Bodies in Motion – Teaching kids to move can help them fend off obesity

110531 kids1st 180copyThey don’t know it when they’re busy jumping rope, waving streamers and hula-hooping, but the children at Kids Come 1st are learning healthy movement behaviors—and carrying out a statewide health initiative.

Getting on board the SHIP

Teaching kids to engage in movement activities and a nutritious diet can help them fend off obesity and poor health habits as adults. To encourage those types of healthy behaviors, the Minnesota Department of Health awarded grants to 87 counties and 9 tribal governments as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which was created by the 2008 health care reform initiative and signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

    SHIP tackles the top three causes of preventable illness and
death in the United States: tobacco use, physical inactivity and
poor nutrition. Olmsted County Public Health, which received grant funding, focused on 12 interventions, including implementing policies and practices that support physical activity in licensed childcare and pre-school settings.

Integrating movement

“More than 80 childcare providers in Olmsted County are collectively implementing a new program that integrates movement and exercise into their learning programs,” said Michelle Haugen, health educator with Olmsted County Public Health. “There are no mandates in terms of the amount of activity children need to receive while in childcare and we have found that we need to get to the kids at a younger age to fight the obesity epidemic.”

    Michelle said 70 percent of kids in Olmsted County are in some form of childcare. “The standard for the amount of time per day that kids should be active is 60 to120 minutes based on age. For a preschool aged child (2-5 year old), 120 minutes should be the standard.”

    Their main outcome for the grant was to have the childcare centers adopt and implement a physical activity policy, Michelle said. “We had 14 centers adopt a policy, which impacted 2,111 children and 224 daycare staff members.”

Keep it moving

All three Kids Come 1st locations have implemented motivational physical activity programs. “We have set curriculums for structured physical activity and equipment to implement the programs,” said Kari Olivares, director of the Kids Come 1st north location. “It is motivating to the children to have special music, equipment and activities; they don’t even know they are exercising.”

    In Olmsted County, 80 childcare providers attended the 14-hour seminar “I am Moving, I am Learning” hosted by Olmsted County Public Health to learn how to increase physical activity in their centers. “The activities in the lessons focus on being active with jump ropes, hula hoops, parachutes, scarves/streamers, balls and bean bags,” Kari said. “Many activities focus on listening to music that has instructions on it. The kids are working out and building listening and attention skills when they are doing these activities.”

    The grant included curriculum planning and purchase of equipment for each participating childcare center. “The equipment is most important to the kids and definitely having one to themselves—not having to share,” Kari said. “It is fun to have your own hula hoop or jump rope. They also love the music and all the motion that goes along with it. The music selections for the program are very catchy and the kids will ask for them to be played at other times during the day as well, so we know things are catching on.”