Healthy Together Wyndham: Family fitness fun

For most families, playgroup is about story- time and sandpits, but a new playgroup program for African families in Werribee is also encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Funded by Wyndham City’s Healthy Together Wyndham initiative and run by VicSeg New Futures, the Let’s Get Active playgroup project will teach families from Egypt, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia about healthy eating and physical activity for toddlers and preschoolers.

The council’s community well-being portfolio holder, Cr Bob Fairclough, says the project has received $1850 funding through its ‘healthy together’ grants.

“This playgroup project is a great example of the work being done by Healthy Together Wyndham and Wyndham City to support community-wide changes for better health,” Cr Fairclough said.

“Working with the entire playgroup to teach parents and grandparents about healthy eating and fun, and free physical activities for toddlers and preschoolers will make it simpler for the parents to make lasting, positive health changes.”

VicSeg New Futures programs administrator Karen Diacono said the 15-week Let’s Get Active project was started because Wyndham families wanted more from the playgroup.

“We were offering plenty of opportunities to improve the children’s literacy and numeracy, and learn arts and crafts, but parents wanted more ideas to get children physically active.

“They particularly wanted something they could take home to keep the children entertained without relying on a TV or an iPad. We’ll also inform parents about free and low- cost local sports and recreation activities.”

The project’s focus on healthy eating will include information about how to use in-season fruit and vegies to improve nutrition while keeping costs down, and understanding misleading food packaging.

“We’ve found many parents in the group think they’re providing a cheap, healthy snack for their children by buying something that’s 99% fat free, for example.

“But they often don’t realise the same product may be bad for their children’s health because it’s very high in sugar,” Ms Diacono said.

“We’re also going to train playgroup leaders about physical activity and nutrition for young children and their families as part of this project. This will ensure the benefits last longer than this initial program.”

The playgroup is open to families from the Horn of Africa. For more information, call 9742 0777.

Top tips for active preschoolers

  • 3-5-year-olds need to be active for three hours across the day.
  • Limit screen time to 1 hour a day.
  • Practise throwing, catching and kicking with various balls.
  • Blow bubbles and “catch” them.
  • Have active family outings, like visiting a new playground.
  • Draw targets with chalk on outside walls and throw balls at them.
  • Draw hopscotch grids with chalk on outdoor paths.

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