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Nature Play launched in Canberra, encouraging more children to play outside

Children in Canberra are being asked to turf the tablets and get back to the good old-fashioned way of having fun by climbing trees and getting dirty in the great outdoors.

A new initiative called Nature Play CBR launched in Canberra in Thursday encourages less screen time and more green time by showing kids that playing outdoors is fun.

Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry said the initiative was a chance to bring children back to nature.

"In the ACT, we have so many great natural facilities for children and families to enjoy," she said.

"We're always hearing about the problems we have with childhood obesity and how that sets you up for poor health as an older person.

"What we want to do is try and get children and families back out using the facilities that are out there on their doorstep so climbing trees, going for a bushwalk, riding your bike, swimming in some of our rivers and lakes when it's a bit warmer."

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Nature Play was started in Western Australia in 2011 and has since grown to Queensland and South Australia.

Nature Play WA chief executive Griffin Longley said there had been a recognition among families, schools and even governments of the importance of children playing outdoors.

"We know when kids are outside playing more, it not only benefits their health, but their mental health hugely as well as their creativity and capacity to learn," he said.

"Play is the ultimate brain food and kids thrive on play. What's happening, sadly, is that play being replaced by entertainment and the key difference is entertainment is created by someone else and it's largely a passive activity.

"Play is when kids are active, they're imagining, they're working together ... and Nature Play is all about reminding people of just how important that is."

Active Canberra deputy director Rebecca Kelley said Nature Play was a fantastic initiative and offered a great opportunity to get children outdoors.

"We've got loads of research telling us that we've got growing rates of overweight and obesity, sedentary behaviours indoors and compared to previous generations kids are spending more time indoors," she said.

"So Nature Play is about reversing that trend, getting kids outside and really creating a love of being physically active and knowing that exercising and being active is fun from a young age [and] hopefully that will follow through to a life-long practice for them."

Recent data reveals at least four in five primary school children in Canberra don't do the recommended amount of physical activity and a quarter are overweight or obese.

For more information on Nature Play CBR, visit www.natureplaycbr.org.au.

Ms Berry said getting kids to be more active would also save the health system money.