Preventing Childhood Obesity

Get Moving!

By: Nancy Trout, MD, MPH

The research is clear. Physical activity improves long-term health and well-being. In addition, habits that start early are more likely to become long-term lifestyle choices.

That is why the Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right (SCOR) program encourages infants, toddlers and preschoolers to get moving through monthly community wellness events.


In the past, we have held toddler-and-me yoga classes, hula-hoop events, and other music and movement classes. Now, we are moving into the exciting world of Zumbini! Inspired by the popularity of Zumba, Zumbini gets the littlest children – toddlers and preschoolers – singing, dancing and playing with other kids, while also providing an opportunity for them to bond with their caregivers.

Our initial venture into Zumbini took place at the Southside Family Center in Hartford. It was exciting to see the children dance, jump up and down, sway scarves through the air and tap on mini-drums as they listened to music and interacted with each other. It was also great to see their caregivers join in the fun.

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During breaks in the action, the families enjoyed spa water provided by SCOR, which was ice water infused with frozen strawberries, as an example of an easy-to-make healthy beverage that caregivers can serve at home.

One of the participants, Christina Smith, talked about why she feels it is important to her to bring her 2.5-year-old daughter Laniece to events such as these.

“My daughter likes to be out and enjoying fun with other kids, so I bring her to all sorts of children’s activities,” says Christina. “That’s the only way she gets out to be with kids because she stays home with me all the time. It’s very important to me because I’m a diabetic so I try to make sure she stays on the right track, giving her fruits and vegetables and keeping her moving.”

Early Physical Activity Promotes Lifelong Health

Experts have long recommended that children get moving on a regular basis from very early on in life. The guidelines are easy for parents, caregivers, educators, physicians and others working with children to understand and encourage.

Pre-school age children should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development, according to guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, children and adolescents ages 6-17 years old should do one hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, according to those guidelines.

Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right offers important resources for providers working with children. To access those resources, click here.

Through various training opportunities, SCOR encourages providers who work with children and families to offer consistent messaging regarding the importance of children engaging in daily physical activity, as well as consistent messaging regarding healthy nutrition.

The Fun of Being Active

For younger children, Zumbini classes provide a great way to build interest in physical activity and get them moving, sometimes without them even realizing they are exercising. Parents and caregivers learn new ways they can interact with their children through fun activities, which can be as simple as dancing at home.

Besides Zumbini, SCOR is also planning to offer other new classes throughout the year, including prenatal yoga and Hip Hop for Health.

Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right also offers strategies that community organizations can use to help families achieve healthy growth for their children. To learn more, click here.

We feel these classes are a great way for parents to show their children the fun of being active and we hope they are better able to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. We also encourage parents to model healthy eating, which is why our events feature healthy beverages and snacks.

We love seeing the reactions on the faces of children at our events and hearing positive reviews from parents who often return for future events. There is no better time than the infant and toddler years to establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Nancy Trout, MD, MPH is co-director of Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right, which is a childhood obesity prevention initiative of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health.

To sign up to receive E-Updates from Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, click here.

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