When you think of your favourite times as a child, does it involve the outdoors? It’s likely that at least a few special memories were in nature, under the sun, covered in dirt or by the water. 

In an era filled with screens, we know now more than ever how much of a positive impact outdoor time can have on the development – both cognitive and physical. Exploring the outdoors is an exercise in both centring and expanding who we are as humans – and the relationship with nature can’t possibly start too early. 

In today’s busy world, you might find yourself struggling to incorporate time outside into your day to day life. In the past decade, Canadians have seen a decline in physical activity – especially outdoors. This has an impact on health – both physically and mentally. If you’re finding that your child’s outdoor time can be measured in minutes while time in front of a screen is logged in hours – it might be nature deficit disorder.

What does that mean for the next generation? It’s imperative as parents – or aunts, uncles, grandparents or guardians – to work extra hard preserve this critical commitment to outdoor activity.

We have a long way to go before we can consider Canada a nationwide success when it comes to active play and leisure activities for children and youth. In the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, we received a D grade. Both Statistics Canada and the UNICEF Canada Baseline Report for the Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being confirm less than 20% of Canadian children are regularly engaged in over an hour a day of unstructured, active outdoor play.

The effort to ensure our kids are getting enough physical outside time starts today – but to make it stick, new habits need to be formed. When in doubt, let them out.

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