My daughter will eat anything you put in front of her with no arguments. She adores vegetables, happily munches away on broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas and carrots. My friends,(who sneakily try to blend vegetables and hide them in bolognaise sauces and stews), sit dumbstruck as she polishes off a big plate of salad at our weekend braais.
She is happiest when she’s running round the garden, treating us to a game drive, pointing out the animals in her imaginary zoo. At nearly three, she understands the importance of sunscreen and wearing hats, and why she has to stay out of the fenced pool area unless she’s with mom and dad. She is delighted when I carry her candy-pink plastic table and chairs outside, and layout the recycled purity bottle lids and fill them with paint so she can get her fingers and paint brushes busy on our recycled office paper.
None of these things have been particularly conscious steps we’ve taken in her upbringing, they just evolved naturally. I suppose we draw on our own personal memories of growing up as a guide for how we should be raising our children.
I was saddened to hear that as a nation we received a C- on the Healthy Active Kids Report Card for 2010.
The study showed that:
- Only 42% of our country’s children are engaged in a form of moderate physical activity.
- 20% of our children are overweight with 5% being diagnosed as obese.
- 30% of teens are eating fast food 2-3 times a week – particularly young men.
- 30% of adolescents are watching more than three hours of TV per day.
- Nearly 30% of teens surveyed admitted to having smoked, with one in five admitting to being current smokers
While the study focused on children of school going age, and discussed the steps being taken at government and private sector level to improve on the situation, it failed to address the most important time in a child’s life, those important formative years where impressions and habits are formed. As parents we should all be asking ourselves how we can make sure our children receive an A+ on their healthy kids’ report cards instead of a C-.
- We need to introduce a healthy lifestyle from the start, introduce veggies and salads as first solid foods – before their taste buds reject them
- Encourage your children to play outside and explore the world they live in
- Strengthen the family bond by cycling together on weekends or taking a walk round the neighbourhood in the early evenings
- Explain to your children, that it isn’t just the active ingredients in the cigarettes that will kill you, it’s the addictive agents that make it hard to stop
Perhaps if we all start working on this earlier, during those early formative years, it will help to improve the nation’s overall rating too.
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