Missoula Agencies Encourage Families to Unplug and Play

Fast Facts:

  • Let’s Move Missoula and Missoula Best Beginnings Council are sponsoring Unplug and Play Outside Week April 21 through April 28–a week-long series of screen-free activities for children.
  • Families are invited to the free Unplug and Play Outside festival on Sunday, April 21, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at McCormick Park.
  • Learn more at the Unplug Missoula website.

Let’s Move! Missoula and Missoula Best Beginnings Council are encouraging kids to “Unplug and Play Outside!” April 21-28.  Unplug and Play Week challenges to families to limit recreational screens for the week of April 21-28 and reap the many benefits.  The program encourages kids to get outside, spend more time at unstructured play, re-connect with friends and neighbors, and take advantage of Missoula’s endless opportunities for screen-free fun and relaxation.  “Unplug and Play!” is part of a global campaign to educate families about the detrimental effects of too much screen time from television, computers, gaming systems, portable music players and cell phones.

See the Unplug and Play Program Guide (PDF).

Families are invited to the Unplug and Play Outside! kick-off event on Sunday, April 21, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at McCormick Park.  Missoula Parks and Recreation and their partners are hosting over 20 fun outdoor activities for kids.  Kids can shoot some hoops with Lady Griz basketball stars, or try their hands at fencing, pickleball, jump rope, Frisbee golf, a climbing wall and much more.  The event is free and healthy snacks will be served.

Unplug and Play 2013Several local organizations are hosting free or low-cost events during “Unplug and Play Outside!” week. Kids and their parents can enjoy a $1 swim at Currents Aquatics Center, jump and tumble at gymnastics; listen to a favorite story at Missoula Public Library and more.  The full schedule is available at www.unplugmissoula.org.

Let’s Move Missoula is sponsoring Unplug and Play Outside week to help promote healthy lifestyles for Missoula youth.  The group points to the large and growing body of evidence which illustrates the need for kids to spend less time in front of screens and more time in play activities, especially unstructured play that includes nature.

“We know that excessive screen time is partially responsible for the childhood obesity epidemic.  Kids who are using their recreational time to sit in front of a screen are not expending the amount of energy that will help them maintain a healthy weight.  In addition, and equally important, are the many benefits of unstructured play that kids are missing out on,” says City-County Health Department Let’s Move! Missoula Coordinator Mary McCourt.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health:

  • Every day, children ages eight to 18 spend more than six hours watching TV, playing video games or using the computer for recreational purposes.
  • The more time youth spend in front of the screen, the more likely they are to be overweight.
  • Overweight is highest among children watching four or more hours a day.
  • Research has shown that children who reduced their screen time showed decreases in body mass index (BMI), which measures body fat related to height.

Worldwide celebrations of Screen-Free Week are supported by leading health and education organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, and President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Research supports reduced screen time for kids. “Study after study demonstrates kids who spend less time in front of screens weigh less, eat healthier food, sleep better, do better in school, read more, and are less prone to risky behaviors.  Doing more while watching less is the smart choice,” explains Rebecca Morley, Eat Smart Coordinator for Missoula City County Health Department.

The National Institutes of Health offers these tips for parents:

  • Agree to limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.
  • Don’t put a TV in your child’s bedroom.
  • Take a family walk after dinner instead of turning on the TV.
  • Turn off the TV and play outdoors.

For more information on Unplug and Play! week in Missoula, visit the Unplug Missoula website, stop by Currents Aquatics Center, or phone the City-County Health Department at 258-3895 or 258-3827.