Cutting kilojoules is kids play
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org FOUR-YEAR-OLD Cale Buckle doesn’t need any encouragement to get him running around outside, but a new program at his preschool makes sure exercise is part of his daily routine.
“Cale doesn’t like TV. He loves being outside,” his mother, Bronwyn Buckle, said. “Anything where he doesn’t have to sit still.”
Bumblebee Early Education Centre in Goonellabah has introduced a 12-week physical fitness and education program it is hoping to run each term.
It has been designed for three to five-year-olds, but will be adapted to suit all age levels at the centre.
The centre’s director, Kerrilyn Reynolds, said the issue of childhood obesity became a national talking point during last year’s Federal election campaign so she contacted local community health nurses to discuss the problem.
“We also found when we asked kids what they were doing at home, they would often say they’d watched a video, or played Power Ranger or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So there was a TV or video culture common in their answers, instead of going outside and kicking a ball,” she said.
Ms Reynolds developed the program with Sally Poidiven, a physical education teacher from the Gold Coast who is now training centre staff.
“What we wanted was a holistic approach so kids learnt about healthy food and bones and muscles, because if a child knows why they are doing something it makes learning more real to them,” she said.
At the end of each week, the children receive a certificate explaining to parents what they have done and encouraging them to continue the activities at home.
“It makes it part of their daily life and just becomes what they do,” Ms Reynolds said.
“It has to be fun. Like all early childhood development stuff, kids learn best through play so they want to do it and don’t feel it is being forced upon them.”
NSW Health figures show almost 25 per cent of children aged between five and 16 are overweight or obese. Last time a survey was done, in 1985, only 11 per cent of children were considered overweight or obese.
According to the North Coast Area Health Service’s Nutrition and Physical Activity co-ordinator Jillian Adams, the rise in childhood obesity is largely due to changes in technological, social, economic and environmental factors.
“Increases in sedentary activities such as TV and video games, the increased use of the car for transport, decreases in physical activity and an increase in the consumption of high fat and high energy foods are likely to be foremost among the causes of the current obesity epidemic amongst children and adults,” she said.