PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCH POINTS TO FACTORS OF BEING BREASTFEED, GETTING SUFFICIENT AND GOOD SLEEP, EATING HEALTHILY AND NOT HAVING TV IN SLEEPING AREAS AS IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN.
READ MORE BELOW AS TO HOW THIS RESEARCH IS RELEVANT TO EARLY CHILDHOOD SERVICES, TEACHERS AND CHILDCARE WORKERS.
Cambridge, USA, May 2012 - Early childhood is a critical time for obesity prevention. Children are developing taste preferences, learning to walk and play, and eagerly mimicking both healthy and unhealthy behaviour of their caregivers, according to Harvard School of Public Health research.
Yet for many children, those caregivers may be someone other than their parents. In the US, for example, it’s estimated that 75 percent of children spend time in childcare, for an average of 35 hours per week.
Child obesity rates are rising worldwide, even among the youngest of children: Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool children were overweight or obese in 2010, a 60 percent increase since 1990.
Children's early-life experiences, such as lack of breast feeding, too-little sleep, and too-much television can increase the risk of obesity later in life. That’s why early childcare providers have such a crucial role to play in turning around the obesity epidemic.
Childcare providers are in a unique position to educate parents about healthy eating and activity habits, and also to provide a healthy environment for children to eat, play, and grow. They can serve children age-appropriate healthy foods, and limit junk food, sugary drinks, and juice. They can offer children lots of opportunities for active play, in fun, short bursts throughout the day. They can keep televisions turned off and away from areas where children sleep. When parents also adopt these practices at home, children are assured the best chance of growing into a healthy weight.
Young children should spend most of the day being active, not sitting or watching television. During nap times, children need peaceful and television-free places to sleep, both in the childcare setting and at home.
For more, see hsph.harvard.edu.