Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
The end of June still brings us a rush of joyful adrenalin – a giddy sense of freedom, even though it’s been well over a decade since Alice Cooper’s iconic School’s Out summer anthem played on repeat in our teenaged heads.
Our first task after that last school bell was always a cannonball in the closest open swimming pool (one of those “wet banana” slides would also work), followed by two months of soccer, bike riding and any other outdoor activities we could rally our friends around. Back then we thought this was the case for all Canadian kids, but today these seem like memories of a bygone era.
The 2013 report card by Active Healthy Kids Canada found less than seven per cent of school-aged children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, while the Public Health Agency of Canada reports that more than half of teenagers exceed the recommended maximum two hours of sedentary screen time.
The benefits of active, outdoor play are obvious to Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario: “Breathing fresh air, healthy exposure to sunlight (vitamin D), increased physical activity, decreased incidental eating, increased socialization opportunities and an enhanced connection with the community.”
This week’s question: How do we get our kids outside and active this summer?
Jennifer Cowie Bonne, CEO, Active Healthy Kids Canada
“The more time that kids spend outdoors, the more physically active they are. Add balls and toys to encourage more vigorous play at home, parks and child-care settings. Take a break from the car and encourage kids to actively travel to and from destinations such as friends’ houses, parks, malls and sport and day camp activities.”
Cathy Smey Carston, chair of the department of child and youth studies at Mount Royal University, Calgary
“What you do is even more important than what you say: Be active with your children when they are young, and continue this involvement as they grow. Set some guidelines for screen time and have everyone in the house abide by them.”
Alexis Butler, editor-in-chief of EcoParent Magazine
“Embrace your child’s spirit of adventure! Examine your own reluctance and fear, and ensure that it doesn’t limit outdoor play that your kids choose on their own: Let them ride their bikes after supper, climb trees (yes, even when it’s a bit dangerous!), and remember that skateboarding is a sport!”
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