Healthy Children - June 2013

INCCRRA in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on childhood obesity through its website. The intent is to communicate to child care practitioners, parents and others who visit the website, the seriousness of obesity in young children and to link them to current research on the issue.

Helpful suggestions for meal planning, recipes and healthy physical activities are presented on this site not just for overweight children but the health of the entire family.

New ideas are listed every month. Each month a new column on this issue of national concern is posted. It answers questions you have regarding heavy children and healthy lifestyles -- be sure to check it out.

For more information contact the Illinois Department of Human Services at (217) 785-9336 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also contact your local Illinois Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

The consumer health information on childhood obesity provided by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies on the site or by any links to other sites is for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product or course of action. This web site generally links to other sites that are informational in nature and does not link to commercial sites that are primarily intended for the sale of products or services. Use of this site or any links to other sites does not replace medical consultations with a qualified health or medical professional to meet the health and medical needs of you or a loved one. You should promptly seek professional care if you have any concern about the health of you or a loved one and you should always consult your physician before you or a loved one starts a fitness regimen.



Avoid Being a Family of Sofa Slugs

Here’s Why It’s Important...

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children six and under spend three times more each day with screen media (TV, videos/DVDs, computer, and video games) than reading or being read to. In addition, screen media are being used for about the same amount of time as playing outside, approximately two hours per day. The study also found that 30% of 0 - 3 year olds and 43% of 4 - 6 year olds have a television in their bedroom.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should not watch television at all and children 2 and older should watch no more than 1 - 2 hours of educational, nonviolent programs a day.

Our children Are Spending Way Too Much Time in Front of the Television!

Too much TV promotes an inactive lifestyle and has been linked to overweight. When children are watching TV or sitting in front of a computer, they are usually inactive and their gross motor needs are not being met, which is critical for very young children. Children, infants, and toddlers learn best through relationships, interactions, and experiences, not through media exposure.


Choices You Can Make for Your Child

  • Turn off the TV! When it is off, children won’t watch it.
  • Limit TV viewing: set rules and guidelines for the whole family.
  • Pick education videos/TV shows for your child.
  • Watch TV with your child and discuss the show during commercials.
  • Record TV shows to limit advertising.
  • Avoid using TV as a baby sitter; instead, involve your children in daily household activities.
  • Set a good example: watch TV after your child goes to bed.


Rules for TV

  • Eat meals as a family without the TV on.
  • If it is sunny outside, no TV! Your child will learn to appreciate the outdoors and will begin to choose this over TV.
  • Set a time limit per day and per week. Example: 30 minutes per day and six hours a week (more time allowed for the weekend). Your child can save up time to use another day.
  • Chores must be completed before the TV comes on.


Instead of Turning the TV On

  • Play together as a family.
  • Dance to music.
  • Read a book together.
  • Look at a picture book/magazine.
  • Tell stories and act them out.
  • Set up an obstacle course inside or outside and take turns going through it.
  • Go on a family treasure hunt in the backyard or in your neighborhood.
  • Go to a local museum.
  • Do crafts.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Explore a nearby forest or wooded area.
  • Go to the library for story time.
  • Make dinner together.
  • Create an active outdoor game with your child.
  • Go to a local park or zoo.
  • Teach your child a new gross motor skill, such as riding a bike or skipping rope.


For more information, please visit:,, and



Teaching Kids to “Go Green!”

Do you remember when you were younger and how you really didn’t know anyone in your neighborhood that had asthma? Or how you could breathe on a summer day and not have to worry about what was in the air? Unfortunately, our children are not having the same positive experiences with their environment. That is why it is so important that we begin teaching our children, now, about respecting and caring for the environment. Today, everyone is “going green” to ensure we all have a healthy space to live in. Whether it’s recycling or conserving water, communities are making an effort to come together and preserve our environment. One of the best ways to teach your children to care about their environment is to set a good example. If you show enthusiasm and respect for nature and taking care of your neighborhood, your child will follow your lead. There are a lot of simple ways you can begin instilling “green” values into your child’s daily life. Below are some great tips and activities to show your child at an early age, how they can go green!

Use Fewer Plastic Bags

When you take your little shopper with you to the supermarket, give them their first lesson in caring for the environment. Choose reusable, environmentally friendly bags versus plastic shopping bags. So many stores now have durable and colorful bags for groceries. They are actually sturdier and larger that plastic or paper bags.

Teach the Conservation of Water

When they are brushing their teeth, teach your child to turn off the tap. When they are washing their hands show them that keeping the water flow to a pencil-thin stream can help conserve water.

Practice Recharging Batteries

Teach your children how to recharge batteries for their toys. This helps not only to reduce garbage, but also keeps toxic metals such as mercury (found in some batteries) from getting into the environment. The mercury in old batteries will eventually leak out and poison the water it runs into. Another alternative is to buy batteries with reduced toxic metals.

Show Them How to Recycle

Recycling is one of the most earth-friendly activities that kids of all ages can do. Children can learn what items regularly used in their homes can be recycled, from soft drink cans to detergent jugs and spaghetti sauce jars. Very young children help by separating and grouping recyclables, while older children can wash out containers and peel off labels. Teens can volunteer in the neighborhood by picking up litter and recycling trash.

Use Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Have your children help you replace light bulbs in your house with energy efficient ones. An 18-watt compact fluorescent light bulb provides about the same light output as a regular 75-watt incandescent bulb at a fraction of the energy cost. The compact fluorescent bulb will also last up to 13 times longer.



Vary Your Veggies

8 Ways to Vary Your Veggies

  1. Visit a greenhouse that grows vegetables inside.
  2. Each time you try a new vegetable; have your child draw a picture of it.
  3. Make ants on a log; Stuff celery with peanut butter and dot with raisins.
  4. Make lettuce leaf roll-ups: Spoon cottage cheese or tuna salad onto a lettuce leaf. Roll up and enjoy.
  5. Cut fresh vegetables into small sticks, and ask your child to pick some sticks to eat.
  6. Play a fun vegetable game. Put a vegetable in a paper bag. Have your child feel the shape and guess the vegetable.
  7. Save money by buying fresh and locally grown vegetables, but only what you will use while it is still fresh. Buy these vegetables at a local farmers market.
  8. Teach your child why it is important to eat colorful vegetables each day. Vegetables provide vitamins and fiber, and they are low in fat and salt. Choose fresh, frozen or canned vegetables to get the best deal for your money. You should try to eat 2 ½ cups and your child 1 ½ cups of colorful vegetables each day.


Quick and Tasty Veggie Soup

Yield: 8 cups
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon onion powder
¾ cup dried macaroni
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper.
1. Combine chicken broth, diced tomatoes, basil, onion powder, salt and pepper in a large pan
2. Bring to a simmer, add macaroni and frozen vegetables
3. Cook for 8 minutes then remove from heat
4. Let soup sit for 5 minutes, then serve
5. Enjoy


Vary Your Veggies Activity: Let’s Vote: Touch, Taste, Smell and See

Preparation Time
10 minutes
Activity Time
15 minutes
Choose 3 vegetables from one of the following color categories:
  • Red - Tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, red leaf, lettuce, beets, red potatoes
  • Green - Zucchini, spinach, broccoli, celery, green beans, artichoke, avocado, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, snow peas, lettuce, scallions, peas
  • White - Potatoes, jicama, mushrooms, turnips, cauliflower, cucumbers, water chestnuts, alfalfa/bean sprouts
  • Yellow - Corn, rutabaga, summer squash, wax beans
  • Orange - Winter squash, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, orange peppers
  • Purple - Eggplant, purple cabbage, purple peppers
Preparation Prior to Class
1. Wash the produce and line the vegetables up on cutting sheets.
2. Cut open some of the vegetables, such as summer squash or radishes to demonstrate the change and variety within a single food.
3. Cook some vegetables for the children to taste if you wish.
1. Ask the children to wash their hands.
2. Tell the children that they are going to play a game using the foods on the cutting board.
3. Ask them if they can name the vegetables. Many may be unfamiliar to them, which is fine. Tell them the names of the vegetables they don’t recognize.
4. Review with the children how they use their eyes, ears, nose and fingers to learn more about foods.
5. Explain what voting is, and tell them that each of their opinions or votes is very special. You may have them vote either by raising their hands or standing. Ask them to vote, in the manner selected, to say which food they think should win in contests.
6. Ask them to use their fingers, mouths, noses and eyes to touch, taste, smell and see
7. Ask them to rate the foods on the sensory element (i.e. smoothest, crunchiest, best smelling, brightest). Examples include:
  • Which vegetable is smoothest to the touch?
  • Which vegetable makes the loudest sound when they eat it?
  • Which vegetable has the sweetest smell?
  • Which vegetable has the most distinctive smell?
  • Which vegetable is the brightest in color?
8. Cut the winning foods into bite-size pieces and place one piece of each vegetable on a small plate. For sanitation reasons wash the vegetables that were touched, or have enough untouched food on hand to cut for tasting.
9. Distribute one plate and napkin to each child. Allow them to taste the winning vegetables if they wish. Provide additional samples if a child requests more.
10. Ask children to name one new vegetable that they would try again.
Additional Discussion During the Activity
Discuss highlights from the lesson plan:
  • Vegetables are grown on farms and delivered to markets where we can buy them.
  • Some vegetables were locally grown.
  • Vegetables help you grow a healthy body.
  • Vegetables come in many colors. Eating a variety of colorful vegetables is healthy.
  • Vegetables taste great cooked or raw.


Adapted from Tickle Your Appetite.