Four in ten kids in central Indiana are at an unhealthy weight. That's nearly a quarter million kids, or enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium three times.
Because of their weight, these kids are at significantly higher risk for life threatening conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How did we get here?
The causes of the obesity epidemic are numerous and complex. Food has become highly processed, calorie dense, and “super-sized.” Many families lack access to affordable, healthy food. Children have fewer opportunities to play and be active, as recess and physical education classes have been reduced or cut entirely in schools. Too many kids spend too much time sitting in front of computer screens, tablets, or smart phones. Many of them live in neighborhoods that lack safe places to play.
As a result, simply promoting public awareness and “personal responsibility” will not solve this crisis. There are no simple or one-size-fits-all solutions.
We're in the habit of celebrating with food—usually sweets and candy with lots of empty calories. But it's easy to rethink how you party in the classroom or at day care when you're equipped with fun alternatives that kids love. We've got 15 fun and healthy school celebration ideas to help!
Why healthier classroom celebrations?
Why does your school or child care center need a healthy school celebrations policy that extends to birthdays, holidays, and special events? "A birthday is just once a year," we might think—but if you have 25 or more student birthdays, and add in Halloween, winter break, Valentine's Day, the 100th day of school, the last day of school...you can easily accumulate 7 full weeks of sugary treats!
Parents can't know what we don't tell them, so be sure to introduce your wellness vision at the beginning of the school year and take steps to reinforce it all year long. Here are four strategies to increase parent engagement and the tools you need to implement them:
Introduce your wellness plan
Create a welcome letter that introduces parents to the rationale for making wellness a priority in your school/classroom, shares your goals, and sets expectations for what they may see from you throughout the year.
You might include:
Like adults, kids need to stay active throughout the day. Active kids feel less stressed, sleep better at night, gain more focus, are more ready to learn, and develop healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
One way to make sure that children in your care are getting enough movement throughout the day is to incorporate movement into learning. Below is a list of suggested resources. Check them out and get moving!
Steady, incremental improvements are key to success
A long term commitment to improving student health and well-being has earned Pike Township schools the prestigious “National Healthy School Award” from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation — a distinction earned by no other schools in Indiana. Pike achieved this honor in 11 of 13 schools throughout the district in 2016, with the remaining two middle schools expected to achieve the certification by the end of this school year.
The National Healthy School Award honors schools that have met specific best practice standards for school wellness committees, food service and nutrition education, food and beverage marketing, community engagement, health education curriculum, physical education curriculum, recess, in-class activity breaks, before and after school programs, and staff wellness initiatives. Pike achieved the Bronze level of distinction, and can now move toward Silver and Gold levels. Nationally, just 328 schools achieved a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award in 2016.
Recess is a great way to get kids active during the school day, and it has many benefits. School recess has been proven to:
- Increase the amount of physical activity students get each day
- Improve memory, attention, and concentration
- Help students stay on-task in the classroom
- Reduce disruptive behavior in the classroom
- Improve social and emotional development (e.g., learning how to share and negotiate)
But simply putting recess on the schedule doesn't guarantee that students are active during this time each day. School administrators, teachers, support staff, parent volunteers, and others can take simple steps to encourage physical activity during recess:
Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all about candy and sweets. If you're planning to celebrate Valentine's Day in your home, classroom, or child care, take advantage of the opportunity to promote a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ideas:
Healthy Snacks and Treats to Love
Fruit & Vegetable Bouquet
Use heart and flower-shaped cookie cutters to cut fresh fruits and vegetables such as melon and bell peppers. Place them on green skewers and arrange them into a bouquet. Tie together with red or pink ribbon. Students may enjoy with low-fat yogurt, hummus, salsa, or low-fat ranch dressing.
Create healthy sandwiches using whole grain bread and strawberry fruit spread. Use heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut out mini heart sandwiches.
Valentine's Day Taste Test
Host a taste test at your party using red fruits and vegetables. Pomegranate, cranberries, apples, blood oranges, raspberries, red peppers and cherry tomatoes are great options. Have students vote on their favorite red fruit and vegetable.
2016 Year in Review - part one in a series of four
The new year brings the opportunity to pause and reflect on 2016 and our progress in reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. In this series of four Year in Review stories, we summarize some of our most significant accomplishments to date.
Jump IN’s mission is to promote policies and practices that create healthy environments where families and children have real opportunities to make healthy choices and engage in healthy behaviors.Much of Jump IN’s work is grounded in this fact:
Changing the environment is the best way to change behaviors.
Research shows that if healthy nutrition and physical activity policies can be implemented in the places where children and families spend most of their time, their health will likely improve. Here’s how we helped schools, child care centers, worksites, and family homes embed healthy nutrition and physical activity policies and practices in 2016:
When you think about ways to improve student achievement, does providing students with physical activity come to mind? It should. Active students have better concentration, fewer behavior problems, and higher performance on reading, writing, and math tests.
Image from Active Living Research’s “Active Education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance,” based on research by Dr. Charles Hillman, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
These two brain images, taken from the top of the head, represent the average amount of students’ neural activity during a test following sitting and walking for 20 minutes. The color blue represents lower neural activity, while the color red denotes higher brain activity in a given region. So students who walked prior to the test showed more brain activity.
Studies show that too many students spend too much time standing around in P.E. class. Innovative P.E. instructors are changing their curriculum to keep students active:
- Less emphasis on competitive team sports
- More emphasis on fun and lifetime fitness skills
- More focus on engaging all students, regardless of athletic ability
- Increased tracking of individual physical fitness with digital tools like FitnessGram
This isn’t your parents’ P.E. class. Trends in physical education include replacing rope climbs and kickball with: