Maybe you (or perhaps your parents?) remember those ParticipACTION fitness badges earned in 1970’s gym class. ParticipACTION is still around and its 2020 Report Card on kids isn’t an encouraging read. While Canada gets a B for kids’ sleep behaviors, those Ds and Fs for activity are awful. We’ve got to get everyone moving more and sitting less. Family is a huge influencer. Be a role model by putting aside screens and go for a walk, a run, a bike ride or join a community sport. When families are active, kids are active.
This pandemic is stressful, but the easiest way to change up the mood is to get outside. Unstructured, outdoor play is always a good investment in our kids’ well-being. When motor skills are challenged and we unleash creativity and problem solving, brain development gets a boost. And if kids play in a green space, bonus! Humans benefit from connecting with nature in all sorts of ways—a trip outdoors is especially good at softening the anxiety that people of any age are feeling these days. Sadly, when parks closed outdoor play was sidelined, but parks are reopening! And now that we’ve learned good hand hygiene and how to negotiate social distancing, the COVID-19 risk is much reduced.
It is also the perfect time to experiment. Drag a mishmash of junk outside and let kids figure out what’s next: try gardening tools, rope, a bucket, tires, an old hula hoop or wheel, and maybe a wood pallet or garbage can, then stand back and watch the magic. Worried about social distancing? My 3 years old grandson draws a chalk line on the concrete so friends can play together but apart. Encourage bigger kids to invent their own social distancing plan.
With an eye to the long winter ahead, I’ve started Zumba dancing to improve my own fitness. For my YouTube classes, I push back furniture and dance to Puerto Rican salsa, Indian Bollywood and even some South Korean K-pop. Kids love to dance too so what about an outside dance party where grannies like me can lead the gang in some moves?
In the meantime, the kids are watching, so put on some sneakers, stride confidently out the door and invite them to come along.
Helpful resources on outdoor play:
- The 2020 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth
- Families Canada’s Play magazine, Issue 1
- Families Canada’s Play magazine, Issue 2
- Families Canada’s Why Play? pamphlets
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