For the last four years, pre-school teachers in Fort Collins have been experimenting with a new nutrition and fitness program for young children. The program was developed by researchers at Colorado State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to combat childhood obesity.
Researchers were looking for a way to get finicky eaters to try new, healthy foods, so they created the Food Friends. Bella Bean, Ollie Orange, and Rudy Radish are among the Food Friends. They’re puppets that the teacher can use to help preschoolers become familiar with new foods. And when researchers wanted to get the children moving, they developed a second program using the Food Friends called Mighty Moves.
When the Mighty Moves music starts in Marilyn Poole’s classroom, her students know it’s time to move.
“I believe before this started we didn’t really do a lot of exercise in the classroom. We depended more on it to be out on the playground,” Poole told CBS4.
Now the children jump, run in place, skip, and work their arms to the music, developing their gross motor skills.
“Because if they don’t have gross motor skills, they’ll never be active when they go through grade school and into adulthood,” said Jennifer Anderson, CSU professor and Might Moves creator.
Anderson’s research shows that children who are encouraged to be active in their preschool years are more likely to develop healthy exercise habits as they get older. Research also indicates that those finicky eaters will try new foods after they’ve been served those foods eight to 12 times. So programs like Food Friends and Mighty Movers go a long way to promote healthy living.
“Our research shows that we do in fact substantially increase gross motor skills; and therefore, activity,” Anderson explained.
This year, Anderson and her CSU team got a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation which is paying to train and provide program materials to more than a thousand pre-schools and home daycares throughout the state.