Healthy Habits and Healthy Parenting Go Hand in Hand!

By Julie Schroer

The Region A Partnership for Children/Smart Start agency and other concerned advocates for children and families in Haywood County are working together for a healthy start for all children.  This year Healthy Haywood has teamed up with Smart Start, KARE, the Haywood Community College Center for Advancement of Children and other child care centers and families in the community to raise awareness about obesity prevention in young children through a project called Haywood Shape. With rising numbers of very young children with health issues related to being overweight and obese and the long term implications for health concerns into adulthood, Haywood Shape will challenge the whole community to take steps toward health promotion in the earliest years of life.  The Haywood Shape Team will offer news articles, flyers and other publications and welcome ideas to share with Haywood County families about how we can get in shape together – from toddler to elder. 


Thankfully, it’s almost springtime; the time of year when we can once again get outside to play.  Many of us still remember when Mom told us to go outside, and we only came back in the house for lunch and again when it got dark.  All it took to have a great day was some imagination and the freedom of being outdoors.  Today, children have many things competing for their attention: video games, the cell phone, the mp3 player, the computer, and let’s not forget the TV!  If used properly, and in moderation, these devices can be educational and useful, but now that spring is here, let’s not forget the benefits of spending time outside. 


The benefits of unstructured play outdoors in natural surroundings are incredible – for the mind, body and spirit.  According to Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina, ( spending time outside can:  

                reduce stress,

                improve attention,

                reduce the occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),

                reduce sickness rates at school and childcare,

                support reasoning, thinking and problem-solving abilities,

                produce feelings of wellbeing, and

                promote positive social relations among children. 


The National Wildlife Federation ( conducted a recent study which found that “outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies.” The study went on to say that “Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, and play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.”


Currently one in three American kids is obese. Even if your child isn’t obese, he or she can only benefit from more active play. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more outdoor activity in your child’s life, consider these suggestions:

  • Find a local free play group to explore new activities and get new ideas. Yahoo or MeetUp groups are a great way to do this.
  • Learn a new activity with your child. How about Frisbee golf? Hula-hooping? Show them that learning is a lifelong habit.
  • Limit computer/phone/tv time to a maximum of 2 hrs per day.
  • Have a picnic- take your dinner to a local park. Take a walk afterward and see what happens next!


So remember, you don’t have to buy a gym membership or have your child enrolled in specific classes to facilitate play, movement, and creativity.  Yes, those opportunities can enhance your child’s experiences, but you can also just open up the door and let them explore the outdoors (Of course, always making sure they are in a safe, supervised space.)  If you live in an area that does not have a yard, take advantage of the parks and other green spaces available in our beautiful community. 


Author, Steffie Duginske is a member of NC Shape Haywood and coordinator of Healthy Haywood, a program of the Haywood County Health Department.  You can learn more about the program by visiting   Author, Tara Keilberg is the Executive Director of KARE.  Learn more by going to   Author, Janice Edgerton is Executive Director of Region A partnership for Kids.  Learn more about this program by going to for more resources. 



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