TV instead of a playground and tablet instead of a climbing frame. In particular, the corona pandemic has ensured that many children today prefer to consume media instead of playing outside with friends. But experts agree: Exercise and the right diet are important for children’s physical and mental health and have an impact on their later development. Dorothea Wehinger (The Greens), who sits in the state parliament for the Singen constituency, organized on this occasion a family policy discussion for day care workers and primary school leaders. About 25 participants attended and talked about how to teach children and their parents the importance of exercise and healthy eating. But it was also about child health risks, poverty and the consequences of the corona pandemic.
TV or smartphone instead of supervision
Renate Zimmer, a sports and education researcher at the University of Osnabrück, specializes in promoting children’s education and health through physical activity in kindergartens and schools. She told the participants at the online meeting that an active everyday life is a prerequisite for children’s education and health.
But rising media consumption at a young age and the corona pandemic are a problem, explains Renate Zimmer. Many children were restricted by the Corona measures and their media consumption had increased. For many parents, putting their children in front of the television or giving them a smartphone was an emergency solution, she says. Because many were overwhelmed by the situation of working at home and caring for the children at the same time. It has a negative effect on some children’s physical and mental health, Zimmer says.
Playing outside gives limits and freedom
“Lack of exercise in childhood often leads to an inactive lifestyle in young adulthood, and this is one of the biggest health risk factors,” the educator adds. How can day care institutions and educators help to make children more active? Playing outside, says Renate Zimmer.
“When children play outside, children often lose track of time. It gives freedom and sets boundaries – you have to adapt to nature, for example when it rains, “says Renate Zimmer. In addition, the children’s imagination is awakened and they get to know their self-efficacy. She emphasizes that day care institutions and primary schools cannot cope with this problem alone. “You have to have the parents with you, they can’t do it alone,” Zimmer adds.
Healthy eating is also a problem
The district coordinator of the state program “BeKi-Conscious Child Nutrition”, Elisabeth Auer from the Stockach Agricultural Office, then explained the importance of healthy nutrition for children. According to her lecture, the first years of life are crucial to a person’s later eating habits. However, there are studies that show that children from poorer families consume less healthy food because their parents do not have the financial means to eat a balanced diet.
Therefore, the kindergarten is an important place, because there you have the opportunity to offer balanced meals to all children. According to Elisabeth Auer, however, it is not just about the children being full, but that they learn about food. She says many children do not know where their food comes from. Therefore, the goal is for children to get to know and appreciate the diversity of foods.
Parents play an important role
Elisabeth Auer provides incentives for how day care institutions and primary schools can bring children closer to a healthy diet. Sensory exercises where children have to feel, smell and taste different food are a good approach. A visit to the farm or the weekly market is a good way to get to know the origin of the food.
It is also important to involve the children’s parents, says Elisabeth Auer. She advises day care centers to arrange action days where parents cook with their children. Or to set up an information stand about drop-off and pick-up times for the children, where parents can find out more about the topic of nutrition.
“All children have the right to education, we owe it to them,” said Dorothea Wehinger, a member of the Green Party, after the lectures. Poverty plays a big role when it comes to education, exercise and nutrition. Therefore, we need to look at where child poverty starts and where we can prevent it and give parents a helping hand – so to speak, help for self-help, according to Dorothea Wehinger.