A TV instead of a playground and a tablet instead of a climbing frame. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has ensured that many children nowadays would rather consume media than play outside with friends. But experts agree: Exercise and the right diet are important to children’s physical and mental health and have an impact on their subsequent development. Dorothea Winger (The Greens), who is sitting in the State Parliament for Singen Constituency, organized a family policy discussion for the principals of nurseries and primary schools on the occasion. 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 children’s health risks, poverty, and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
TV or smartphone instead of supervision
Rinat Zimmer, a sports and pedagogical scientist at the University of Osnabrück, specializes in promoting children’s education and health through physical activity in kindergarten and schools. She told the participants of the online meeting that an active daily life is a prerequisite for children’s education and health.
Rinat Zimmer explains that the increased consumption of media at an early age and the coronavirus pandemic is a problem. Corona’s measures imposed restrictions on many children and increased their consumption of the media. For many parents, an emergency solution in the home office has been to simply sit the kids in front of the TV or hand them a smartphone, she said. Because many were overwhelmed by situations of working at home and looking after children at the same time. Zimmer says this has a negative impact on the physical and mental health of some children.
Playing outside offers limits and freedom
“The lack of exercise in childhood often leads to a sedentary lifestyle in youth, and this is one of the biggest risk factors for health,” the educationalist adds. How can day care centers and teachers help get children more active? Playing outside, says Rinat Zimmer.
“When playing outside, children often lose their sense of time. It provides freedom and sets boundaries – you have to adapt to nature, for example when it rains,” says Rinat Zimmer. In addition, children’s imagination is awakened and their self-efficacy is recognized. She stressed that nurseries and primary schools cannot deal with this problem alone. “You have to get the parents involved, they can’t do it alone,” Zimmer adds.
Healthy eating is also a problem
Then the local coordinator of the state’s “BeKi-Conscious Child Nutrition” program, Elizabeth Auer of the Stockach Office of Agriculture, explained the importance of healthy nutrition for children. According to her lecture, the early years of life are crucial to a person’s subsequent eating habits. However, there are studies that show that children from poor families consume less healthy food because their parents do not have the financial resources to eat a balanced diet.
That is why the kindergarten is such an important place, because there you have the opportunity to provide balanced meals to all children. According to Elizabeth Auer, it is not only about satiety of children, but also about learning about food. She says a lot of kids don’t know where their food comes from. Therefore, the goal is for children to recognize and appreciate a variety of foods.
Parents play an important role
Elizabeth Auer offers incentives on how daycares and elementary schools can bring children closer to healthy eating. Sensory exercises in which children have to feel, smell and taste different foods is a good method. A visit to the farm or weekly market is a good way to learn about the origin of the food.
According to Elizabeth Auer, it’s also important to involve the children’s parents. Day care centers recommend working days where parents cook with their children. Or to set up an information booth about baby pick-up and drop-off times, where parents can learn more about feeding.
“All children have the right to an education, and we owe it to them,” Dorothea Winger, a Green Party member, said after the lectures. Poverty plays a major role when it comes to education, exercise and nutrition. That’s why we have to look at where child poverty begins and where we can prevent it and give parents a helping hand — so to speak, help with self-help, according to Dorothea Winger.