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Put the screens down and play

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

With the growing prominence of social media and technology, it appears many children have traded jungle gyms and hockey nets for smart phones and Instagram.

According to physical fitness advocate ParticipACTION, on average, Canadian youth spend approximately eight hours a day in front of a screen.

Recreation officials at the City of Oshawa hope an upcoming program will help to reverse that trend on a local level.

The Oshawa@Play Initiative kicks off on Saturday, March 10.

The initiative is part of a larger provincial program, the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, which launched in the city in October 2015.

Through Healthy Kids Community Challenge, the provincial government pledged $33.5 million over three years to 45 communities across Ontario to promote healthy eating choices and active living for children.

Jim Naumovski, acting director of recreation and culture services, says Oshawa@Play is the fourth and final ‘theme’ of the multi-year program.

Previous themes were ‘Run, Jump, Play’, ‘Water does Wonders’, and ‘Choose to Boost Veggies and Fruit’.

The first two years of the program have been “very successful”, Naumovski says.

“We’ve had a lot of turnout and engagement,” he notes.

Oshawa@Play aims to “bring play back to community neighbourhoods during peak screen-use times.”

“It’s geared to be unstructured play,” Naumovski says.

A mobile unit, which features equipment and play spaces, will travel to city parks and facilities through the end of August.

Following the kick-off event, Oshawa@Play will be active on select Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

A full schedule can be found at oshawa.ca/things-to-do/Healthy-Kids-Community-Challenge.asp

Naumovski reminds families that there is no cost or need for registration to participate in Oshawa@Play.

The kick-off event takes place at the South Oshawa Community Centre this Saturday, March 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.