Article Summary:How to determine your preschool child's fitness, and teach them good habits for life.
With all the news stories about obesity, diabetes and other rising childhood health problems, your child's health is on your mind. Is that chubby middle something to worry about or just ignore? What about all out refusal to eat certain foods? Does your child really get enough physical activity or not? These and other questions can trouble any concerned parent. If unhealthful thoughts and habits are not dealt with early in your child's life they may be much more difficult to sway later. Here are some easy ways to measure and take control of your preschool child's health.
1. Body Mass Index (BMI).
Record your child's height and weight and record it on a growth chart from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Your pediatrician should have one you can use or go to the CDC website ( www.cdc.gov ) and download your own. Charts are different for boys and girls so be sure to select the proper one. Ideally, you can start this at age 2 and continue at yearly intervals all the way to age twenty. Once you've recorded a height and weight look to see if it falls within a normal range vs. underweight or overweight. Do not panic if your child appears to be over or underweight according to the guide. What's important is to chart the growth of your child over the next few years to see how the trend continues or changes. Children who are overweight and continue to show higher numbers year after year are more likely to grow up with weight concerns.
2. Food Preferences.
Know that food preferences are determined very early in a child's life. That means if you feed your son fast food every week, he's going to develop a strong taste for that food and prefer it over others he hasn't eaten much of. And even more subtle than that is what you don't feed your child. If you do not give him a variety of fruits and vegetables chances are he's not going to like to eat them when he's older. These two behaviors can set the stage for a very undesirable diet. And, it's much harder to change food preferences after they've been fully established. What's important to remember here is that you are the parent. You know what's best for your child to eat, not her. She can only eat the foods you put in front of her. She can't go to the drive through or the soda machine. That's it. If you don't provide it, she won't eat it. Think about yourself and some of your favorite foods. When do you first remember eating them? Pick a food you really like that isn't that good for you. How hard would it be to stop eating it? Doable, but next to impossible.
3. Physical Activity Patterns.
Get a piece of paper and do this simple test. Write down what your child did each hour yesterday. From eating and watching TV to playing quietly and sleeping. Do the same for today. Look at every hour in each day and label with one of the following four numbers:
1) At rest or sleep,
2) Quiet play or watching TV,
3) Non-strenuous activity such as going for a walk, shopping, or playing in the yard, and
4) Strenuous activity such as climbing, swinging, running, jumping or walking at a fast pace.
You want to see at least an hour each day of the number 4 type movements. In order for physical activity to burn fat, strengthen muscles and develop a healthy heart it must be of a strenuous nature. If your child is not getting at least an hour of uninterrupted play using all their muscles you need to step in and help. Go to the park if necessary to climb, swing, run and jump. Take the dog for a fast walk. Make it fun, but do it. Every single day.
4. The Best Prevention.
Keep in mind that no one item above can predict the future health of your child. Pay attention to your child's body type and tendencies. Teach how to eat nutritiously with items balanced from all portions of the food pyramid. Limit foods at the top like sweets, fats and candy. Try new foods often and refrain from saying you don't like certain ones. Make physical activity part of every day, not just for your child but for you as well. You need to live by the values you want to instill in your child to really make a difference. Most importantly, stay in tune. By staying aware and choosing to actively help your child in each area he or she will have the very best chance for living a happy, fit and healthy life.
Michele Silence, M.A. is owner of Aerobic Fitness Consultants, Inc. and the creator of KID-FIT physical education classes for preschoolers. She is an 18 year fitness professional, health educator, lecturer, fitness studio owner and freelance writer. For more information on KID-FIT or to contact Michele please visit www.kid-fit.com or call (877) KID-FITT toll free.