COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – The Comox Valley School District’s outreach counsellor is urging families to take a mental health challenge over spring break.

And part of the challenge Tara Ryan is promoting is putting down screens and heading to the great outdoors.

“We are taking on the initiative of encouraging families to get out and enjoy the beautiful community of the Comox Valley and put the screens down and just spend some time together as a family, so increasing family relationships and dynamics, and enjoying nature,” Ryan said.

The Spring Mental Wellness Challenge provides a list of activities that families can check off, with the dangling carrot at the end coming in the form of prizes.

Activities include playing a board game, walking on the beach, cooking a meal together, bowling, playing an outside game, eating dinner at the table – screen free, swimming at the wave pool, going for a walk for a half an hour, and more.

For any of the activities completed, a family will receive one entry into the district draw on May 7, which is National Child and Youth Mental Health Day.

The challenge kicks off at the start of spring break and continues to April 30.

Entries must be submitted by midnight on April 30.

The draw will be held on May 7.

Challenge forms will be accessible to families at their respective schools, and by email, by the end of the week.

Ryan said [part of the idea is to get children away from screens and spend more time with their families.

She said from her own personal experience, too much screen time can have a negative impact on children.

“I’ve seen more school refusal, difficulty focusing and paying attention in class, and definitely a reliance more on screen time for social relationships and interactions with others instead of doing it in person,” Ryan added. “I would say less communication in families and with friends face-to-face, and more done over technology, for sure.”

Technology has its pros and cons, Ryan said. While often a benefit in the classroom, with more access to learning online, “we also want kids to be aware of the dangers of social media and some of the problems that are associated with it.”

But this challenge isn’t just about screen time, she said.

“It really is about relationships and focusing on positive mental health and communication and relying on family and friends, and being open to those face-to-face relationships, and just practising in person, and time together,” Ryan said.

Partners including Mt. Washington, Codes Country Lanes, the CVRD, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox, and the school district are donating draw prizes for the challenge.