How to Safeguard Children From 5 Health Threats This Year
Children are annually confronted with several health concerns. We have highlighted below the top 5 childhood health threats and how you can help to buffer against them.
1. Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Childhood obesity is a growing concern and continues to have weighty implications for the affected children’s mental and physical wellbeing. In the UK alone, 1 in 5 children are considered overweight or obese before they start school. And what’s more astonishing - 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese when they leave school.
Obese children are predisposed to having conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions. With their overall quality of adult life affected, consequently their morbidity risks increase too, leading to a reduced life expectancy.
There’s a simple antidote to childhood obesity. A combination of healthy nutrition and lots of physical activity in childhood is required to produce improved fitness habits with sensible food choices in adulthood.
Have you ever heard of the saying “you cannot outrun a bad diet”? Therefore it is important to educate children on what is and isn’t considered healthy. Packed lunches, school dinners, snacks and what children eat at home feeds into their overall wellbeing.
A great way to educate children is for parents to take them food shopping and to the supermarket with them.
Equally, at school, children can construct a healthy menu for their classmates, with a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with two healthy snacks. To support them further, they can choose items from a list of different food groups to increase their awareness and understanding of these.
In the playground, children can recreate these menus using imaginative play and plasticine to create meals for their classmates.
By adding the fun element and putting children in control, they are then forced to make choices, to think and question why something is considered healthy, whilst others food items are considered treats.
Similarly, they can bring the pretend menus to life, by using the Mud Kitchen, too.
2. Physical Inactivity
With the advancement in technology and the introduction of various media pads and games consoles, children must look no further and need little outdoor time to immerse themselves in imaginative play.
Children now require little physical movement to indulge in a game of ‘Mario Bros’ or can have all the excitement of ‘Pac man’ at the mercy of their fingertips.
Sedentary lifestyles are becoming the norm, with children spending very little time outdoors. This is a huge concern as active play has tremendous benefits for children.
Studies have shown outdoor play during sunlight hours can reduce the risk of myopia (short-sightedness). Likewise, being active and outdoors relieves tension as it leads to the increase of ‘feel-good’ neuro-transmitters and helps children to socialise and communicate with others, which unfortunately they cannot do effectively from behind tech screens.
As technology has advanced, so have playgrounds in order to compete for the attention of children. Today, playgrounds are inclusive and have a range of apparatus for children to choose from for instance innovative sensory play zones, forward-thinking imaginative apparatus and progressive physical play equipment, just to name a few.
3. Stress and Over-packed Schedules
With an improved alertness into the mental wellbeing of children, stress, anxiety and other mental health disorders are becoming progressively recognised in young people.
With a jam-packed school day, added homework and deadlines, exam season looming, it is no wonder children feel bogged down by external pressures. After all, they must get the best grades, sail-through school and become a world-class athlete in the process.
The playground is unmatched when it comes to helping children to relax and declutter their thoughts and burn off tension. It can help to build resilience and self-confidence when tackling a Trim Trail, calm their thoughts when busting out some tunes using musical instruments and create a cathartic release in the form of art such as drawing and painting in the relaxing outdoors.
4. Poor Social Skills
Why are social skills important? It is a reasonable question and yet the answer is simple. To function in society, you need good social skills.
To communicate effectively with others, build relationships, exhibit good manners, express personal requirements and live harmoniously amongst others, social skills are required daily in the adult world.
Social skills are commonly developed in childhood through playing. Frequent use of technology puts children at a greater risk of underdeveloped social skills. Behind a computer screen, children no longer need to approach others, to communicate effectively with them and be nice to make friends and have their wants met.
On the phone, the use of emojis does not replace real, human interaction with others and can lead to alienation and depression in child and adulthood.
Inclusive games and activities that encourage group effort and communication are the best to develop friendships and social skills. The Water Wall for instance is a great example of this.
Together, children can investigate and learn about water flow. They can ask, demonstrate and answer questions and work together to find solutions when creating dams, for example.
Bullying has been around since time and yet it’s effects are venomous and can have grave consequences for children and adults alike. Looking back to my childhood, if someone were to be bullied, they might find safety in the comfort of their own home and bedroom.
Now, with the introduction of various social media platforms, children are no longer safeguarded from cyber-bullying. As a result, mental health, confidence and overall well-being can take a beating.
Whilst bullying isn’t a modern phenomenon, it is still as important as ever before for adult supervision to continue on the playground. Unstructured free play is important, but knowing an adult is still overseeing them can stop bullies in their tracks.
The subject of bullying should be continuously reinforced in school with consequences highlighted, which can act as deterrence. Similarly, by having discussions around what to do If someone is unkind and hurtful, children can have confidence talking to an adult and trust that their issues will be resolved effectively in a timely manner.
View our full range of Educational Playground Equipment designed to meet the needs of schools and nurseries. Our Playground Consultants will work with your school to design a playground environment which suits your children and school’s needs. Contact Us for free, expert advice.