2015 ParticipACTION Report Card wants kids to scrape a knee

In an era of schoolyard ball bans, bylaws that restrict tobogganing and parents frequent calls of Be careful or Wait for me, are we limiting our childrens ability to engage freely in active play outdoors?

The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card (formerly the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card) was released today in concert with an evidence-informed Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play.  The gist of this years report card is that kids need to get outside more, and they need to engage more fully with their environments when theyre out there.  Its time to get out of kids way, let them play outside and give them the freedom to occasionally scrape a knee.  Active play in nature and outdoors with its risks is essential for healthy child development.

As Dr. Mark Tremblay, the chief scientific officer of the ParticipACTION Report Card says, we have lost the balance between short-term safety and long-term health.  In outdoor play, risk doesnt mean courting danger, but rather giving kids the freedom to assess their surroundings and make decisions, allowing them to build confidence, develop skills, solve problems and learn limits.  Not only will kids move more if theyre outside, playing freely, but theyll be set up to be more resilient and less likely to develop chronic diseases in the long run.

What many adults recall from their childhood as thrilling and exciting play that tested boundaries such as exploring the woods, rough housing, moving fast or playing at heights is often called risky play these days. While these activities could lead to injuries, the vast majority are minor.

The fear of stranger abduction is also disproportionate to the risk; the odds are estimated to be about 1 in 14 million.

Despite common knowledge that Canadian kids need to sit less and move more, the two lowest grades in this years report card are a D- for Sedentary Behaviours and a D- for Overall Physical Activity. Child and youth physical activity levels remain alarmingly low, with only nine per cent of five- to 17-year-olds meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Children move more, sit less and play longer in self-directed outdoor play, so the biggest risk is keeping our kids supervised indoors. Among the 11 grades assigned in the Report Card and in addition to the above, other grades include:

  • D for Active Transportation
  • C+ for School
  • C+ for Families and Peers
  • B- for Organized Sport & Physical Activity Participation
  • B- for Government
  • B+ for Community & Environment
  • A- for Non-Government

Download the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card Highlight Report, including the Position Statement, or the 58-page Full Report, here.