Toddlers and pre-schoolers 'should exercise at least three hours a day'
TODDLERS and preschoolers should exercise at least three hours a day, according to new federal government guidelines, to be released on Thursday.
- Michael Harvey
- Thu Oct 22 00:00:00 EST 2009 Thu Oct 22 00:00:00 EST 2009
And, when they're not sleeping, those same children aged between one and five should spend no longer than an hour at a time in high chairs, car seats and strollers.
The Get Up and Grow guide encourages kids to play, run and get dirty in the latest effort to combat the nation's childhood obesity outbreak.
Available free in booklet form to parents and childcare professionals, it offers specific guidelines on active play and healthy eating prepared by experts from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Royal Children's Hospital.
Tips include correct serves of healthy food that should be fed to children at main meals and snacks - but with a warning never to force kids to eat everything on their plates.
And, in an age of expensive toys, there is advice on how to let kids discover the simple (and cheap) joys of playing with cardboard boxes and pine cones.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Early Childhood Minister Kate Ellis, who will launch the guide, said it was difficult for parents to know what advice to follow when they were bombarded with so much information.
"These materials aren't opinions or directives," Ms Roxon said last night. "They're evidence-based tips to help and reassure new parents keen to give their child the best possible start in life."
It is estimated 17 per cent of Australian children are overweight and 6 per cent obese.
The guide has already raised eyebrows by urging that under-twos be banned from watching television, computer games and electronic games because it reduces time for active play and chances of language development.
"Regardless of the activity, it is recommended that children are not kept restrained or inactive for more than one hour at a time during waking hours," the guide says.
"Children who spend long periods sitting or being inactive are more likely to have poorer physical, social and intellectual development.
"For young children, this includes long periods in high chairs, car seats and strollers."
Tips for filling a child's daily three-hour minimum exercise quota range from helping with the gardening and action songs such as Hokey Pokey to kicking scrunched-up paper balls and using their imagination in cardboard boxes.
The guide says parents should be educated that bruises, bumps and small grazes incurred in "rough-and-tumble" outdoor play should be seen as side-effects of fun active play.
Three meals and two snacks a day is ideal for under-fives, the guide says, but "sometimes foods" such as chocolate, ice-cream, soft drinks and fruit drinks should be consumed only rarely.
The Get Up and Grow booklets will be sent to childcare centres and can be ordered at www.health.gov.au