Promoting Well-Being: Encouraging Children and Families to Eat Healthy and Stay Active

Listening to music and dancing are among little Laniece’s favorite activities. At 2.5 years old, the East Hartford toddler enjoys moving to the beat of her favorite songs at any opportunity.

When mom Christina Smith learned about a Zumbini class for children her daughter’s age, she immediately signed up.

Christina Smith holds her daughter Laniece during a Zumbini class

What is Zumbini?

Inspired by the popularity of Zumba, Zumbini aims to get infants and toddlers singing, dancing and playing with other children, while also providing an opportunity for them to bond with their caregivers.

The Zumbini class that Laniece and Christina attended took place at the Southside Family Center in Hartford. Children and their caregivers danced to a variety of songs. The instructor also encouraged them to sway scarves through the air and tap on small drums – by far the biggest hits for Laniece and the other kids.

“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.”

Participants sit on the floor during the Zumbini class at the Southside Family Center in Hartford

Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right (SCOR), a program of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, sponsored the event as part of the monthly wellness events it hosts for children and families in the Hartford area.

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.

The Benefits of Being Active Early in Life

There is a wealth of research documenting the benefits of physical activity on health and wellness. Since habits that start early have a better chance of becoming long-term lifestyle choices, experts recommend children get moving on a regular basis from an early age.

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.

Child participating in Zumbini class plays with scarf

For younger kids, aerobic classes such as Zumbini provide a great way to build interest in physical activity and get them moving, sometimes without them even realizing they are exercising.

“The purpose behind Zumbini and the other wellness events that SCOR offers is to help teach parents how to interact with their children and what kind of activities they can do,” says Nancy Trout, MD, MPH, co-director of the Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right program. “This can be as simple as putting on music and dancing while at home.”

Being Active is Fun!

In addition to the Zumbini class, SCOR also offers other wellness events for children and families in Hartford. Some of those other events that encourage little ones to get moving include Hip Hop for Health, Baby and Me Yoga, Hula Hooping, and Music and Movement. SCOR also plans to sponsor a prenatal yoga class.

“In the same way that SCOR is trying to get parents to model healthy eating and start their children eating healthy early in life, this is similarly trying to instill in them the fun of being active and incorporating activity into their daily lives,” says Dr. Trout. “Parents love these events. They give them new ways to interact with their children and they are excited about coming back.”

This is the first time Laniece and Christina have attended a SCOR community wellness event and they are planning to return.

“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,” says Christina.

For important resources on healthy eating, click here. For more information on upcoming SCOR events, click here.



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