It can be a common problem for parents – your children can be over active, and always seeming to have a lot of energy, but are still under eating. Problems can arise here over children that develop habits of refusing food, or for being fussy eaters. Similarly, problems with energy can relate to longer term issues with ADHD and hyperactivity. What, then, can you do to tackle the problem, and what kind of help can you get from within the home and outside of it?
Younger children can experience issues with over activity as the result of normal energy levels; over time, though, too much energy can be a problem if children are either getting too much caffeine or other stimulants, or are experiencing signs of ADHD. Hyperactivity can cause health problems if not properly regulated; this can also be related to dieting, and imbalances in terms of energy and missed meal times.
In terms of diet, very young children can go through natural famine and over eating cycles, which can be the case after a year or so. Children may not seem to be hungry at meal times, or may refuse food – alternatively, children may not respond to the kinds of foods you set out, and might become too focused on particular foods and snacks. Having this uneven cycle can end up causing problems with childhood obesity or malnourishment.
The NHS recommends some solutions for helping with children having too much energy – they suggest restricting shopping trips in stimulating areas, while investing time in finding parks and open spaces where children can burn off their excess energy. In addition, the NHS advise parents to cut out sugary drinks and caffeine from children’s diets, as this can lead to issues with concentration.
Other options for dealing with undereating include setting regular meal times, and being strict about the number of meals per day – 3 main meals with 2 to 3 snacks should be enough for most children. Establishing normal routines for eating, which can involve always sitting at the table, and getting children to remember to clean up their food, and to be aware of what goes on in the kitchen, can also hopefully make them more self aware and familiar with eating healthily.
In any case, it’s a good idea to seek advice from your GP or pediatrician for persistent problems, and for suggesting particular routines for your children; prescriptions might also be issued for treating ADHD. It’s also worth consulting with schools about exercise programs and available diets – schools should also participate in the NHS approved National Child Measurement Programme, which surveys children at four and 5, and ten and eleven, to check for healthy weights and lifestyles.
Getting help in the home can also be invaluable to maintaining stable routines for children that are having problems with being too active and not eating enough. As well as professional child minders and nannies, au pairs can be a good idea. An au pair in Britain is able to provide light child care as part of their stay in your home, and can take children for walks and to activities at appropriate times; they can also be around to ensure that mealtimes are kept consistent if you and your parent are in work, and can provide an extra pair of hands around the house if children are being hyperactive or difficult with their food.
Rob James: Rob James is a father to four girls. In his spare time (when he gets some), he can be found blogging about the different aspects of family life, from birthday parties, dealing with fights, and organising family time together
Follow Rob on Twitter: @project_rob