Across Canada, many levels of government, health care providers, and education and early childhood experts are expressing concerns about children’s lack of outdoor play and the increase in childhood obesity and related diseases. Providing children with a healthy start during their early years is essential for the current and future social, environmental and economic perspectives for Canada. As we think about the health and wellness of children, early learning teachers have important roles in supporting them in having experiences that contribute to them establishing healthy living practices during the early years. Health Canada describes ‘healthy living’ as making choices that enhance physical, mental, social and spiritual health.
There are many researchers (Dietze & Kashin, 2016, Fjortoft, 2004, Burdette & Whitaker, 2005) that have outlined the scope of health benefits to children gained from outdoor play. These researchers and others indicate that children who play outdoors regularly:
- Are fitter and leaner;
- Have stronger immune systems, reducing the number of colds, flus and related illnesses;
- Express more active imaginations and communication skills;
- Exhibit more freedom to explore;
- Exhibit lower stress levels;
- Create more intriguing play that is multi-faceted; and
- Develop play partner relationships that include expressing respect and empathy for others.
Even though many parents and educators have an understanding of the importance of outdoor play and activity, why is there a need for agencies and advocates to come together to promote and advocate for outdoor play? Why are there national campaigns to get children outdoors? Why are research dollars being used to explore how to get children playing outdoors? What does this tell you about Canadian society?