Pediatricians agree that children who eat their meals while distracted by their favorite cartoon characters are less likely to realize they are full. Â This allows them to eat mindlessly rather then tuning into the cues that tell them they are finished getting the fuel they need. Â There’s just one problem — I wouldn’t know how to get my children to a meal without the trance of the television.
If I didn’t let my kids eat in front of the TV, they wouldn’t eat. Â They prefer running around like wild animals, climbing at the park or jumping on their beds at home. Â If I don’t trap them in their high chairs and park them in front of 30 minutes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, they would opt to play all day rather than take a meal break. Â But it seems this simple habit may be messing with the signals from their stomachs to their brains.
Dr. Catherine Birken, a pediatrician and associate scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, is not alone in her concerns about the growing obesity rates among young children. Â To help address the weight problem, which she believes is linked to children’s television viewing habits, Dr. Birkin created a simple and practical intervention to be introduced at a child’sÂ 3-year-old check-up.
The two main points driven in to the minds of parents during this intervention: Â no televisions in the bedroom and no eating while watching the screen.
â€śThere is strong experimental data that shows that reducing the number of meals in front of the TV may be the key to understanding screen time and obesity,â€ť says Birken.
Still, Dr. Birken believes reducing television during meals is just a start. Â Children are simply spending too much of their time in front of a screen – television or computer – and they are not getting the physical activity they need to burn the calories they are consuming. Â Since my kids need to be pinned down to stop running long enough to consume a little food, I shall resume mealtimes hosted by Elmo without guilt (for now anyway).