Teaching children to make the right choices
Childhood obesity is costing taxpayers $17 million every year with one in five Australian children overweight before they start school, a new study has found.
University of Sydney scientists found that each obese child in Australian incurred a healthcare cost of $367 above that of a child of a healthy weight. Their report was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
The study revealed that the first five years of a child’s life are when the majority of habits and preferences are formed, meaning that setting children up early with good habits is essential.
Goodstart Hobart West educational leader Georgia Carney said the centre’s health and wellbeing program had been designed to teach children to make the right choices throughout their lives.
“Our program looks at healthy eating, physical activity and mental health because having independence and making the right choices as children get older are all-important,” Ms Carney said.
“By the time they get to kinder, we want to ensure they have a multitude of skills so they can choose the right type of physical exercise such as yoga for relaxation and boot camp when they want to get excited.”
The centre’s comprehensive program is inclusive of all ages and provides children with opportunities to make choices themselves and become independent in their own routines.
Healthy eating starts with a healthy menu, and the centre enlisted the help of parent dietician Emily Burgess.
“We now have a four-week rotating menu that provides a wide variety of balanced meals and snacks. We learn what gives us energy, what keeps up fuller for longer, where our food comes from and how to eat different foods from different cultures.”
Tips for parents to encourage a healthy lifestyle:
- Children are more likely to take part in physical activity is you make it fun. Get off the couch and walk to the park, play tug-of-war or What’s the Time Mr Wolf, or set up an obstacle course.
- Offer children a variety of different types of fruit or vegetables so they can choose which flavours they like. For younger children, try to introduce foods they can hold and feed themselves.
- Encourage smaller children to use a spoon to help develop confidence and independence.
- For older children, allow them to use tongs, pour their own water, serve their own meal and clean up afterwards.