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Supporting physical development in early childhood
Supporting physical development in early childhood

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6 Obese or overweight children

According to the World Health Organization ‘overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health’ (2018).

Many children are an unhealthy weight and childhood obesity is a major health concern globally (World Health Organization, 2018). In England, obesity prevalence among four and five-year-olds in reception classes rose from 9.9% in 2019–20 to 14.4% in 2020–21 (NHS Digital, 2021). The increase in this number means that it is likely that many preschool settings have children who are overweight or obese.

Activity 6

Read the case study of Gideon, a 4-year-old boy who is very overweight. The case study is included here to help develop understanding about why children become overweight as well as identifying ways of supporting the child and family. After you have ready the case study answer the questions that follow.

Case study: Gideon – a child who is overweight

Gideon is 4 and you have noticed that he is wearing clothes that are made for an 8-year-old, the jogger bottoms are rolled up because they are too long for him. You have also noticed that he is finding it difficult to get up off the floor and he becomes out of breath very quickly.

Gideon is finding it difficult to keep up with his friends’ level of physical activity. He has started to spend his time with the adults in the outdoor area and is not playing with the other children.

Gideon and his family live in an area of deprivation and living in poverty is a negative influence on children’s health (RCPCH, 2017). Gideon is part of a big, loving family; he lives with his four older sisters and his parents. Both of his parents come to pick him up from nursery and after giving him a hug, they put him in a buggy and give him a bag of sweets.

The nursery is located on a large housing estate in an area of high deprivation with few shops and limited public transport. Most families on the estate live in poverty in low-quality housing, often with inadequate cooking facilities. There are three fast food chain outlets that all offer cheap children’s meals.

Consider the reasons why you think Gideon is overweight.

What are your suggestions to address Gideon’s situation and work with his family?

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The following section looks at some of the reasons why children can become overweight or obese using the case study of Gideon as an example.