The number of overweight preschool and kindergarten aged children are increasing in schools all over the country at an alarming rate, according to the CDC 17% of all children & adolescents are now obese, triple the rate from just one generation ago with the number of kindergarten and preschool aged kids showing up for school obese having also doubled. Kids that develop weight problems at such a young age are setting themselves up for extraneous health and social issues that can plague them through out their developmental years.
Parents need to be realistic about the effects that obesity has not just on a child’s health, but also on their socialization with other children, who if you remember your childhood years, can be very cruel to overweight children. You are responsible for your children during their formative years. You need to encourage your kids to be active, get them involved in different activities and monitor what they eat. Last time I checked Kindergartners couldn’t drive their selves to McDonald’s to order Happy Meals.
Once upon a time when I was a child…
Not that long ago, children used to play outside, playing tag and hide-and-go-seek with friends, riding bikes, playing various sports and all sorts of activities that keep kids healthy. I remember my parents had to come looking for me to get me to come inside and stop playing around with my friends.
Obviously things are much different when it comes to young people’s interests today. They have cell phones (don’t get me started on this), Face Book accounts, iPods, and videogames that have reached a level of realism that rivals many of the real activities kids used to do outside not so long ago. I love technology as much the late great Steve Jobs, but there needs to be a balance between electronic and actual physical activities. Video games aren’t going anywhere, but teaching a child at an early age the rewards of outdoor physical activity is also crucial and there is room for both in most cases.
Remember all the games you played in the schoolyard as a child? Tag, Follow the Leader, and Hide and Seek, these classics still have appeal to kids and will help your child to build social interactions with other children outside the text box or the Xbox. In addition to exercise many ‘classic games’ such as Hopscotch and Four Square will help them learn their numbers while also keeping them physically fit.
Parent to Parent
It used to be as easy as sending your kid outside in search of the neighbor kids, but times have changed there as well. First, it may not always be the safest to send your kid out to find the neighborhood kids. Secondly, you just don’t see as many kids playing outside as you used to. Meet the parents at your child’s school and set up play dates for them to interact with other children under your supervision
Monitor the hours in front of the TV
Don’t let your kids sit in front of the TV, your parents were right, it isn’t good for you. Set limits, tell them 1 hour of TV and then get them moving.
Most kids look for a snack when they get home from school and providing your kids with healthy snack options is crucial. Granola bars, nuts and fruit make great snacks; try to avoid processed snacks filled with sugar and high in saturated fat.
Get your kids involved
Getting your child involved in group activities at an early age can have many positive effects on both their fitness levels and socialization, laying the ground work at an early age for healthy habits that will last them a lifetime. There are numerous organized activities that promote physical fitness and expose your child to peer socialization such as soccer, dance, gymnastics or martial arts, it really will depend on what your child likes to do.
Set a good example
We can all strive to be a little healthier. Kids are always watching. If they see their parents doing it they assume it is okay for them to do it. If kids see Mom and Dad eating fast-food in front of the TV on a regular basis, then guess what? This can happen from time to time, but try to prepare healthy meals together as a family.
It has been shown in multiple studies that kids who have a family dinner 3+ times a week at a table away from the television are healthier physically, emotionally and less likely to abuse drugs as they get older. Turning off the tech and sitting down as a family whenever possible is just good medicine and will keep you looped in to what is happening in your child’s life at school.
Try to make activity a priority for your family. Take a walk, ride your bike or take a yoga class. Better yet, invite your family to play catch or to join you on a walk. Talk about physical activity as an opportunity to take care of your body, rather than a punishment or a chore. Praise, reward and encourage activity. You might even set goals and have everyone track their activities and progress.
Another way to keep your kids healthy is use technology as a health tool. Try down loading the app, ‘Lose it!’. You can keep a diary of everything you and your kids eat and track the vitamins, calories and even your daily exercise.
If your child plays video games, opt for those that require movement. Game systems such as the Nintendo Wii, which involves a lot of movement, can help. These gaming systems have proven to be very beneficial to young people.
We all want the best for our children so do everything you can to keep them healthy, active physically and socially and your kids will owe you!
This is a guest post by Dorothy Wheaton. Dorothy, PA-C, is the lead clinical provider for Careworks Convenient Healthcare, a US company operating health clinics and urgent care centers in the Northeast United States.