Kids, Families Invited to FREE Unplug and Play! Kick-Off Celebration on May 1

Families are invited to the 5th annual Let’s Move! Missoula: Unplug and Play! kick-off celebration on Sunday, May 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at McCormick Park. Missoula Parks and Recreation and Let’s Move Missoula are hosting dozens of fun outdoor activities at the free event which kicks off Unplug and Play! Week. “Unplug and Play!” is 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. Let’s Move Missoula encourages kids to “Unplug and Play!” during the week of May 1-7, 2016.

Kids of all ages will find fun, interactive physical activity stations at the May 1 event, according to Lisa Beczkiewicz of the Missoula City-County Health Department. “The kick-off celebration has a few new additions this year, including a preschool pod for our youngest participants with Strider bikes and a portable playground, a huge free fresh fruit stand by Fresh Market, Walk with a Doc featuring the new Riverfront Prescription trail, a bicycle obstacle course, a photo booth that lets kids express how they like to get active, plus all the favorites from the High Ropes Course to fencing, pickleball, tennis, soccer and more. It’s a chance for kids to experience new ways to move and discover the many benefits of screen-free play.” Parks and Recreation’s Fireline Grill will be on hand with healthy lunch and snack items for purchase.

Unplug and Play 2013In addition to the Kick-Off event, many local organizations are hosting free or low-cost events during “Unplug and Play!” week. Kids and their parents can enjoy a fishing derby or disc golf, check out boxing or taekwondo, groove to an Oula dance class or become a Super Skipper, or listen to a favorite story at Missoula Public Library. A full schedule is available at “Unplug and Play!” Week 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.

Beczkiewicz says there is a large and growing body of evidence that points to the need for kids to spend less time in front of screens and more time in play activities, especially nature and unstructured play. “Parents need to begin discussions about screen time use at an early age. Try to create a healthy play environment where kids have choices other than video games, smart phones, TVs and computers,” she advises. “Kids who are using their recreational time to sit in front of a screen are not expending the energy to help them maintain a healthy weight. How children spend their time is important — lifelong habits and behaviors are formed in childhood,” she added.

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

  • Every day, kids ages 8-to-18 consume an average of 7 hours and 11 minutes of screen media per day—an increase of 2.5 hours in just 10 years.
  • Younger children fare slightly better – in 1995, 5 – 10 year-olds averaged around 2.5 hours of TV. Fast- forward to 2014 and screen time has risen to 4.5 hours.
  • Children are also now multi-screening – using more than one device at the same time, for example, watching TV while surfing the internet on a tablet or mobile so some of the screen time will be concurrent.
  • Screen time increases your child’s risk of obesity because:

o  Sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active.

o  TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats.

o  Children eat more when they are watching TV, especially if they see ads for food.

Biking, boarding, playing sports... What will you enjoy during Unplug and Play Week in Missoula?Recommended Screen Time Guidelines:

  • Children under age 2 should have no screen time.
  • Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day for children over age 2.
  • Despite what ads may say, videos that are aimed at very young children do not improve their development.

Worldwide celebrations of screen-free play 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:

  • Explain to your kids that it’s important to sit less and move more in order to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Agree to limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day. Log screen time vs. active play time.
  • Remove all screens from your child’s bedroom, especially at bedtime.
  • Take a family walk after dinner instead of turning on the TV.
  • Turn off the screens and turn up the play.

For more information on Let’s Move! Missoula: Unplug and Play! week, visit, stop by

Currents Aquatics Center, or phone Lisa Beczkiewicz at the Missoula City-County Health Department, 258-3895.