CRECHES and playschools should ban television for toddlers and focus on "fun activities" to prevent them getting fat, says a new study.
Parents should also cut down on pre-school television-watching in bedrooms and unhealthy snacks in the fridge, the EU-funded research adds.
Computer games should be restricted amid growing evidence that more youngsters have weight problems before they get to school age.
The ToyBox survey found that obesity among European pre-schoolers is hitting record levels, with more than one in eight children overweight in northern Europe -- rising to more than 25pc in parts of southern Europe.
Nearly 40pc of pre-school girls in Spain are now classified as overweight or obese.
ToyBox co-ordinator Yannis Manios, who is an assistant professor at the Harokopio University, in Athens, said: "We need a new approach to prevent obesity."
The study, involving research in 10 countries, showed the need for better health-promoting policies targeted at youngsters.
"We found that many countries are lacking clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play," he said.
"However, there is good evidence linking sedentary behaviour, such as TV watching, with subsequent obesity.
"Therefore, TV watching in kindergartens should be replaced by more active, non-competitive, fun activities which will promote the participation of the whole class and help children to achieve optimal growth, health and well-being.
"Similarly at home, TVs in the bedroom and unhealthy snacks in the kitchen cupboard are a bad idea.
"Parents should also remember that their role is not only to provide healthy food and drink options but to act as a role model themselves, since kids are copying their behaviours," the professor added.
The four-year research programme has a ¤2.9m grant from the European Commission, with a brief to "develop and test an innovative and evidence-based obesity prevention programme for children aged four to six years".