Addressing concerns about activity and healthy eating

Cover of the book, Action Art by MaryAnn KohlWhat could be more fun that creating art while being physically active? An upcoming book by MaryAnn Kohl and Barbara Zaboroski shows how to do just that in ways that encourage children to make choices and control art medium in active ways. I had a sneak preview of Action ART: Hands-on active art adventure and look forward to doing the activities where children get to manipulate materials and make changes, learning about material properties and their own abilities.

child holds sections of orange fruit.Being active is one part of being healthy. Kindergarten teacher and blogger Gail Poulin voices an issue that concerns me too—how we can support children in making healthy food choices when family-packed and school lunches contain enough calorie dense sweet treats to satisfy children’s hunger before they get to the healthier choices of vegetables and healthy proteins?

Modeling the desired behavior makes the healthy choice visible. Teachers can talk about how much they enjoy the crunch of carrots or the flavor of whole grains. A lesson that involves families can support beginning steps towards making food choices that focus on whole grains and vegetable–foods that the USDA and the American Heart Association recommend.

The Early Sprouts curriculum has many choices for activities that include families. An entire year’s curriculum is designed to involve children and families in a seed-to-table experience, broadening their knowledge of and exposure to six target vegetables. They call on us to say if we “like” a food, or if we “don’t like it yet.” (I’ve adopted this practice in experiences with worms and insects–“I have touched a worm” and “I haven’t touched a worm yet.”)

I stand to write on the computer at home to make it easier for me to move, thanks to the advice of a physical therapist. There are many times when we move chairs out of the way so children can stand and move around to work at a table. What kinds of changes have you made to your program to support activity and healthy food choices?

Cover of NAEYC journal Young ChildrenThe November 2014 issue of Young Children, a journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, focuses on nutrition and fitness for all young children.  In the article, “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Strategies to Help Preschoolers Develop Healthy Eating Habits,” Dr. Brent McBride and Dr. Dipti Dev urge us to help children recognize their own internal cues of hunger and fullness by asking “Are you full?” or saying, “You can have more if you are hungry.” This respects and supports children’s self-regulation of the food they need to fuel their bodies and increases the likelihood that children will make healthy eating decisions.

Do you have strategies for being active or eating healthy choices that you have adopted or practice in your early childhood program?

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2 Responses to Addressing concerns about activity and healthy eating

  1. Sarah B. Feitlinger says:

    We are fortunate enough to have garden space, a motivated Pre-K teacher and a flexible curriculum at my school. While I know this is not the case for everyone, I truly think all schools can incorporate these ideas to some extent. Our Pre-K teacher has centered much of her curriculum around gardening. She has incorporated some of the Early Sprouts curriculum as well. They follow an alphabet theme and use the letter of the week and produce (either from the garden or supplied by parent volunteers) in their “making and baking” activity each week. The kids what they have made and give it a thumbs up or down. They always try it, and more often than not it gets a thumbs up. I think this is very effective because it gets the students involved in the entire food process from growing to cooking to eating. It also involves parents and shares with them recipes and the idea that their kids are willing to try something when they have had ownership in growing ingredients and making the recipe. Thanks for posing this question, I think it is pertinent and important!

  2. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Thank you for sharing the practice at your program, Sarah. I love the idea of a weekly “making and baking” activity! It sounds like there are many possible explorations—the properties of matter, our senses, parts of plants, as well as the literacy extensions you describe! Congratulations to your Pre-K teacher for implementing a practice where children have ownership in it from start to finish, and involves families. And to you for supporting it!

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