Play time in Manitoba child care centres and nursery schools is soon going to be made a mandatory part of the lessons.

The province announced on Wednesday the introduction of mandatory play-based curricula and the expansion of physical activity in those facilities.

"All parents want to give their kids the very best start possible and today we’re taking new steps to help parents do just that," said Premier Greg Selinger.

"Our innovative Early Returns program will bring proven play-based learning methods to Manitoba’s child care centres and we’re giving care providers more training to help get our kids physically active."

'Childhood obesity and rising inactivity among children threatens the future health of Canada.' —Jeff Hnatiuk, CEO of Sport Manitoba

Early Returns is based on the latest research on early childhood learning that shows learning through play is the best way to give children a head-start in developing healthy social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills, Selinger said.

All Child-care centres that offer preschool or nursery-school care for children between two and five years of age will be required to implement the curriculum by December.

In addition, the province is giving $40,000 to Sport Manitoba to help early childhood educators incorporate play-based physical activity into their daily programming.

The funding will increase the number of child-care centres that have access to the Sport Manitoba physical education program by about 60 to about 75, Selinger said.

The physical activity compenent, however, is not mandatory.

"Childhood obesity and rising inactivity among children threatens the future health of Canada," said Jeff Hnatiuk, CEO of Sport Manitoba.

"Physical literacy gives children the tools they need to take part in physical activity, both for healthy life-long enjoyment as well as sporting success as they grow older."

The complete version of the Early Returns curriculum framework is available on the Manitoba government website.