Move More for Holiday Balance

December 11, 2017

Gym Class

Active play and healthful eating choices make up the equation for healthy balance. Most kids aren’t getting the recommended hour a day of physical activity, and it is even harder during the cold winter days. The holidays are an especially good time to get creative.

Because kids tend to be more motivated to participate in something they helped create, give the following activity a try!

  • Have kids create their own minutes of motion game.
  • Explain the goal is to create a minimum of 12 “roll and do” activities.
  • The materials needed include one dice, a stopwatch and 12 large index cards.
  • The instructions for the activities will be written on the index cards and will include:
    1. A specified amount of time to perform the activity from 1-6 (the numbers indicated by rolling one dice). For example, 1=30 seconds; 2=45 seconds; 3=60 seconds, and so on.
    2. At least two index cards for every number on the dice (a total of 12 different activities). Specify a physical activity for each card. It might be fun to use a “holiday theme” for the physical activity such as:
      • Dashing Through the Snow (jogging in place)
      • Jingle Bells (make a shaker out of an empty water bottle and un-popped corn or dry beans, then jingle the shakers up high and down low)
      • Winter Wonderland (pretend to ice skate)
      • Frosty the Snowman (pretend to build a snowman)
      • Jingle Bell Rock (rock the body and the shakers)
      • Let it Snow (pretend to ski)
    3. Kids will roll the dice and perform the activity for the number of minutes on the dice.
  • Optional: Play the song while performing the activity.
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Healthy body healthy mind

The “secrets” of healthy eating include variety, moderation and balance. A consistent, repeated message is one key to learning. A daily, or even weekly, message targeted not just to knowledge, but also attitude and healthy behavior, is the aim. In the classroom, plan 5-10 minute nutrition education or physical activity brain breaks. It doesn’t have to be complex:

Nutrition Ed

  • Discuss how MyPlate shows us how to choose a variety of foods from different food groups.
  • Talk about moderation. What is it and how do we choose it? Point out how MyPlate gives us serving sizes for the foods we eat and also recommends the number of servings we should eat for our age, gender and how active we are.
  • Talk about how eating a healthy breakfast can make school easier. Breakfast provides morning “Go Power.”

Brain Breaks

  • Talk about how moving more balances “energy in” from the foods we eat with “energy out” for a healthy heart and weight. While moving, ask kids to call out their favorite choices for active play.
  • Between lessons, have kids do jumping jacks, jog in place or act out sports like swimming, tennis or basketball.
  • Play five minutes of “musical desks.”

If time is limited to implement a full comprehensive nutrition education curriculum, do something else. There are many “One-a-Day” ideas to help fill a gap. Contact Healthy Kids Challenge for more ideas. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day™ curriculum is full of discussion points, hands-on activities and worksheets.

Health

The benefits of including nutrition education during the school day are hard to ignore!

Benefits for Schools

Helping students stay healthy through eating healthy foods and being physically active can help schools achieve better overall:

  1. Test scores
  2. Grades
  3. Attendance rates
  4. Behavior patterns

Benefits for Parents

Kids spend a great deal of their time in school. A healthy school environment can:

  1. Provide opportunities to learn and practice healthy behaviors

Benefits for Kids

Eating healthier and staying active in school can help kids:

  1. Gain knowledge and skills to make healthy choices
  2. Feel better
  3. Do better in sports
  4. Concentrate
  5. Get better grades and test scores

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

If you are looking for assistance in choosing a flexible, easy-to-implement, comprehensive nutrition education program, contact Healthy Kids Challenge!

Kindergarten children eating lunch

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) resource HEALTH AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT makes it clear that healthy eating and physical activity are linked to academic achievement. This means it is very much worth ensuring that we take the time to make it the most effective.

The Healthy Kids Challenge curriculum foundation has set the stage with learning theories and evidence based content for the greatest success. The content is built on the foundation of six healthy habit messages: daily physical activity and choosing breakfast, fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, right-size portions, and healthy beverages. The curriculum meets standards recommended by the CDC HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool). Hands-on learning activities are designed to build skills for making healthy choices. The following appealing messages are repeated in different ways:

  • Active Play, Balance My Day
  • Breakfast GO Power
  • Drink Think
  • Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way
  • Smart Servings
  • Snack Attack

Along with building skills for making healthy choices, we help educators set kids up for success by creating settings that support healthier choices. For some time, research has supported healthier environments. The USDA Local School Wellness Policy requirements are one way healthier environments are supporting kids.

School Caferteria Line

Preschools and daycare centers can help build a foundation for healthy eating and physical activity choices. In the most recent WOWS Newsletter, we shared the three actions that will help make a difference that lasts for a lifetime:

  1. Plan fun, hands-on learning activities
  2. Model and repeat the healthy message… play, taste and learn with kids
  3. Share the message with parents and caregivers

A 4th category of actions are “nudges.” We’ve used this term in our columns before. It is a word made popular by Cornell University’s Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Nudges are like the things retail marketers use to encourage consumers to buy. Good examples are retail store end caps or products placed by the checkout lanes. When it comes to kids’ places, consider these successful “nudges”:

  • A 2016 study reported in Pediatrics found that in school cafeterias with vinyl banners depicting vegetable superhero characters, more young children took vegetables from the salad bar.
  • Studies have also shown an increase in the selection of healthier foods when they are at eye level. In one example, preschoolers took cartons of lower fat milk when they were easier to reach than the higher fat choice.
  • Encouraging students to take fruits and veggies as they go through the line increases selections.
  • Giving fun menu names to fruits and veggies “nudges” healthier choices. So the next time you post a menu, have fun with creative names, like “Crunch a Bunch Salad,” “Rocket Carrots” or “To-My-Toes Tomatoes.” Better yet, help kids come up with silly names!

Make a Healthy Difference, Learn – Model – Share – and Nudge

Active Play Their Way

June 23, 2017

Multiracial group of friends walking at the beach

Help families recognize that if they are not getting minimum levels of physical activity each day, it is time to do something different. Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Youth leaders and educators can send healthy messages and lead by example:

  • Include fun summertime ideas in newsletters and on websites. Include information on opportunities in your community such as water splash parks, playgrounds and nature trails.
  • Create bulletin boards and talk about different activity ideas.
  • In summer programs, plan “brain breaks” during which kids “act out” different suggestions that help them “move more.” For example, make the motions and pretend to play badminton, volleyball, tennis, swimming (all the different strokes) and baseball.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt that keeps kids moving. This week’s WOWS Newsletter has several fun ideas.

Group of happy kids running through green field

We enjoy healthy balance with tasty and smart food choices paired with Active Play, Every Day. Move with fun summertime activities, like the ones below! For more summertime “balancing moves,” see the May 31st Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter.

Create a fun fitness course:

  1. Place two buckets several steps apart. Fill one with water and keep the other empty. Give kids a plastic cup and have them, using the cup, race to see who can transfer water from the full bucket to the empty one first.
  2. Set up a bean bag toss with hula hoops. Place three hula hoops on the ground in the shape of a triangle. Have kids try to get a bean bag within the circle of all three hoops.
  3. Run a “Ball and Glove Relay.”
    • Supplies: gallon milk jugs, with the bottoms cut off (to use like ball gloves) and tennis balls.
    • Divide kids into teams, and give each team one milk jug “ball glove” and one tennis ball.
    • Have each team line up and explain the relay:
      • The first person in line is the catcher and holds the milk jug. He stands a few feet from the rest of the kids on his team. (The distance from the pitcher to the catcher depends on the age of the child.)
      • The second kid in line on that team is the pitcher and tosses the ball underhanded to the kid with the milk jug.
      • When the ball is caught (they should try again if they miss!), the pitcher moves to become the catcher, the catcher moves to the end of the line and the game continues until everyone has had a turn. If teams are small, do two or three turns.

Note: Instead of declaring winners or losers, have game leaders time each team; then have the teams do the relay again and see if they can improve their time. Encourage teams to create a team name and cheer.

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