In this review, we address the natural history of obesity in children, the most promising family- and school-based approaches to the prevention of obesity, and the barriers and opportunities associated with secondary prevention. In childhood, the most important periods of risk appear to be the periods of adiposity rebound and adolescence. Caution regarding the period of adiposity rebound is still warranted, because it is not yet clear that early rebound is attributable to changes in body fat. Families and schools represent the most important foci for preventive efforts in children and adolescents. One productive approach is to proceed from an examination of factors that affect energy balance to the identification of more proximal influences on those factors. This approach may help to narrow the strategies necessary to prevent or treat childhood obesity. For example, television viewing affects both energy intake and energy expenditure, and therefore represents a logical target for interventions. Anticipatory guidance by pediatricians may offer an effective mechanism by which to change parental attitudes and practices regarding television viewing. A similar process is used to emphasize the potential influence of school-based interventions directed at changes in food choices and sedentary behavior.