The number of severely overweight children in the United States has doubled since 1980 and now, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the nation spends $127 million each year on childhood obesity-related hospital costs. Research shows that the lack of exercise and poor eating habits that lead to this epidemic start early and are difficult to break, but in Contra Costa the Child Care Council is teaching child care professionals how to establish good habits in children that last a lifetime.
Frolic in Fitness Program
The Council’s Frolic in Fitness program teaches child care providers how to get the kids in their care active and how to talk to parents about taking the children’s healthy behaviors home. Under the on-site instruction of a child health and nutrition specialist from the Child Care Council, child care providers create an environment that encourages active movement and healthy eating.
Frolic in Fitness teaches child care providers activities and attitudes that help give children a foundation for lifelong enjoyment of daily physical activity and healthy nutrition. The program is specially designed to appeal to children while enhancing their basic coordination and body awareness through physical play activities.
“Preschoolers need a daily combination of play and planned, structured and unstructured, physical activity,” said Paula James, director of the Child Care Council’s Child Health and Nutrition department. “The child care setting can be a great opportunity for children to eat healthy foods and be active without pressure.”
Many children of working parents spend much of the day away from home, so it becomes especially important that the care environment be a healthy one that encourages good physical and nutritional habits.
A group of family child care providers who participate in the Council’s Child Care Food Program piloted the Council’s Frolic in Fitness program. A recent grant expands the program to child care centers.
Keep the Pressure Off and the Fun On
To keep the pressure off and the fun on, it is important to encourage children with positive statements. Below are tips from other child health experts on how to encourage children to enjoy physical play and frolic in fitness:
- Provide a wide variety of activities that require object handling and eye-hand coordination
- Reinforce good posture with positive feedback
- Gear activities toward gross muscle movements with some fine-motor control
- Encourage children to take their time; their coordination declines when speed is added
Benefits of Physical Activity in the Child Care Setting
Research shows that children in child care settings with a physical activity program are more likely to:
- Develop basic movement, balance and manipulation skills
- Build positive social skills
- Develop and maintain acceptable levels of physical fitness
- Increase spatial and body awareness
- Enjoy and seek out activity for life-long wellness
Contact: Child Health and Nutrition Department 925-676-6117 Nutrition@cocokids.org