Early childhood is a critical time for brain development, as well as developing behaviors that children bring with them into adulthood, especially when it comes to food and exercise. Given that approximately one in six children are overweight or obese and over half of obese children become overweight before their second birthday, teaching healthy behaviors early in life is more important than ever.
During their preschool years, children’s body mass index (BMI) typically reaches its lowest point and then increases gradually through adolescence and into adulthood. Research has shown that if increases in BMI begin before age four to six, then that child is at a greater risk of obesity in adulthood.
There are approximately 8.6 million children under the age of five enrolled in organized child care. Given the number of children cared for in preschools and daycare centers, early child educators can play a vital role in giving kids the healthiest start in life. By teaching healthy behaviors to children early, preschools and daycare centers can help make sure young children grow into healthy adults.
At Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), we believe that teaching healthy behaviors is an essential part of the preschool curriculum—just as important as learning the ABC’s. All of our preschool teachers are trained to educate students about healthy eating behaviors, such as choosing water or milk, and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Through Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), we have trained 75 different preschool sites in our community impacting 2,600 children. Our efforts to help students and their families learn healthier behaviors have been captured in a new video available now at makinghealtheasier.org/EarlyEd.
The LAUP curriculum emphasizes that children learn best through play. Our teachers are trained to lead students in daily movement such as yoga stretches and easy, fun choreographed dances. These activities help bring oxygen to the brain, which is especially important for young children, as 90 percent of brain development happens between birth and age five.
We also want teachers and other adults to model healthy behaviors for children. Teachers are encouraged to do things like plant a classroom vegetable garden and cook lunch with their students since kids are more likely to eat food when they are involved in growing and preparing it.
Early childhood educators can help create healthy behaviors that last a lifetime. LAUP provides teachers with the tools to educate preschoolers about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. We hope that by setting children on a healthy path early, we will create a healthier future for everyone in our community.
For more information about LAUP and its programs please visit http://www.laup.net.