National Study: Canadian Parents Rank Sports, Playtime and Cultural Attractions as Top Summer Activities

New Ontario Science Centre study reveals balance for kids is key for parents

Latest exhibition, SPORT, and new Weston Family Innovation Centre exhibits, in line with values of Canadian parents

TORONTO, June 21, 2012 /CNW/ - Despite recent concerns that Canadian children are over-programmed, a new national study commissioned by the Ontario Science Centre found 70 per cent of parents with children ages six to 12 years old said kids should have a balance between organized programs and unstructured time in the summer. To further emphasize the importance placed on balance, the survey found that almost no parents (five per cent) said that children should be in structured programs for most days in the summer.

"The study shows that parents are placing significant importance on free-choice learning, especially in the summer months," said Lesley Lewis, CEO of the Ontario Science Centre. "Kids can learn an amazing amount through exploration and problem solving on their own or with their friends.  This is exactly the kind of experiences that we offer people of all ages."

When asked what would offer children the most benefit during the summer, the top three choices by parents were sports (63 per cent), unstructured playtime or learning (59 per cent) and cultural attractions, including museums and science centres (57 per cent). Surprisingly, sleep-away camp the - iconic summer staple - ranked lowest with only 25 per cent of parents considering it beneficial. On top of this, over half of parents said that their children have a significant input on what they do for the summer with only five per cent saying they do not consider their child's input at all.

Summer at the Science Centre

Just in time for the summer months and in line with what the survey showed parents want for their kids, the Science Centre is launching a new exhibition, SPORT, on June 25th.. At SPORT, visitors can try their hand at pitching the regulation 60 feet 6 inches from pitcher's mound to home plate, race a cheetah in the 10-metre dash or test landing skills to see if they meet gymnasts' standards. The Weston Family Innovation Centre has many new experiences and exhibits including Tell Tale Heart, an exhibit that uses visitors' heartbeats to animate a light sculpture, and So You Think you Can Fly, which allows visitors to explore the principles of flight.

"We were pleased to see that the research supports what we offer to our visitors," concludes Lewis. "Our summer exhibitions reinforce the values of today's parents - SPORT demonstrates the importance of healthy, active living and the Weston Family Innovation Centre, allows children and teens to learn and explore at their own pace."

Survey Highlights

Balance is key for Canadian parents

  • 70 per cent of parents say children should have a balance between free/unstructured time and time in organized programs over the course of the summer.
  • Five per cent said children should be in organized programs most days in the summer.
  • Two-thirds of Canadian parents plan to enroll their kids in at least one program over the summer or have already done so.
  • Westerners value unstructured time more than the rest of the country - 26 per cent believe children should be engaged in unstructured daytime activity for most of the summer, compared to just 13 per cent in Ontario.
  • Ontarians program their kids the most in the summer with 22 per cent enrolling their child in three or more programs, whereas the survey found that only 12 per cent of parents in the rest of Canada would enroll their child in three or more programs.

Sports, playtime, cultural attractions rank highest with parents

  • When asked which organized programs would offer their children the most benefit during the summer: team or individual sports (63 per cent), unstructured playtime or learning (59 per cent) and cultural attractions like museums, science centres or galleries (57 per cent) ranked highest.
  • Sleep-away camp ranked lowest with only 25 per cent of parents considering it beneficial while learning programs (39 per cent), chores around the house (47 per cent) and day camps (51 per cent) were ranked in the middle of the group.

Kids are involved in summer planning decisions

  • Over half of parents say kids have a significant input on what they do for the summer.
  • Only five per cent of parents said they did not consider their child's input at all when making the decisions on what they do for the summer.

About the Survey
The Gandalf Group is Toronto-based public opinion research firm.  A bilingual survey was conducted online between May 29 and June 1, 2012, with 450 Canadian parents who had at least one child aged 6-12. Survey invitations were sent to a sample of online Canadian parents, with invitations proportionate to region and gender.

About the Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Centre delights, informs and challenges the communities we serve, enriching people's lives and understanding through engagement with science of local, national and global relevance. Since 1969, the Ontario Science Centre has welcomed over 45 million visitors, with an interactive approach that was the model for Science Centres around the world. It is the public centre for innovative thinking and provocative dialogue in science and technology, aiming to inspire a lifelong journey of curiosity, discovery and action to create a better future for the planet. The Ontario Science Centre is an agency of the Government of Ontario. Please visit us at  Twitter: @OntScienceCtr. YouTube:

SOURCE Ontario Science Centre

For further information:

Media Contacts: Tricia Soltys, Narrative Public Relations, Office: 416-644-4128, Cell: 416-509-0955

Shelley Thomas, Narrative Public Relations, Office: 416-922-2211 ext. 3364, Cell: 416-357-7829

Christine Crosbie, Media Relations Officer, Ontario Science Centre, Office: 416-696-3191
Cell 416-895-5482,

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