Children who spent more time in an early childhood centre on average put on more weight compared to children who spent less time in childcare or were cared for at home – this is what researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre in Canada found when they followed the development of children from some 1649 families.
The findings highlight an opportunity for early childhood services to do more to ensure children’s good nutrition and provide more for physical activity.
New Zealand early childhood education services and parents spoken to by the New Zealand Herald newspaper, suggested that this was already happening in NZ as they helped parents to learn more about nutrition and health, children had plenty of opportunities for exercising, and many services have healthy eating policies with several employing their own chefs to cook meals for the children which are nutritionally balanced.
The most recent obesity figures for children in NZ were released in June 2008, showing that 8.3% of children aged 2 to 14 were obese and 20.9% were overweight. The next obesity figures for children are expected to be released soon, based on results of the 2011/12 New Zealand Health Survey.
In NZ early childhood service, the rules for 20-Hours ECE funding allow services to charge parents for food provided as this has been categorised as an ‘optional extra’ rather than as something that should be provided as a minimum standard for children’s care and health. In response to recent funding reductions some ECE services say they have responded by cutting out children’s meals and asking parents to supply food for their children (for survey results click here).