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Play Australia highlights children’s health matters to World Health Organization

Play Australia highlights children’s health matters to World Health Organization
April 24, 2020

With many families experiencing home isolation and physical distancing, Play Australia has advised that it is increasingly concerned about the impact this is having on children’s mental health.

Responding to the World Health Organization’s Draft Discussion Paper ‘Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour for children and adolescents, adults and older adults’, Play Australia has highlighted that it is seeking an increased commitment by governments, schools, the early childhood sector, families and communities to make changes and encourage children to play outside every day, as a matter of urgency.

A recent global study on teenage physical activity published in leading medical journal The Lancet, sees Australia as having one of the world’s lowest levels, ranking 140th out of 146 countries.

Concerned at how a lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to the poor physical and mental health among children and young people and how anxiety related problems are increasing among children with an incidence 10 times that of diabetes, Play Australia is asking what Australia is doing about this time of increased stress.

Citing the Australian Department of Health’s reporting that one in seven children experience a mental illness, and that nearly 14% of Australian children aged 4-11 are reported as having a mental health issue, Barbara Champion, Executive Director of Play Australia says “I am concerned about the health and wellbeing of our children and young people, particularly during this time of upheaval. We firmly believe that when governments and families recognise the importance of embedding play into everyone’s daily lives, better mental health and life outcomes will be achieved.

“Research demonstrates that building healthy physical activity habits in our children and young people, increases the likelihood of them being active throughout their adult lives.

“We also know that the earlier children play, the better, as play can enhance the early development of children by 33% to 67% by improving language skills and reducing social and emotional problems, which contributes to greater resilience when faced with challenging circumstances.

“Outdoor play, that is unstructured and not controlled by adults; allows children to self-discover, take risks, and make their own decisions. This kind of play is essential, because it provides children with a foundation of physical literacy, in order to establish healthy habits that last a lifetime.”

Outdoor and unstructured play provides an essential opportunity for our children and young people to grow their health and wellbeing in the most natural of ways.

Champion adds “we have this incredible opportunity to reimagine how we better establish our daily physical activity habits, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting our children to have greater opportunity to play outside every day needs to become a key pillar of our national physical activity strategy, if we are ever going to improve the health and wellbeing for our children and young people.”

Play Australia urges governments, schools, the early childhood sector, families and communities to prioritise outdoor and unstructured play as a matter of urgency, during and post-pandemic, in order to preserve and enhance the health and wellbeing of our children and young people.

Main image courtesy of Centennial Parklands.

Related Articles

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26th March 2020 - World Urban Parks emphasises that ‘Nature Never Closes’

25th March 2020 - Play Australia advises that while playgrounds close outdoor play is fine

28th February 2020 - ACT Government opens applications for the 2020 Nature Play Grants program

28th January 2020 - Brisbane’s $10 million playground at Northshore Hamilton attracts complaints from parents

2nd December 2019 - Warragamba All Abilities Playground opens

21st November 2019 - Urban Play partners with Waterplay to offer solutions for aquatic fun

11th January 2019 - Belgravia Leisure to add new outdoor play park at Knox Leisureworks

19th October 2018 - Gold Coast City Council announces new planning guidance for parks and outdoor play spaces

28th May 2018 - Cairns Nature Play recognised as Queensland’s top playspace

19th October 2017 - ​Nature Play WA launches innovative outdoor play app

18th October 2017 - $4 million Nature Play Garden officially opened in Sydney’s Centennial Parklands

2nd January 2017 - Nature Play Queensland launches summer-themed activities

14th October 2016 - Outdoor play essential to healthy childhood development

15th November 2015 - Risky outdoor play positively impacts children’s health

5th May 2014 - Nature Play passports to encourage activity for children


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