Time to uplug and play

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The week of March 24-30, ParticipACTION is encouraging Canadian families to get themselves and their kids away from all the electronics and out into the great outdoors. The Unplug & Play challenge aims to counteract the average of eight hours a day children spend in front of a screen and replace sixty minutes of that with outdoor activity. 

Eight hours a day is a staggering number. Certainly not every child is spending that much time in front of the television, computer, or other device, but the pervasive nature of electronics is plainly an enormous factor in the decline of physical fitness. Unplug & Play comes at the perfect time, as the change of the seasons provides a wonderful incentive for more outside time. Even a change of ten degrees means that most of us are longing for the fresh air and milder weather. 


Children seem to naturally want to be outside. And since the Unplug & Play challenge wants parents to go outside with their kids for that hour a day, it’s the perfect opportunity to get re-acquainted with our nature-loving inner children.


Most of us remember ParticipACTION and how it exhorted us to get active: “Just do it!”. The message is the same now, but it’s evolved with the times. Their website (www.participaction.com) not only covers their mission to get people moving, but also provides information on sponsored challenges such as Unplug & Play. The site provides helpful, practical suggestions on taking this challenge with your kids, including a checklist with a week’s worth of ideas and a printable certificate to celebrate your success. 


In the Whistler family, the challenge comes in the middle of spring cleaning, as I make list after list and consult paint strips and try not to get overwhelmed by everything I’d like to do. Getting outside with the children for an hour a day sounds exactly like a challenge. Sixty minutes outside is an hour away from all the things I have to do inside. 


But it’s also sixty minutes of chances to feel the difference between the air in February and the air in March, to check if the tulips and crocuses are daring to raise their heads from their muddy pillows, and smell that distant promise of green. 


It’s sixty minutes to watch my daughter and son freed from their layers of clothes, running with all the space they need and all the sunshine they want (weather permitting - let’s be honest, it’s still only March!). And it’s sixty minutes to create some memories with them.


In addition to playing outside games and letting the kids run free, I wanted to take the opportunity to investigate some of the wonderful trails we have in the area so we can really see nature waking up. Trenton Park is always a great place to go, and we are so fortunate to have that close by. We are also fortunate to have our more urban trails like the Samson, which is popular year-round. The Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail is another beautiful spot, as is the Jitney Trail in Pictou, where you can also check out the original landing site of the Hector and get your history fix while you get your exercise. Check out the Active Pictou County website (www.activepictoucounty.ca) for a list of trails, and if you’re a trail fan, don’t forget to like the Trails of Pictou County page on Facebook for all the latest information. 


 I’m positive I’ll end up with a washer full of muddy clothes, that I’ll be wiping many a runny nose, and that everyone will need a bath when we come inside. But I’m also positive it will do us a lot of good, in more ways than just the physical. Sixty minutes a day may just be enough to help us celebrate the return of Spring, and to be healthier and happier. 

See you all outside!

- Submitted by Susan Whistler


Organizations: Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail

Geographic location: Pictou County, Trenton Park

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