to and from school, or play outside with friends
  • Jacket – Weather is one barrier to active play, so make sure children are ready for rain or shine
  • Sun hat and sunscreen – Kids need a sun hat and sunscreen in order to protect them from the rays and enjoy outdoor play
  • Helmet – Wheeling to and from school will quickly add up to a much healthier lifestyle, as will walking or running. With 62 per cent of parents saying their children are always driven to and from school, why not let them walk or wheel?

It’s important for parents to remember not to over-pack. Experts recommend that kids carry no more than 10-15 per cent of their total body weight.


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