If you were out on Ottawa's Sparks Street Mall today, perhaps you had time to play in the sandbox.A giant sandbox took up half a block, complete with shovels and pails, with the intention of building not just sandcastles but healthier, happier kids.

It may look like “dirty politics,” as federal Justice Minister Peter Mackay digs his feet into the sand and stops to chat with some children building sandcastles.

“This is my idea of fun politics,” Mackay says.

And that's the point behind the Giant Sandbox Project; government, community and parents working together to build healthier, happier kids.

Dr. Kellie Leitch is the federal Labor Minister, but also volunteers as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at CHEO, “Our goal is to make Canada the number one place in the world to grow up in from a health perspective.”

The problem, though, is that Canada is not stacking up so well. 

"Canada is far behind its peer countries in how many kids are getting the recommended sixty minutes of daily physical activity,” says Dr. Christine Hampson, the president and CEO of the Sandbox Project.”

In a recent report from the Global Summit on Active, Healthy Kids, Canada scored a dismal D- on physical activity, well behind Mozambique. We scored an F on sedentary behaviors but a respectable C+ on organized sport.

“I like playing outside more than computer games,” says one little boy as he digs in the sand, “because it's fun playing outside and making sandcastles.”

Another adds, “Because you need to get muscles to be big and strong.”

Part of the issue, parents admit, is the fear factor; letting our kids loose in the great outdoors.

"It's really hard to trust society today,” says Stacey Bain, the mother of two young children, “to let your kids go out and play.”

The message from the organizers of the Sandbox Project is to go with them, then, to be a positive role model.

"We take our dog out every day,” says mother Amber Foster, as she sits beside her daughter in the sand, “and she comes with me and if she sees us being active, then she will emulate us as she gets older, we hope.”

Sometimes it's as simple as stepping away from the TV, or the desk, and gettin' your hands dirty.

"Even politicians need to remind themselves that the best thing you can do sometimes, is to go outdoors, take in some fresh air and play,” adds Peter MacKay.