Saturday, July 01, 2006

Weighted Toys Won't Help Childhood Obesity

A 3-pound teddy bear is supposed to help kids lose weight?

You have GOT to be kidding me! Now I think I've heard it all!

This CBS News story cites a research study that found young overweight and obese children who play with toys that weigh heavier than normal helps contribute to more calories burned and gives them extra exercise they wouldn't ordinarily experience.

Professor Ozmun says weighted toys can be a "positive contribution"

Lead researcher John C. Ozmun, acting associate dean of the College of Health and Human Performance and professor of Physical Education at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, observed 10 children between the ages of 6-8 years old to see what effect adding more weight to their toys would have on their health.

For the study, Ozmun replaced the normal, everyday block toys that are usually lighter in weight with ones that looked the same, but weighed 3-pounds for each block instead. What he and his graduate student researcher found was the children playing with the heavier blocks experienced a more rapid heartbeat and breathed deeper than they did with the lighter toys.

Can I interject some common sense into this for just a moment. I'm all for trying to help kids who are dealing with excess weight a way to shed the pounds, but has anybody thought about how dangerous a 3-pound block would be with a group of children who may have the propensity for throwing their toys? Besides hitting another child with one of these "weighted" toys, what about when it hits a window and the glass shatters near other children? Then how bright an idea would this be?

Ozmun admits "this is not going to solve the obesity problem," but he believe "it has a potential to make a positive contribution."

Perhaps. But the unintended negative consequences from weighing down toys to make them heavier may far outweight any health benefits that would come from kids playing with them. Plus, kids can burn a lot more calories during cardiovascular exercise they would get running around on the playground during P.E. or recess (that is, if they haven't abandoned this yet in your local public school!). Making toys heavier accomplishes very little towards fighting obesity IMHO!

If childhood obesity is the BIG problem that everyone agrees that it is based on the statistics (one-third of American kids are overweight and 17 percent are obese), then what can we do to help with that without causing potential harm to children?

Restricting advertisements on junk food is NOT the answer and neither is creating a children's version of the Food Pyramid!

No, what we need is to take a serious look at what is causing all of this weight gain in children to begin with: sugary sodas, candy, snack cakes, cookies, crackers, juice, fast food, and a million other high-carb food products their little bodies couldn't possibly burn off fast enough! For overweight or obese children, perhaps a long hard look at livin' la vida low-carb is not such a bad idea.

Most disheartening is the seeming lack of concern by our government. A recent children's health report compiled by 20 different government agencies completely ignored childhood obesity as a threat to the health of American children. WAKE UP PEOPLE! Are we just expecting this problem to go away on its own?

Parents: STOP feeding your kids junk!
Teachers: DEMAND physical education remain a requirement!
Doctors: ADVISE young patients responsibly on good health!
Citizens: URGE nutritional education in schools!
Children: EXPECT more from those who lead you!

Ozmun said his study with the heavier toys is simply the beginning and that more studies would be needed to see if kids would keep playing with these toys or not over the long term. Even still, he is pushing for 3-pound stuffed animals to be required for physical therapy involving children.

"Having a 3-pound teddy bear may not only help with strength, but with balance and coordination," Ozmun said.

I still think that's way too dangerous to do to children. With all these warnings placed on children's toys these days, can you see the ones they put on these weighted teddy bears? "WARNING: This chunky-sized teddy may break bones, causing deep bruising, or even death if thrown at another child or near glass. DON'T DO IT!" I wouldn't be surprised to see some kind of wording to that effect once the lawyers of the toy company that ends up making these sees the potential problems that will arise.

When I first heard about this story, I thought the teddy bears were going to LITERALLY be larger so the overweight and obese children will have a toy they can relate to. But that is an entirely different discussion that may merit some debate in a future blog post (feel free to share your comments about the psychological issues arising out of an "understanding" stuffed animal that is fatter than normal by clicking on the comment link below).

Send an e-mail to John Ozmun about his study at


Blogger 1Peter3 said...

Back in the old days, kids used to play with heavy things. There wasn't so much concern about kids hurting themselves from picking up something too heavy, or pitching the heavy toy at someone else or through a window either, mainly because kids were taught that you just don't do that sort of thing, and parents weren't afraid to make sure the kid who tried it knew they'd better not ever try it again.

These were before my time, but surely you've seen some of the old cast iron mechanical banks? Just lugging one of those over to the table from the sideboard, so you could put in a few precious coins, would have been a lot of work for a little kid.

How about die cast metal cars and trucks? Not the little matchbox ones we have now, the BIG ones that were sturdy (and heavy) metal toys, designed to be played with by every child in the family. Now all the toy cars and trucks seem to be made out of plastic, weighing mere ounces, and breaking after a few months of use.

How about wooden blocks? They're not terribly heavy, but certainly heavier than the plastic and foam ones we have today, and a big bag of them would have weighed at least a couple pounds. Every time the child got them out to play with, they would have had to carry that "heavy" bag.

Not to mention that we used to play with whatever stones or rocks and sticks we found to build little fortresses or to toss in a stream or pond. Or buckets of water that were so heavy we could barely lift them to drag them to fill the little pond or "moat" we'd dug for the rock and stick fortress. And of course the water would soak into the ground, so we had to do this over and over again until the ground was so saturated that it'd hold the water for more than a few minutes. All those things weigh more than the typical polyester stuffed animals and plastic blocks of today. And certainly required more muscle than game boy controls could ever do! Hmm... there's an idea: giant game boy controls that required the entire body to move them! ;)

Speaking of stuffed animals, have you ever picked up a stuffed animal made in the 50's or 60's? Those things were comparatively heavy, because the stuffing was a much heavier material than what's generally used today. The oldest stuffed animals seemed to be stuffed firmly mostly with sawdust - making them significantly heavier than most stuffed animals today.

But it's a different world we live in today...

Every new toy produced is subject to all kinds of safety checks: Make sure there's nothing that could leave splinters, no sharp edges, nothing that could come off and pose a choking hazard, and it had better not be made of or stuffed with anything that is flammable, because apparently no parent is expected to actually watch their kids and make sure they don't play with matches or lighters.

Kids can't even go outside to play today for fear of drive by shootings, abductions, lyme disease from tic bites, or at the very least even if those are not a concern, they need to be slathered in SPF 45 to make sure they don't get skin cancer.

I remember when my kids were in elementary school and there would be snow - the kids weren't even allowed to touch the snow on school grounds at all! They always plowed off the playground so they could play there during recess, but what kind of play was left when the thing they really wanted to do was off limits? I guess the concern was that one of the kids might toss a snowball at someone else. They could have been closely supervised to prevent snowball throwing if that was their concern, and allowed to build snowmen - those big balls of snow are a lot of work to roll around, and heavy to lift to build the snowman! But once again, due to a lack of discipline, the kids weren't being allowed to do a very fun physical activity that kids would naturally tend to do, and were instead limited to just wandering around the playground itself, because even the jungle gym was located in the grassy area that had snow on it.

For that matter, most schools don't even have slides, swings, or see-saws these days, because of the liabilty involved.

Yes, there's far too much junk food available out there, and the parents are far too lenient about letting their kids eat whatever junk they beg for because they've seen it advertised on TV. But then it wouldn't be advertised so much if the parents wouldn't let the kids eat it, since money talks, and manufacturers aren't going to bother with something that doesn't sell.

Sorry for the rant, it just occurred to me that previous generations used to play with far heavier things all the time as kids, with no concerns about how safe they might be, or whether they could help with strength and coordination, and there were a lot fewer seriously overweight kids back then.

7/03/2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger diamondwife said...

Yay 1peter3, I agree. Our society is so focused on trying to blame other people or companies for everything that no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions anymore. Let's sue McDonald's because the coffee was hot or the food made us fat. Let's sue a business owner because we didn't look where we were going and tripped over the door jam while entering their store. Let's ban guns because parents don't teach gun safety anymore and don't take the responsibility to keep dangerous items away from very small children. When I was little my sister and I had stuffed toys filled with dry beans. When my sister stuffed all the beans up her nose and had to go to the hospital to have them removed I can guarantee you my mother never once thought about suing the toy manufacturer. It's called personal responsibility.

7/03/2006 11:47 AM  
Blogger Spider63 said...

Obesity needs to be treated like a real disease. I was overweight as a kid and later became obese. Look at these obese children and ask yourself what will be the quality of their lives?

7/05/2006 6:29 AM  

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