Belgium tells kids to leave TV for sun and games

Belgian television networks shut down for an hour every year. (Reuters pic)

BRUSSELS: No television and no tablets. It sounds like a punishment, but across Belgium it was the recipe for the nationwide children’s “play outside” day.

Every year, for an afternoon, Belgian television networks stop broadcasting children’s shows to encourage kids to go outdoors. On Wednesday, hundreds of venues across the country hosted events to tie in.

“That’s what’s happening here too: no television this Wednesday afternoon, just playing outside with other kids and having a great time,” Pascal Smet, minister of the Brussels region for mobility and public works, said.

A report from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, published in 2012, found that around half of the nearly 9,000 preschoolers studied had no daily “parent-supervised” opportunity to play outdoors.

“There is kind of a problem that kids don’t move enough,” Smet said.

In Brussels, the main event featured face painting, a bicycle repair workshop, and an inflatable castle.

Neighbourhood resident Marie Gregoire, 30, said she appreciated the initiative to encourage parents and children to go outdoors.

“These days, children tend to spend a lot of time in front of their tablet, their computer, and the television,” Gregoire said.

Another mother, 37-year-old Ilse Taildeman, called on local government officials to see the turnout at such events as a reason to construct a playground in the area.

“There are a lot of children and not enough initiatives to play,” Taildeman said.