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Parents who fear that kids in organized sport spend less time on just-for-fun activities can take heart in a new study by researchers at McMaster University and the University of Toronto.

Not only did the study find those kids embraced free play, it found they generally engaged in more physical activity on their own than those who were not in organized sport.

Lead author John Cairney, a professor at U of T’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, says the findings debunk commonly held fears that structured sport comes at the expense of free play.

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He suspects that’s because children who are naturally inclined to enjoy organized sport are simply active kids.

But he says it could also be because organized sport teaches the fundamental motor, psychological and social skills that kids need for unsupervised activities such as a pickup game of basketball or playing tag after school.

The study followed 2,278 children from Grades 4 to 8. Researchers also looked at whether age, sex and socio-economic status played a role.

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