Encourage creative play to combat child obesityDuring national Safe Toys and Gifts Month, it’s not just lead paint and small parts people should be thinking about these days, according to St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Noelle Westrum.
During national Safe Toys and Gifts Month, it’s not just lead paint and small parts people should be thinking about these days, according to St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Noelle Westrum.
She is encouraging parents this holiday season to select gifts that encourage imaginative play and physical activity, and try to avoid electronic toys and gadgets that can contribute to childhood obesity and behavioral issues.
“It may not be an immediate safety risk, but it can have long-term implications on their behavior and how they interact in the world,” said Dr. Westrum. “Some electronics aren’t what I would consider detrimental to their development, but some games are very violent and can be very stimulating, so if they are using them right before bed, it can be quite hard for them to settle down.”
She recommends books, building blocks, sporting equipment, and arts and crafts as great examples of gifts for relatives to get children thinking, playing and moving.
The subject of screen time often comes up with parents as part of a routine well child visit at St. Luke’s Pediatrics Associates. Dr. Westrum echoes the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends children over the age of two should spend a maximum of two hours per day in front of a screen — whether that’s a television, computer, tablet, smart phone or child’s electronic game. Younger children should not get any screen time.
“Just seeing the obesity issue with kids in the U.S., we want to encourage activities that are physical as an important part of their overall health,” said Dr. Westrum. “It helps to foster development and creative play, instead of just going to the screens that are at the top of kids’ lists younger and younger. There is a lot of good, old-fashioned fun out there.”