Don’t have to plug in

Members of the ParticipACTION team take a short break from play to pose with kids on one of the funmobile’s previous stops. - Photo submitted
Members of the ParticipACTION team take a short break from play to pose with kids on one of the funmobile’s previous stops.
— image credit: Photo submitted

With games like hide-and-seek and hopscotch becoming things of the past as children turn to video games and computers, one group has begun a tour to remind kids that it doesn’t have to have a plug to be fun.

Video games and smart phones may give kids’ thumbs a workout, but ParticipACTION wants to bring back unstructured play as a way of improving the all-around health of children.

“Kids just aren’t active enough these days,” said Zachary Nash, who is helping promote the program. “They don’t get a chance to develop that physical literacy.”

The 2012 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card found that 46 per cent of Canadian kids get three hours a week or less of active play each week, including weekends. Unstructured play is seen as an important part of childhood development by many, and not only for physical health. Games help kids develop problem-solving, decision-making and social skills and encourage creativity.

This type of play has been in decline in recent decades, with distractions like television and games consoles occupying the free time of children.

ParticipACTION, in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Health and Healthy Families B.C., aims to reverse that trend with its Bring Back Play Funmobile by encouraging kids to get out and play.

The Funmobile, a brightly-coloured truck laden with balls, hoops, chalk and the like, is coming to the North Island to promote old-fashioned games like Tag and California Kickball as part of its B.C.-wide tour.

“Let’s bring back play and give kids the unstructured active time that used to be part of every childhood,” said Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipACTION. “Let’s offer them options besides computers and TV, and work with our neighbours to address safety concerns, so that our kids have the chance to run around freely, let loose and direct their own activities. They’ll be happier, healthier and stronger for it!”

The Funmobile will be in Port McNeill at Sunset Elementary and Chesalakees Elementary on April 4, moving to Robinson Park after school. The team will visit Alert Bay Elementary the next day before going to Port Hardy’s Rec. Centre and Carrot Park on April 6.

The Funmobile team will also introduce parents to the Bring Back Play app which lists games that parents may remember playing in their youth, and encourages them to share these games with their children.

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