Singen/Hegau: When standing still is bad for your health: why children should move again

Television instead of playground and tablet instead of swing. The corona pandemic in particular has ensured that many children today prefer to consume media rather than play outside with friends. But experts agree: exercise and proper nutrition are important for children’s physical and mental health and have an impact on their later development. Dorothea Wehinger (Greens), who is a member of the state parliament for the constituency of Singen, organized on this occasion a debate on family policy for directors of kindergartens and primary schools. Around 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 the risks to the health of children, poverty and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

TV or smartphone instead of monitoring

Renate Zimmer, a sports and educational scientist at the University of Osnabrück, specializes in promoting children’s education and health through physical activity in kindergartens and schools. She told the participants in the online meeting that an active daily life is a prerequisite for children’s education and health.

But the growing 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, it was an emergency home office solution to simply sit the kids in front of the TV or hand them a smartphone, she says. Because many were overwhelmed with the situation of working at home and taking care of the children at the same time. This has a negative effect on the physical and mental health of some children, she says Zimmer.

Playing outdoors offers limits and freedom

“The lack of exercise in childhood often leads to an inactive lifestyle in young adulthood and this is one of the biggest risk factors for health”, adds the pedagogue. How can daycare centers and educators help children be more active? Play outside, says Renate Zimmer.

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“When playing outside, children often lose track of time. It offers freedom and sets limits: you have to adapt to nature, for example when it rains,” says Renate Zimmer. In addition, children’s imaginations are sparked and their self-efficacy is known. She emphasizes that kindergartens and primary schools they can’t tackle this problem alone.”You have to get parents involved, they can’t do it alone,” adds Zimmer.

Healthy eating is also a problem

Next, the district coordinator of the state program “BeKi-Conscious Child Nutrition”, Elisabeth Auer, from the Stockach Agricultural Office, explained the importance of healthy eating for children. According to her lecture, the first years of life are decisive for a person’s later eating habits. However, studies show that children from poorer families eat less healthy foods because their parents do not have the financial means to eat a balanced diet.

That is why the kindergarten is an important place, because there you have the opportunity to offer balanced meals for all children. However, according to Elisabeth Auer, it’s not just about children being full, it’s about learning about food. She says that many children do not know where their food comes from. Therefore, the goal is for children to know and appreciate the variety of foods.

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Parents play an important role

Elisabeth Auer provides incentives on how nurseries and primary schools can introduce children to healthy eating. Sensory exercises in which children must feel, smell and taste different foods are a good approach. A visit to the farm or the weekly market is a good way to find out where the food comes from.

It is also important to involve the children’s parents, according to Elisabeth Auer. She advises daycare centers to organize action days where parents cook together with their children. Or set up an information booth about the children’s entry and exit times, where parents will be able to find out more about the subject of food.

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“All children have the right to education, we owe it to them,” Green Party member Dorothea Wehinger said after the conferences. Poverty plays a big role when it comes to education, exercise, and nutrition. So we have to look at where child poverty starts and where we can prevent it and help parents, so to speak, self-help help, according to Dorothea Wehinger.

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