Obesity is an epidemic that affects one in three American children, according to the American Heart Association. With a growing trend towards a sedentary lifestyle, including a heavier reliance on screens on less time spent outdoors or being active, it's easy to figure out why the number of young children who are overweight or obese is growing.
As a parent, you may wonder what you can do to help your preschooler reduce the risk of obesity. Along with the daily physical activity your child gets during their preschool day, you can help them to eat right and stay active at home.
Not only will regular physical activity help to keep your child at a healthy weight, but it will also improve both their fine (small) and gross (large) motor skills. These abilities are necessary for your child to do everything from buttoning their coat to walking up and down the stairs.
How can you help your preschooler to combat the obesity epidemic? Look at some of the common questions that parents of prekindergarten children have about weight gain and a healthy lifestyle.
Will All Screen Time Contribute to Weight Gain?
Simply stated - no. They key here is to find balance. In general, young children in the U.S. tend to engage in screen time that goes beyond what is considered healthy. Studies have shown that preschool children (between the ages of two and five) spend anywhere from 2.2 to 4.6 hours a day in front of a screen, according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC).
A preschooler who spends more time than not sitting in front of a screen is compromising their health. This type of heavy screen viewing is a passive pursuit that can easily lead to weight gain. But a child who spends minimal time in front of a screen isn't likely to see the same problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than one hour of high-quality screen viewing for preschoolers ages two to five. If your child exceeds this by several hours, or their screen-time is getting in the way/displacing other less passive activities, balance can help to minimize the risks.
There's no reason to completely cut all screen time - especially when it comes to educational shows/content. By reducing the number of hours of allowed viewing time or adding more physical activity to your child's day, you can create a healthy sense of balance.
How Much Activity Should a Preschooler Get?
Your three-year-old doesn't need to spend their entire day jogging or running in circles just to stay at a healthy weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least one hour of physical activity each day.
The type of activity that your child gets can vary by day. Keep in mind, the one-hour recommendation doesn't have to mean that your child gets one continuous hour of physical activity. Your child could play 30 minutes of soccer, run around the playground for 20 minutes, and play tag for another 10 minutes.
What Type of Activity Should a Preschooler Engage In?
Your preschooler can engage in a seemingly endless number of physical activities to stay at a healthy weight. When choosing an activity, make sure that your child enjoys it. Children are more receptive to the types of activities they enjoy. That means if your preschooler loves to dance but doesn't enjoy soccer, a family dance party is preferable.
If you're not entirely sure what to try, easy activities that are age-appropriate for preschoolers include moving like a favorite animal; riding tricycles; rolling or tossing soft or rubber ball; or running, jumping, or hopping through an obstacle course.
Does your preschooler need the added benefit of movement activities during the school day? Contact Kids & Company for more information.