When you read stories about how flabby and unfit the children of America are, television is usually one of the main culprits cited. Kids aren't outside playing because they're inside snacking, glued to the tube especially young children, 2 to 11, who spend two and a half hours or more every single day watching TV.
They are seduced by it. They learn from it. They are taught by it. So maybe, just maybe, TV can help teach little kids to be more active, eat better and lead healthier lives.
That's the simple and powerful idea behind a new kid-fitness initiative by the people who brought "Teletubbies" to PBS television.
Call your teacher
March 20 has been declared the Teletubbies Get Up and Go! First Annual Exercise Day, a national fitness event that includes activities and information in thousands of schoolrooms nationwide. If you move quickly, you still might be able to get your kid's classroom involved. (Check out www.itsybitsyTV.com or call (212) 989-3660.)
I'm told that 25,000 schools are already signed on, and that at least six nationally known groups for kids have endorsed this effort. It includes a TV fitness special on PBS; four new fitness-focused Teletubby books; plus a 26-minute home video that features Tinky-Winky, Dixie, LaLa and Po having more fun than you ever thought possible, jumping, dancing, skipping and, of course, bumping their big, round teletummies.
A proactive campaign
"Children are fat. They are not getting enough exercise. They're in front of the screen for way too many hours a day," says Kenn Viselman, chairman of itsy bitsy Entertainment, the family friendly company that markets the Teletubbies in the U.S.
"One out of every four kids (in America) is obese," Viselman says. "That's wrong! Children look up to the Teletubbies and it's our responsibility, through them, to promote health and fitness that starts early and may last a lifetime."
Will it work?
Of course, the big question is: Will watching the Teletubbies model healthy habits group hugging included actually inspire other little beings to get fit? Who knows? It seems a big leap, I admit, but every itsy-bitsy step we take at least contributes to the illusion of forward motion. To me, it's so sad to watch generations of kids grow up fat and sedentary, already showing signs of heart disease, diabetes and clogged arteries, that I'd cheerlead ANY effort.