International News Round Up

Bulgarian City Offers Tax Cuts to Families with Children Playing Sports

In an effort to encourage more physical activity among children, a Bulgarian city is proposing to cut the taxes of families whose children take part in organized sport. Todor Popov, Mayor of Pazardijk, and Reneta Kamberova, a member of the Bulgarian Rhythm Gymnastics ensemble, have drafted a proposal which will be submitted to the Pazardijk City Council early next year in which the local taxes and fees of families with youngsters playing sport could be reduced by up to 30 per cent.

Watching Birds Near Your Home Is Good For Your Mental Health

People living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, according to research by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland. The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or leafier suburban neighborhoods.

New UK Government Called Upon to Reinstate Urban Playgrounds

The Association of Play Industries (API) released a manifesto ahead of the UK general election calling upon the next government of the United Kingdom to provide ‘urgent and sustained funding’ for public playgrounds to reverse an ‘alarming decline’ in the past few years. Play Must Stay: A Manifesto for Children’s Health also outlines the API’s desire for the administration to conduct audits of community playgrounds, as well as secure the long-term sustainability of public playgrounds.

Study Finds Boys Who Are Less Physically Active Have Less Reading Ability

A study conducted in Finland concluded that being physically active could help make boys smarter. The study, which included 153 boys and girls, observed the amount of time the children spent sitting and being idle versus running around. The researchers found a positive correlation between free playtime for boys and their ability to excel in reading and math.

Outdoor Lessons and Pocket Parks Proposed in ‘New Deal for Nature’

A new report commissioned by the Green Party in the U.K. attempts to put nature at the heart of the general election debate. The report recommends such nature-based measures as an hour a day of outdoor learning for primary school children, tighter restrictions on paving over front gardens and turning 20% of Britain into national parks. The report also advocates for more green spaces in cities through the rewilding of hospital grounds and the creation of pocket parks to ensure no home is more than a half of a mile from a wild green space.

Screen-based Media Associated with Structural Differences in Brains of Young Children

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics indicates there are structural differences in the brains of preschool-age children related to screen-based media use. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center led the study, assessing screen time in terms of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. Researchers found that children who have more screen time have lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain that support language and other emergent literacy skills. The children with increased screen time also had lower scores on language and literacy measures.

Outdoor Recreation Offices Are Popping Up Everywhere

Over the past six years, a steady wave of states have created dedicated outdoor recreation offices or task forces focused on outdoor recreation in their state. A total of 16 states now have state recreation offices. Though each office functions slightly differently, they are typically committed to the physical and mental health benefits of recreating outside as well as acknowledging the economic power of the $887 billion outdoor industry and its dependence on healthy landscapes.

Bristol Scheme to Get Children to Play Outside Their Homes Recognized at Mirror’s Pride of Sport Awards

Playing Out, a movement that emphasizes outdoor access and safe playing areas for children in their own neighborhood, has bee awarded the Mirror Pride of Sport Awards. Playing Out was founded in the U.K. by parents who became increasingly frustrated at the lack of safe spaces for their children to play. The idea and movement have spread throughout the U.K. and beyond.

Study Shows Kids Get More Exercise at School Than at Home

In a study of the activity level of grade 5 students at 60 schools in Canada, researchers found that on days with heavy precipitation, the students’ daily step count dropped by about 10 percent of their usual daily steps. Drops in activity levels were also associated with increased cloud cover and lower “feels-like” air temperatures. The effect was almost doubled on non-school days and was more pronounced for girls than boys.

UK Planning Systems ‘Neglecting Rights of Children’

A new report finds that planning systems in the UK are failing to consider the rights and needs of children, leading to detrimental effects on their health, wellbeing, and future prospects, with children from social housing reportedly being banned from communal play areas by developers. The research released by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) reveals that the past 50 years have seen a ‘drastic reduction’ in the use of outdoor spaces by children – as national policy has increasingly focused on economics rather than people.

The My City Too Report Lays out Recommendations for Outdoor Free Play in Toronto’s Public Spaces

8 80 Cities and EcoKids announce the launch of the My City Too report, laying out recommendations for reviving children’s independent mobility and outdoor free play in Toronto’s public spaces.  The My City Too Report brings attention to the impact our built environment has on the wellbeing of children in Toronto. The document is the culmination of a one-year research project to better understand why children’s independent mobility and outdoor free play is declining and offer solutions to revive and encourage children’s full participation in the public realm in Toronto.

More Trees Reduce Premature Deaths in Cities

City dwellers tend to live longer if they are in leafy neighborhoods, according to a study published on Wednesday that linked green areas to lower rates of premature death. The research study, which pulled data from nine other studies involving more than eight million people in seven countries from China to Canada, was the largest ever conducted on the subject.

$8M Makeover for Children’s Park in San Diego

The city of San Diego is moving ahead with an $8 million overhaul of Children’s Park. The renovation effort, which is expected to be finished in the summer of 2021, will replace an urban forest area that has been used primarily by homeless people with a number of family-friendly amenities intended to activate the entire space. The project will include amenities such as forest-themed playground equipment, space for vendors and a dog park.

New Tool to Advance State Policies to Get Kids Outside Launched

The newly launched Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook is a tool to help legislators and community leaders advance state policies to get kids outside. Highlighting existing and promising policy solutions, the website provides a platform for sharing and advancing new ideas, and connects cross-sector leaders working on statewide policy initiatives. Partners involved in the development of the Playbook include the Children & Nature Network, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, North American Association for Environmental Education, Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and Meridian Institute.

PlayCore Announces New Green Schoolyards Resource for Planning and Design

The Growing Green Schoolyards Executive Summary is a new resource featuring initial research findings from a national survey and best practice design principles to continue the momentum in the green schoolyards movement. The resource was produced out of a collaborative partnership PlayCore and the Children & Nature Network, which joined forces to raise awareness and help scale the implementation of green schoolyards.


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