How family fun leads to healthier kids

Support International Youth Day by getting in on playtime with the brood

The question comes up every Father’s Day: “Dad, when is Kid Day?”

The reply? That’s easy: “Every day is Kid Day!”

Technically, however, that response isn’t accurate. There really IS a Kid Day! Since 1999, the United Nations has designated Aug. 12 as International Youth Day. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that children play all day while the grown-ups work hard to pay the bills!

Case closed? Not quite. Active play time, it turns out, is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of our children. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, physical inactivity and obesity are growing problems in Canada, with as many as 26 per cent of children and youth being overweight and obese. These kids face a higher risk of chronic disease, and may not grow up to be as healthy as they could be.

International Youth Day is also sounding the alarm, with this year’s theme being “Safe Spaces for Youth.” Leisure activities, the UN points out, are “essential to the psychological, cognitive (this is stuff like: construction of thought processes, problem solving and decision making) and physical development of young people.”

Every dad wants the best for his children, and there’s plenty dads can do to promote active play.

Structured vs. unstructured play

In general there are two types of play: Structured, which helps kids learn fundamental movement skills through adult instruction; and unstructured, which is spontaneously directed by children themselves. Balancing both types is important, so what’s a dad to do?

Get in on the structured-play action!

Signing the kids up for soccer camps, gymnastics classes and other types of structured play will do the trick, but the costs can add up in a hurry. So why not take the lead yourself? From pick-up road hockey and lake swimming to family hikes and bike rides, there are plenty of free ways to get active with the brood. It’ll do them — and you — some good!

Pick your spots for unstructured play

Many of the best places for structured play — parks, sandy beaches and nature trails — are also ideal for letting the kids do their thing without you. So sit back and relax as they clamber over rocks, climb trees and wear themselves out playing tag.

Great job dad, you’ve earned a break, after all, by helping to make yet another “Kid Day” active and healthy!

 

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