Bringing back play: Participaction’s Kelly Murumets

For the past 40 years, Participaction has been promoting active living and physical fitness to Canadians. Starting with their iconic television public service announcements of the 1970s that urged viewers to get up and get moving, Participaction has become synonymous with physical activity and wellness in Canada.

In the wake of new research showing that activity rates among children and youth have continued to fall over the past 30 years, Participaction has launched a fresh new campaign targeted at getting kids active. It’s called Bring Back Play, and it focuses on engaging kids in the simple, active play that their parents enjoyed so much as children.

Active for Life interviewed Participaction’s president and CEO, Kelly Murumets, to learn more about the Bring Back Play campaign.

1. What is Bring Back Play, and how did it come about?

Bring Back Play is based on the evidence that came out in the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card that came out in 2012. It told us that our kids are active in play less than 3 hours per week, and that they are spending almost 8 hours per day on screens. So we wanted to build on this public awareness and help parents to get their kids playing actively again.

Studies show that only 7% of our kids are meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines, so this means 93% of kids are not active enough. We need to increase the number of kids who are meeting the activity guidelines, which say you need at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.

With Bring Back Play, we have looked at how we can help parents to help their children meet the guidelines. And we’re saying it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be playing at home or in the park, it can be outdoors or it can be indoors. It can be done at school, during school, outside of school, in the back yard.

2. What makes children’s play so important? 

Mostly because it’s really easy and it’s not expensive. We know that if kids are playing, they are gaining all sorts of cognitive, social and emotional benefits in addition to the physical health benefits. They are healthier, they are happier, and we know that they score better academically. They are also gaining leadership, creativity, problem solving, decision-making and motor development. These are all byproducts of active play.

When we talked to moms about their experiences as children, 50% of the moms say they played actively as kids. But they say only 19% of their kids play now, so we want to give moms tools to help get their kids to become more active.

3. How is Bring Back Play helping to get kids active?  

We are trying to give parents the inspiration to help their kids be more active. We have television commercials and banner ads, and in some provinces radio and print ads to promote active play.

Our campaign is built off the nostalgia of our parents. The parents are saying, when I was a kid, I used to be outside playing until the sun went down. So we want to play off that nostalgia because the element of play was certainly a big part of their lives as children.

We also want to give parents the tools to help their kids get active. Through social media, we are showing parents how easy it is to get their kids active and playing again, and we have tips and tools on the Participaction website.

We’ve also created a web-based application that includes all of the games we used to play as kids, such as hopscotch, four-square and red rover. You can add to the games, and you can share the games with other parents. So you may be out in the park with your kids, and you can use the app on your cell phone to see what game you could be teaching your kids.

We are also working with not-for-profit groups right across the country to create community-based awareness initiatives. So we’re providing inspiration and tools, and at the rural level, actual programming that is aligned with Bring Back Play.

4. What are some of the challenges in getting kids to play?  

Parents have told us that there are two key barriers to getting their kids active. One is screen time. The guidelines tell us that children should have no more than 2 hours per day on screen devices, and under age of two they should have zero hours per day. There are no studies that exist anywhere that talk about the positive effects of screens.

The other thing that concerns parents most is safety. Parents don’t feel comfortable just letting their kids run around outside and play. One of the messages we are trying to communicate to parents is that your kids are not safe sitting in the basement being sedentary and playing video games. They look like they are safe, but in fact they are inching themselves towards contracting major long-term health issues by being sedentary.

5. How can parents overcome these challenges?  

Play is about breaking up that sedentary time and just getting up and playing – just move. It’s not enough to be active for just one hour per day. Yes, you should be active, but you shouldn’t be sedentary those other 23 hours per day. You have to break up that sedentary behavior.

The second message is let’s be innovative about how we help our kids be safe when they are outdoors. It could be having them in groups, or it could be parents working together and volunteering to supervise the kids while they are playing. Maybe one set of parents has Mondays, maybe one set has Tuesdays, and so on.

So if you are concerned for the safety of your child, you can share that supervision time so your kids get time to play, but you are not being consumed as it relates to your own schedule. Another similar idea is the “walking school bus” where parents volunteer to walk with the kids to and from school. It’s fun, and the kids are seeing you as an active parent role model.

Parents are always saying we don’t have enough family time, so this is another way you can work family time into your life. Get active with your kids, and help them rediscover the simple joy of play.

One response to “Bringing back play: Participaction’s Kelly Murumets

  1. Unfortunately I have recently had several negative experiences involving ParticipACTION.

    They seem to make it a practice to not respond to phone calls or emails. It took a month and a half until I actually got a response from them and when I did, – I and spoke to the CEO herself. And she was very Unapologetic and disinterested in my concerns!

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