The CDC recently released tips for teachers to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in the classroom. In my practice, I treat childhood obesity for financially challenged families, and I found that the useful information presented by the CDC was right on point with everything Serving Kids Hope is passionate about:
Don’t use food as a reward- Rewarding students with lollipops, candy, etc. has the potential to set children up with lifelong issues with food including the need for sugary foods in between meals. The CDC recommends using nonfood items like stickers, extra recess time, or books to recognize them for achievements and good behavior.
Allow access to drinking water- Allow children to have access to water bottles. Having access to water in the classroom is huge when it comes to children’s health. Not only can they quench their thirst, they can be more alert during class because they aren’t drinking sugary drinks. According to the CDC, staying hydrated also improves cognitive function.
Don’t take away exercise and recess- The CDC recommends at least 20 minutes of recess every day in addition to their physical education class. It is extremely important for children to have the chance to let loose and have fun for a half hour or so at least once a day during school. Plan games such as tag and flag football, and encourage all students to play during recess. When the weather is bad, provide ways for students to enjoy physical activity indoors.
Don’t use exercise as a punishment- Refrain from requiring students to do physical activities or taking away recess and other opportunities for physical activity. Making children runs laps or do pushups as a form of punishment will result in a negative association with exercise instead of a positive one.
Watch for bullying and other weight concerns- Actively address any issues regarding bullying and weight discrimination. Teasing and other negative behavior concerning classmates’ body shape or size should be addressed. Be knowledgeable about the signs of eating disorders and other weight issues, and make sure students are referred to the school counselor, nurse, or psychologist if need be.
Teachers have a lot to juggle: they are on the frontline of children’s health while maintaining a healthy and productive classroom at the same time. Hopefully this information from the CDC can assist all teachers in making a difference in childhood obesity.