To reduce the spread of COVID-19, public health authorities across the country have recommended that Canadians keep their distance, wash their hands, and stay home. To enforce these measures, restrictions on outdoor behaviour have been implemented, limiting access to parks and recreational outdoor spaces. New evidence shows that COVID-19 restrictions are associated with an overall lower amount of time spent in outdoor play among Canadian children and youth. This is concerning, as outdoor play is important for children’s physical and mental health and helps provide them with a sense of control during times of uncertainty and stress. As policies on access to the outdoors during the COVID-19 outbreak vary by province, it is possible that policy differences have led to regional differences in changes in outdoor play among children and youth. In this commentary, we examine regional differences in outdoor play among children and youth across Canada, and the association between provincial policies related to COVID-19 and outdoor play. We argue that through the recovery process, in the event of a second wave of infections, and in preparing for future public health challenges, policy decisions should consider ways to preserve outdoor play for Canadian children and youth.
Senior Scientist and Director, Healthy Active Living and Obesity, CHEO Research Institute