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Children today are not getting enough exercise. This probably does not come as a shock to you, given the number of studies and media reports on childhood obesity over the past decade. What may surprise you, however, is a recent study by Seattle researchers published in the Journal of Pediatrics that found even preschoolers, who always seem to be on the go, are not getting enough exercise. The study details how youngsters are getting less than 50 minutes of exercise a day when some reports suggest they require at least two hours.

Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the past 30 years, as nearly 1 in 3 are overweight. While poor eating habits and limited access to healthy foods may be some of the reasons for this rise, so, too, is a lack of exercise.

Rainbow Child Care Center is a Michigan company with more than 100 schools in 12 states. Across all of these schools we are committed to not only quality child care, but also to the right blend of early education, healthy eating and physical fitness activities. This is critical to addressing the needs of the whole child, and helping with the academic, social and physical development activities that are so critical at an early age.

We know that children are constantly developing physical skills as they explore their environment and expand their horizons. By providing educational activities and games designed to help support muscle development, coordination and manipulative skills, we can allow children to develop and shape both their bodies and their minds.

To truly address the problem of childhood obesity we must begin our efforts at the earliest stages — providing youngsters with the building blocks they need to make solid choices. In addition to incorporating exercise into children’s daily learning activities, we must also seek opportunities to engage with them on nutrition.

Mealtime is rich in developmental experiences, and as an early childhood educator, I encourage families to take advantage of such opportunities. For instance, include your children in the preparation of healthy and nutritious meals. While doing so you are also helping them with their development in areas such as mathematics through measuring ingredients, motor skills through pouring and mixing those ingredients, and language skills through following the directions you provide.

In the aforementioned study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that children were provided opportunities for active play only about 12 percent of the time, while 29 percent of their day was spent napping. The rest of the time the preschoolers were eating or participating in activities with limited movement. I urge parents as well as my colleagues in early childhood education to seek out opportunities to engage your preschool students in activities that will sculpt their minds and bodies, giving them the head start they need to maximize their amazing potential.

Patrick Fenton, CEO

Rainbow Child Care Centers

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