Remember just getting out and playing with the neighbourhood kids? For many, this was a favourite part of growing up. But unstructured playtime is something too many children today simply don't get enough of. "Active playtime is one of the most decreased areas of discretionary time in the past decade," says Michelle Brownrigg, chief executive of Active Healthy Kids Canada. "If you look at time in school, time at home, time watching TV, those things have either stayed consistent or gone up. But active playtime has decreased."
Not only are children playing less, says Brownrigg, but they're spending more time in front of screens: TVs, computers and cellphones. According to ParticipAction, Canadian kids spend an average of six hours a day in front of screens—the equivalent of 42 hours a week. As a result, they're missing out on play. "It's a critical, key thing," says Brownrigg.
Play can help children build their imagination and provide them with the tools to entertain themselves. "Kids learn to set their own boundaries, to develop in an environment that's not necessarily focused on a competitive end, to interact with one another, to determine how to win and lose, and to trade roles and be involved in an active way with their peers," says Brownrigg. "They're learning social skills."
A traditional camp environment, she says, will encourage active play and inspire the creativity and social engagement that come alongside. "What's really unique about the camp environment—whether it's a day camp or an overnight camp—is the opportunity for kids to explore being active in creative ways that aren't as adult-driven," she says.