TORONTO – Engaging kids in active outdoor play is a key focus of the new ParticipAction Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
The report includes a position statement featuring several recommendations for getting kids out of the house and moving, like encouraging them to embrace the outdoors, regardless of the weather conditions.
Physical activity experts share three ways to get kids involved in active outdoor play.
1. JOIN THEM
“I certainly acknowledge that parents have a lot on their plates and that’s not always possible. But if we’re able to shift a few of their priorities and recognize how important it is for us to be playing with our kids,” said Shawna Babcock, executive director of charitable organization KidActive.
“Then we’re able to populate our parks and populate our sidewalks and our streets for outdoor active play so that we have more children outside playing which, in turn, makes it safer. And it becomes more visible and it provides parents with the confidence that it is a really safe and a really positive thing for their children.”
2. EMBRACE SIMPLE ACTIVITIES AND SCHOOLYARD GAMES
“We go back and recognize how valuable those traditional games were, even if it was kick the can or hide-and-seek or just pickup games on street corners and cul-de-sacs,” said Babcock.
Her organization has been working across Ontario on a project called Healthy Children Healthy Spaces which brings together community members to help rejuvenate unused spaces.
“I think fostering that creativity when they’re making up their own games and really exploring their own communities – that’s when physical activity and really positive social engagement starts to thrive between kids, and also between parents and kids.
“Even a simple walk in the community really generates a lot of dialogue between parents and kids and even between peers. … I think the simpler the activity, the better.”
3. DEVELOP A SCAVENGER HUNT
Mark Tremblay, chief scientific officer of the ParticipAction report card, said scavenger hunts are a great way to not only educate kids but get them moving.
“One day, it could be a commercial sort of thing. ‘We want you to go to this store, this store, this store and just pick up a business card from them,”‘ said Tremblay, director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.
“But you could also do it naturally. So ‘We want you to get a maple leaf, we want you to get a pine cone, we want you to get a number of different things like that.’ You could do it in a whole bunch of different thematic ways.
“There’s a little bit of learning and yes, they need to navigate and they need to find their way home and so on. So I think things like that might be a way for the parents to sort of dip their toe in the ‘let my kid roam a little further pond.”‘