It’s no secret that kids today often struggle with weight and unhealthy habits. According to the CDC, in 2010, more than 1/3 of children in the United States were overweight. Obviously, these children should be accepted by their peers regardless. However, this is often viewed as an aesthetic issue, when it is not. Children who are overweight are much more likely to develop all kinds of diseases, both physical and psychological. People blame parents, schools, society, fast food, you name it. However, blame is not going to solve the problem. (Unless, you know, you’re an activist or public health official actually looking at causality and working toward change. In that case, keep blaming.) I work at a school, and its really sad to see that so many kids honestly do not have the environment to play outside, are not ever offered healthy food choices, or simply do not elect to not play outside and make healthy food choices.
This is a huge problem and we cannot solve it in one action. However, our lives can make a difference in the lives of children we know. That is why I am going to start encouraging health with kids I know. There are two ways that we can do that by being a role model. It may not change the course of the obesity epidemic, but it may increase the health of kids in your life- and that can have a domino effect.
1. Involve the kids in healthy food.
Last summer, I did this (unintentionally) with the kids I was helping to teach- and I was amazed by the results. We took them on a field trip to a community garden, so they got to see where healthy food comes from and I would usually eat breakfast at work, and the kids would see what I was eating. This got them asking what certain things were- such as the different types of fruit and Greek yogurt I would sometimes bring in. I have also heard of kids eating vegetables that they grow. The more surrounded by and involved in healthy eating that a child becomes, the more likely they are to choose it for themselves. When I babysit, the kids normally want to help cook. Most of the families I babysit have a variety of very healthy food and already encourage healthy habits- but I am still shocked by the willingness of the kids to eat, for example, carrots, if I let them peel them instead of doing it myself. All of these personal examples just go to show you that kids if children are involved in some way with healthy foods, they will be much more likely to choose them.
2. Play with Inactive Children
I have watched a teacher do this before, and she got even the most inactive kids at the school, the ones I have seen not want to get out of their seat to throw something away, up and playing soccer. Something about an adult playing with the kids makes them want to do it. Maybe its the novelty, or the comedy of having a “grown up” look silly when trying to kick a ball, but it works. If you want the kids in your life to be more active, try playing with them. It’s great exercise for both of you. My personal favorite is tag.
So, today’s suggestion of how to change the world is to encourage health with the kids in your life. It’s a lot of fun, and will go along way in providing healthy examples for them.