1. Why does the ToyBox-study focus on preschool children and not on older children?
The ToyBox-study focuses on preschool children because health-related behaviours, psychological traits, and physiological processes are developed at that age. Adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours in early childhood may set the foundations for optimal growth and development and long-term health. Furthermore, it's easier to change habits which are not entirely settled.
2. What are the expected outcomes of the ToyBox-study?
The ToyBox-study is targeting on short-term and long-term outcomes. With regard to the short-term outcomes, the main goal of the ToyBox-study is to promote four-lifestyle behaviours (water consumption, healthy snacking, physical activity and interrupting/limiting prolonged sitting) which have previously been identified as key-lifestyle behaviours associated with obesity at this age. Regarding the long-term outcomes, ToyBox aims to assist preschool children’s optimal growth and development, long-term health and wellbeing and to prevent overweight and obesity.
3. What will happen after the completion of the ToyBox-?
After the completion of the ToyBox-intervention, the research team will aim to assess its impact, outcome and cost-effectiveness. The key findings of the study will be disseminated to the public and to the scientific community and recommendations will be provided to public health policy makers and programme planners. Based on the results of the study, the potential of expanding ToyBox will also be considered.
4. Why is it important for preschool children to drink water?
Water is vital for life. More than 65% of the human body consists of water. Every day the body loses water via urine, sweat and breath. It is very important to replace the water lost every day in order to preserve the body’s function and performance. Losing 1% of body weight as water can decrease the ability to concentrate and perform well. Losses of 4% or more may cause dizziness, fatigue and headaches. Children are more sensitive to water losses than adults. Children at the ages of 3 to 6 years should drink 0.8 to 1 litre of water daily (i.e. 5-6 glasses per day).
5. Why focus on the consumption of healthy morning and afternoon snacks, since these snacks are such small meals?
By consuming healthy morning and afternoon snacks, preschoolers receive an important part of the energy and nutrients they need for their optimum growth and development, as well as to concentrate and perform well throughout the day. In addition, morning and afternoon snacks are important to prevent large gaps between main meals which may lead to high energy intake and higher risk for overweight.
6. Why is it important to limit the sitting time of preschool children?
Various scientific studies have shown that many preschool children spend much of their time on sedentary activities (e.g. TV viewing, using the computer, colouring, etc.). Children, who spend a lot of time on sedentary activities throughout the day, are at higher risk for overweight compared to children who sit down less. Also, children who, for example, watch a lot of TV may have lower bone density, more aggression (physical or verbal) and may show more social withdrawal, sleep disturbances agitation and irritability, etc. compared to children who watch less TV.
7. How can parents assist their children to adopt the lifestyle changes promoted in the ToyBox intervention?
The four-targeted behaviours (drinking, snacking, physical activity, sedentary behaviour) which are integrated with a lot of engagement into the daily life of the kindergarten should also continue at children’s home. For this reason, the ToyBox material includes newsletters, tip-cards and posters specifically designed to support parents at home. These include information and ideas on how parents can actively and enthusiastically support their children to adopt these behaviours but also adopt them themselves.
8. Do teachers have to implement all the activities included in part 3 of the classroom activities guides? Can the teachers choose on which day of the week they implement these activities and add their own ideas?
Teachers are recommended to implement part 3 activities for a minimum of one hour per week. For example, they can combine one kangaroo story and one experiment or game. Of course, if the circumstances allow it, teachers can implement more part 3 activities. It is up to the teacher to decide the days and time of part 3 activities’ implementation. The teachers are also free to integrate their own ideas and the ideas of the children to the needs of the class.
9. Some children systematically abstain from participating in games, active play and other physical activities in the kindergarten, especially during recess. How can teachers motivate and support children to participate in these activities?
For a child, lack of self-effectiveness has been shown to be the most important reason to quit a particular game. If the child feels that he/she cannot cope with the skills and requirements of the game, then this activity will no longer be fun and the child will feel that there is no reason to repeat it. The kindergarten teachers could implement non-competitive, fun, low-to-moderate intensity activities, aiming to the participation of the whole class. These activities should have a low demand for skills and create a high feeling of accomplishment and success for all children. Moreover, teachers can encourage children to participate, but also actively and enthusiastically participate themselves in these activities, keeping in mind that they are the children’s role models.
10. In case one kindergarten does not have a gym, how can physical activity sessions be implemented?
A classic gymnastics room or a workout area, is not essential for the implementation of the physical activity sessions of the ToyBox-intervention. The physical activity sessions can be implemented in other settings like the classroom, in the courtyard, in the garden or in a nearby park. For this purpose, teachers are encouraged to rearrange the classroom and the kindergarten setting and ensure safety and plenty of space for the children to move.
11. What is the difference between structured and unstructured physical activities?
Structured physical activities (i.e. physical education session coordinated by the teacher) and unstructured physical activities (i.e. any kind of physical activity in which the kids decide and with low guidance by the teacher) comprise two independent and important components of physical activity. Physical activity in the form of unstructured tasks leads to an improvement of the basic forms of movement. Structured activities help children improve special motor skills (endurance, coordination, speed and strength), get to know their own body and its boundaries better, experience self-assurance and self-conﬁdence, and practice the social intercourse with other children.
The ToyBox classroom activities guide (part 2) for structured physical activity sessions includes a series of 26 non-competitive, fun, low-to-moderate intensity activity sessions, which can be implemented by the teacher in the kindergarten, promoting the active participation of the whole class.