Digging Deeper- Physical Activity for Children's Bodies & Minds

Childhood obesity affects almost 1 in 5 children in the United States. It can cause:

  • obesity in adulthood,
  • chronic health conditions,
  • low self-esteem, and more.

Children’s nutrition and physical activity habits contribute to childhood obesity. Race and ethnicity also play a role, with Black and Hispanic children experiencing childhood obesity at higher rates.

Research found that racial discrimination has been linked to weight gain for both children and adults. Racism can also cause chronic stress for children, affecting their physical and mental health.

Early childhood educators can help support children’s bodies and minds in different ways. Promoting physical activity is a great start! Incorporating physical activities into your ECE program’s routines can help children get the physical activity their bodies need. Scheduling time for physical activity helps children:

  • maintain a healthy weight,
  • practice motor skills,
  • relieve stress, and more.

You can also incorporate physical activity into classroom transitions. As children move from one activity to the next, have children hop like a rabbit or frog or have a one-minute dance party to celebrate finishing cleaning up!

To further support children’s physical and mental health, you can ensure that your ECE program is a safe, welcoming space for all children and families. Consider how bias might affect your interactions with children and families. Talk with children about similarities and differences and racism and its effects.  Celebrate cultural holidays. Read children's books that represent all the cultures in your program. Or organize a taste test of healthy foods from around the world! You can also share community resources with families in need and educate them about your policies.

Supporting children physically and mentally encourages lifelong healthy habits and can help reduce their risk of obesity and other health conditions. Try these ideas in your ECE program and visit the Tips & Materials section of your Go NAPSACC account for more!


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