The Pre-K app encourages healthy eating and exercise

The Pre-K app encourages healthy eating and exercise

Preschoolers can be known to be picky about eating—that’s if you can get someone to sit still for a meal.

A series of free, evidence-backed apps for preschoolers, developed by a Cornell University researcher and colleagues, aims to encourage healthy eating and exercise behaviors. The majority of parents said the apps helped their children try new foods and get more active, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition Education and Behavior in History.

“Screens don’t go away,” said Laura Bellows, associate professor of nutrition in the College of Human Ecology. “We want to replace screen time and give kids active screen time instead.”

Bellows co-authored the article “Involve preschoolers in food tasting and movement activities using mobile apps,” With first author Ligia Reyes, Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. Additional co-authors include Susan L. Johnson, Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, and Barbara Chamberlain, Ph.D. from New Mexico State University. The work extends from the $5 million USDA-funded HEROs (HEalthy EnviROnments) study, which concluded earlier this year.

Adults can download a set of four premium apps – collectively known as Foods and Moves – from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Using the apps, kids guide half a dozen cartoon monsters and four animated preschoolers to try new foods and boost their inner workings through Tasting Party Express, Jungle Gym 1, Jungle Gym 2, and Spin-n-Move.

Together, the Foods and Moves group encourages children to try new foods and supports the building blocks for age-appropriate movements such as hopping and hopping. The goal is to enhance physical activity and introduce new vocabulary based on food and movement.

The HEROs study provided families with the information and activities the apps put into practice. The apps also support adults who want to extend these lessons to the real world, whether at the dinner table or through fun activities.

“We developed the apps on purpose to help parents engage their preschoolers in food and movement activities,” Bellos said, citing feedback from parents who live in places where outdoor play could be restricted due to weather or safety considerations.

At first, she said, members of the development team imagined the apps as activities for caregivers and children to do together, and to share in play. “Parents on the team agreed that we need to provide multiple ways to use apps that fit with everyday life,” said Bellos, the mother herself. “Apps can be done together or while we’re doing the laundry and making dinner. I can feel good putting this on for seven minutes—I’m not just putting my preschooler in front of a TV show.”

In the study, which assessed how parents perceived the overall quality of foods and movements, as well as how their preschoolers’ behavior changed after using the apps, the majority of parents surveyed reported that their children’s willingness to try new foods was positively affected by taste. Party Express. Almost all parents reported an increase in their children’s physical activity after playing Jungle Gym 1 and 2.

Most parents noted that their children kept running the apps in the year after they were introduced, and 80% of parents said they were likely or very likely to recommend the apps to other families.

This project is supported by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Sharon Trigaskis is a freelance writer in the School of Human Ecology.

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