More and more kids today are climbing the charts to obesity. And the truth is, weight concerns aren’t about looks. They’re about health. Being overweight really raises the risk of all kinds of diseases.
Let’s do our part as preschool teachers to help teach healthy eating habits to our kids! Read below to find out more.
Why You Need To Teach Healthy Eating Habits in Preschool
This generation of parents in the U.S. are known for giving in to their children. I think because of this and the current obesity levels of these parents themselves, kids at risk more than ever.
Parents don’t want to tell their kids no. Probably because parents don’t know how to tell themselves no! Or maybe they don’t understand how or which foods affect our bodies.
Either way, it’s now necessary for early childhood educators to step in and encourage healthy habits among students.
Parents Rely on Preschools to Teach
With more and more mothers in the workforce, it seems like parents tend to rely a lot more on the teacher (preschool or daycare provider) to teach their child skills that maybe used to be taught at home.
For example, I know as a daycare provider that my kids spend 9 or so hours a day with me. When they are picked up, they only see their parents for a few hours before bed and the day repeats again. So I really am their main teacher and example.
A lot of parents think that because…
- we are the teachers and
- daycare or preschool is something they pay for
- they shouldn’t have to do any teaching at home
- we should do it all
If only they had a day in our shoes, right?
Obesity Affects Developmental Skills
But yes, more than a few studies have found a link between obese children and lower test scores.
In the same way, obese children tend to have lower social skills, motor skills, and verbal skills.
This is true even in kids as young as 2, and there is a greater effect on boys. Even one point on the BMI scale seems to have a great effect on these skills (Cawley & Spiess, 2008)!
This blows my mind.
Obesity Puts Preschoolers At Health Risk
According to the CDC, 17% of kids aged 2-19 are obese (2014)! I know it’s hard to believe, so here’s some info taken right from the CDC website (2016).
Consequences of Obesity
More Immediate Health Risks
Obesity during childhood can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways. Children who have obesity are more likely to have
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
- Breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
- Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
Childhood obesity is also related to:
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
- Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life.
- Social problems such as bullying and stigma.
Future Health Risks
- Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
- If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.
How to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Preschool
Serve Healthy Meals in Preschool
If you are a licensed preschool or daycare, then you can work with CACFP to get paid back for serving healthy meals to your students.
I use this program at my daycare since when I serve breakfast, lunch, and snack every day, I get an amount back to cover the cost of food. I just first tell them what we had to eat, and then which kids were here.
So I know the kids get fruits, veggies, and milk every day! And as my sponsor has often told me, this is the best meal some of these kids get all week.
Don’t forget drinks! CACFP requires 1% or skim milk at meal times, and water in between.
Don’t serve juice or milk in between meals because they add extra sugar and fat that the kids don’t need. It may also make them feel full enough that they aren’t eating the stuff they should at meal time.
Don’t just serve healthy foods at meal time, provide real fruits and veggies for play, too! Go learn more about why on my other post, Why Sensory Play is So Important in Your Early Childhood Program.
Get Preschool Kids Active
Plan fun things to let them run and burn energy.
Also, get them outside every day if you can. Take them for walks and make up games that require running. There are lots of other ideas on Pinterest!
Maybe add an extra gross motor play time during the day. You can probably even add gross motor skills during learning time in creative ways.
Almost all kids love to be active. So encourage it!
Inform Preschool Parents about Healthy Eating Habits
I know most parents aren’t spending the time to research this stuff. It seems like some of them might know if their child is eating healthy or not. But, as parents, we like to pretend our children are perfect and make good choices.
All of the websites below have great resources you can print off and send home with families.
Maybe just giving out a quick handout can make a parent aware of a needed change in their child’s habits.
So just click the links to go right to the resource page of each website. Most importantly, they’ll even open up a new tab so you don’t lose this page 😉
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service
- Nibbles for Health
- Let’s Move! Child Care
Teach Healthy Eating Habits in Preschool
Finally, we also need to be explicitly teaching healthy habits in preschool. There are tons of different ways to do this! Follow my Pinterest board for lots of unique ideas:
I have made a Healthy or Not Healthy? Preschool Printable Pack that you can download and use to teach healthy eating habits.
So click the photo below to get a copy for yourself!
What do you do in your preschool to teach healthy eating habits? Comment below and share your ideas!Let's do our part as #preschool #teachers to help teach healthy eating habits! Read more:… Click To Tweet
Cawley, J. & Spiess, C. (2008). Obesity and developmental functioning among children aged 2-4 years. National poverty center working paper series. Retrieved from ERIC. Childhood obesity causes & consequences. (2016). Centers for disease control and prevention.. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/causes.html Prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States, 2011-2014. (2014). Centers for disease control and prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html