We have selected Jane Pilskalnietis, Play Program Manager at Earth Day Canada, as our Healthy Kids Community Challenge Danforth East-York Community Champion. She recently led a Playwork training workshop for peers workers and staff across the community to encourage active play. We spoke to Jane about the importance of play and powering off for children under 12.

Why is it important to Earth Day Canada to limit screen time for children?
Children, like trees, grow best outdoors. There is an opportunity cost to screen time. It takes away from more developmentally healthy practices. It is sedentary, intellectually passive and socially isolating. For healthy development we want children to be physically, mentally and socially active. Screen-time is linked to many health concerns, including myopia. It also activates areas of the brain associated with fight or flight, indirectly supporting anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

Tell me about some misconceptions that you have heard about screen time?
Screen time is not as relaxing as it appears. Even though children settle down quickly in front of screens, their bodies are still but their brains are suspended in a fight or flight reaction activated by the blue screen. Many parents notice that their children seem quite miserable after an hour or two of screen time—a good sign that they have not really relaxed.

What are some alternatives to screen time that can be implemented in the community and at home?
We don’t need to constantly entertain or program our children. Play provision takes a little forethought but the payoffs are huge. In the community, seek out well-used playgrounds, to find playmates for your children. A few loose parts—shovels, buckets, yogurt containers, balls—can help children who don’t know each other become happy playmates. After social bonding, your children will gladly play in the park. At home, make a play zone with an arts and crafts area, materials to make forts and inventions, and dress up clothing for imaginative play —a space they can make their own. If they’re bored, they’ll find their way there.

What is the most important take-away from the Earth Day Canada Playwork training conducted with agency staff from Danforth East-York?
Play is foundational to children’s wellbeing. Agencies managing children’s time need to give them enough time, space and permission to play freely. Make playtime more interesting than the screen.


Join us for some outdoor play at the June 10th, 2018 Pop-Up Adventure Playground at East York Community Centre! Find more information about the event here and visit www.earthday.ca to learn more about Jane’s and Earth Day Canada’s amazing work.