Are you a healthy role model for children?

By June O’Sullivan MBE, Chief Executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)

20th March 2019
LEYF healthy eating

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The most formative experiences of young children come from nurturing care – a stable environment that promotes children’s health and nutrition, protects children from threats, and gives them opportunities for early learning through affectionate interactions and relationships. – The Lancet (Oct 2016)

Almost a quarter of British children are overweight by the time they start Primary School. Over 12% of toddlers are two stone overweight. It is becoming harder and harder to pretend it’s not happening, that the problem is somewhere else, or with someone else’s child. Look around you when you are shopping, on the bus or just look closely at the children attending your nurseries or schools. We notice it at the LEYF nurseries. We are seeing more children who are too overweight to engage in active play, bend over to touch their toes or sit cross-legged.

Obesity in children - LEYF

As advocates and positive role models for children we need to be completely cognisant of the long-term significant implications at so many personal, health and societal levels. The cost to the NHS brings that into stark relief with a predicted cost of £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year.

Obesity harms health - Public Health England

What can we as a sector do? The issue is complex and requires a coherent, well communicated and evidence-based plan shaped around taxation, legislation, education, physical exercise and behavioural change. Young children are very quickly affected by adult decisions and it remains imperative that we play our part by making more informed choices about how we can help reduce the risk of obesity children.

However, we can start by looking at ourselves. We are not the healthiest lot. Answer these questions truthfully with your team and let us know the feedback. We know that people underestimate what they eat and drink or how much physical activity they get up to!

Maybe it’s time to make some healthy changes?

Try answering these questions:

  • Are you a good role model for children?
  • Do you eat healthily most of the time?
  • Do you have the nursery menus checked by a nutritionist?
  • Are you gannets? When a parent buys chocolate, is it gone in twenty minutes in the staff room?
  • Do you do any regular exercise, even by just walking past an extra bus stop?
  • Do you build in exercise and fun into the children’s day so they are active three hours a day (the recommended daily rate)?
  • Do you do anything extra such as yoga?
  • Do you have a healthy body and mind policy?
  • Do you understand nutritional labelling on food & drink packaging?
  • Do you send your chef on training to improve children’s nutrition?
  • Do you run parent workshops based on healthy living? (the best way to learn is to teach!)
  • Do you watch any cookery programmes, just to make yourself feel better?

To read more blogs by June O’Sullivan from LEYF, click here.

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