Brain & body: fighting childhood obesity.

Today there’s an explosion of obesity and type 2 diabetes, not only in adults, but also in our children. The amount of processed foods and cartoon shows that kids consume is ever increasing and leading to sugar-filled, sedentary lives.

In school we’re taught how to write, read, and do arithmetic, but often times we skip over the everyday skills, like choosing healthy meals, making good decisions, and taking care of our bodies.

The same place where we teach our children academic skills we also teach them life skills, whether we realize it or not. So, the choice is ours. We can either teach them to go for unhealthy convenience, or we can teach them to take the time to go for health.

I’m a 3rd grade teacher, instructing children from 7 to 8 years old, an age range where kids are developing lifelong habits that will determine the rest of their academic and adult life. I take it as my responsibility to build a foundation of health for the children that I teach. This is no easy task. There are many hurdles to jump, the biggest one being, how do I keep young students aware and engaged in health? Especially when there is a tasty treat available on every corner and eating a fun treat with friends is much more exciting than a healthy snack at break time.

In order to overcome this challenge I came up with a couple of solutions:

Number One: Be the role model.

  • The first and foremost thing to do is to be a healthy role model. When I’m in the classroom I try to exhibit healthy behaviours, such as being active and consuming healthy foods and beverages. I’m also involved in the school’s employee wellness program, planning running, walking, and netball clubs for employees, as well as special events like fun runs and “walk/cycle to school days,” for both parents and children. When the kids see their teacher excited about being healthy, that excitement rubs off and soon most of your class is walking or cycling to school!

Number Two: Give Incentives.

  • During break time I give children an incentive to eat healthy snacks. The options include fruit, greek yoghurt, or vegetables. Every child that has a healthy snack puts their name into a jar and on Friday afternoons I pull a name out of the jar to see which child gets a night off of homework! Nearly every child has a healthy snack at break time now and they are learning to really enjoy it. Healthy does not have to equal boring.

Number Three: Choose Holistic Education

  • What do I mean by holistic education? I mean tackling the issue from all sides,  educating both the children and the parents. We as teachers feel it important that parents are educated on healthy eating habits and the importance of being healthy, this also includes looking after your emotional and mental wellbeing. This is why I discuss not only my students grades and classroom performance with parents during meetings, but also their health. It is surprisingly eye opening that a lot of children I teach, 7-8 years old, have negative thoughts about food and body image. Herein lies another reason why I am pro health education, as it brings awareness to potentially dangerous issues instead of ignoring them.

Number Four: Bring health to the classroom

  • Not only  does my class engage in healthy snack time, but we also focus on physical activity, doing at least 20 mins of movement a day. This does not include playtime at break or lunch time. This is an additional 20 minutes of physical activity with me, to get their brains in focus and their bodies moving. We do star jumps, bunny hops, and stretches between each lesson. In addition, they have 3 lessons of Physical Education each week- varied from gymnastics, dance, fitness drills and different sports like rugby, football, netball and hockey.
  • Another important health point I try to emphasize is water! People often forget to talk about water when they talk about health. I make sure children have water in the classroom, which is a surprisingly rare thing as most schools don’t allow water on the account that it’s potentially messy and/or a reason to get up from your desk. I say the more water the better and getting up to stretch your legs is a good thing. 

Number Five: Keep it in Balance

  • Every Friday afternoon we cook and make different dishes from smoothies to healthy option toppers for pizza and occasionally we make cakes and buns. I like to make desserts like sweet potato brownies and healthier treats just to show the kids how tasty they can be. I want to highlight to the children the importance of balance in their diet, allowing them to have sweet things, but in healthy moderation.

So there it is, 5 ways that I make health a fun priority in the classroom, allowing children to live a more fulfilling and energetic life, rather than a sugar-sedated one. What you eat and do with your body determines how you think, feel, and act. I want my kids to be the healthiest they can be so they can enjoy life and help solve the problems of the future generations to come. 

Until Next Time,

Patricia

Patricia McKeown
Patricia McKeown

Being a teacher makes me super passionate about health & fitness for children.

I love encouraging kids to be more active and helping them (and their parents) make healthy diet decisions.

Education is key! The more knowledge we have about healthy living the better we can tackle childhood obesity.

I also LOVE to travel…

Read my blogs to find out diet & exercise tips for kids, and also travel tips for adults :)