SEPTEMBER 8, 2020 — You’ve been watching your child copy your every move. You make dinner and your toddler starts playing with his toy pots and pans. You read a book and your preschooler starts flipping through the pictures in hers.
So if you reach for a soda or a sports drink, what is your child going to want?
Play Every Day’s new message gives a healthy twist to this copycat behavior. Your child wants what you’re eating and drinking. So if you choose a bottle of water instead of a bottle of a vitamin drink, your child will be more likely to want that healthy option, too.
“Being a role model is the best way to teach children,” said Diane Peck, registered dietitian with Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program. “If parents want their children to drink water instead of sugary drinks, then parents need to enjoy drinking water, too. Healthy habits in children start with healthy habits in their parents.”
Children learn by watching parents
Play Every Day has been focusing its recent messages on keeping families healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The blog published last week discussed what physical education teachers are doing to help children stay active, whether they’re learning online, in person or with a mix of both. The campaign is also talking about other ways to help children grow up healthy. One way is to cut back on serving sugary drinks that can lead to cavities, unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other health concerns.
Earlier this summer, Play Every Day started sharing a new message that uses kids’ love of magic tricks to show much sugar is hiding in sweetened powdered drinks. This month, it will begin sharing a new, 30-second video and related online messages focused on helping children copy their parents in healthy ways.
“Children learn by watching everyone around them, especially their parents,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The new video features an Alaska family who chooses healthy drinks for their two young daughters under the age of 5. Both parents grew up in rural Alaska villages, but now they live in Anchorage. The family loves to fish together, and that became the opening scene for the video. In the first few seconds, you see the 4-year-old ready to copy her dad. “Can I go with you?” she asks, as he prepares his raft to launch along Portage Creek. “Can I help you?” she asks, as he fillets a salmon to grill for dinner. The video ends with the family sitting together in their camp chairs. The dad grabs a can of soda, and his daughter reaches for it: “Daddy, can I please have some?”
That’s where the video reverses the scene. The dad grabs a water bottle instead. When his daughter reaches up for a sip this time, she drinks a healthy option — and so does her dad.
Choosing healthy drinks and staying active improves health year-round
Sugary drinks are the most common source of added sugars each day. That includes powdered and fruit-flavored drinks; sports, energy and vitamins drinks; soda; and sweetened coffees and teas. Another common sugar-added drink for little kids is chocolate and flavored milk.
Last year, four leading health organizations published new “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids” guidelines that say sugary drinks are not recommended for children ages 5 and younger. Limiting added sugar each day is good for the health of older children and adults, too. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar older children and adults eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories.
“Supporting families with options for daily activity and good nutrition can help them stay at a healthy weight and prevent serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Ann Potempa, Play Every Day coordinator. “Having just one of these health problems — obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure — can make it three times more likely that you’d need to go to the hospital if you’re sick with COVID-19. It’s important to try to prevent getting COVID-19, but it’s also essential to stay in the best possible health all year-round to help your body fight the virus if you do get it.”
Sharing messages with families across Alaska
Play Every Day staff run the educational campaign through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. This summer, they partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Chugach National Forest to create this message. All scenes take place near Portage Creek on National Forest land. Sharing this important message through the partnership will help reach all areas of Alaska to ensure kids stay healthy.
Schools, health clinics and organizations can share these and other Play Every Day messages by downloading free versions on the campaign’s webpages for physical activity and sugary drinks resources. Similar messages are posted on Facebook and Instagram. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about ways to share materials about helping Alaska children choose healthy drinks and get daily physical activity for the best health.