Healthy Al Healthy Me Celebration – April 23, 2015

Happy children and their fabulous teachers joined in the Healthy Al, Healthy Me celebration on April 23, 2015 across the country and in Canada, too.

A family child care program in New Bern, NC lead by Sau’nia Kay “had a ball!” They made salads out of cucumbers & tomatoes, with some from their own garden. They created and laminated placemats decorated with pictures of veggies and fruits. The placemats turned into a healthy version of I Spy while they ate. Finally, they took some bananas and applesauce to an assisted living facility and handed them out. The children wanted to be sure that the residents “could eat healthy, too.”

HAHM Placemat

I spy something red!

At Sunshine & Rainbows Learning Center in Joliet, Illinois, Karen Cooper and her class spent the entire day outside at a park. They hiked, played kickball and tennis, and enjoyed the fresh, brisk air. Lots of parents joined them for the day to get their dose of Vitamin N (for Nature)!

Outdoor trail

What treasures will we find on our walk?

In Culpeper, Virginia, Paula Treadway’s class had a great time exercising in the gym and learning about making healthy choices. They cut out pictures and made a collage of things that are healthy. Al made a surprise visit in some of the classrooms to see what the children had learned.

Up north in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Jennifer Barone’s class participated by making Healthy Al, Healthy Me hats and parents were encouraged to get involved by bringing in a healthy snack for the class to share. The children also did lots of gross motor exercises to build strong muscles.

Y boys with hats

We love our hats starring Al!

The children in Ana Cuenca’s family child care program in Salt Lake City, UT took advantage of many of the ideas provided for the Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration. They talked about good food, and used the food groups to sort healthy foods. They made a fruit salad together. They wrapped up the morning by doing yoga – a good time was had by all!

A good yoga stretch!

A good yoga stretch!

At the VCU Health System Family Care Center in Richmond, VA, Carol’s class had a full morning. They read Al’s Healthy Choices and used the lesson that comes with it. The children role played all sorts of active motions like bouncing a ball or running. Then they made veggie people and told stories about their creations. They finished up by eating lots of yummy vegetables and deciding which they liked best.

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Veggie baseball player ready for a home run!

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Entranced by Al’s healthy choices!

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Would you like to share my colorful snack?

Dorothy Weinzapfel at St. Phillip School in Evansville, IN appreciated the opportunity because she likes “being proactive in teaching children how to be healthy, cope with negative behaviors, and stay safe, rather than always reacting to the negatives.” They reviewed all the great things they have learned from Al, Keisha, and Ty this year and are planning a special healthy snack for their last week together. They want to make veggie people because it’s always fun to create something with food!

We are already looking forward to next year’s celebration! Remember, that you can have a Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration any time with these fun, easy-to-use resources!

 

Children Should be Seen AND Heard!

Why Involve Children in the Activities of Daily Life?

Sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself. Toys need to be picked up in a hurry? Table needs to be set? A four-year-old needs to get dressed?  Activities for Saturday afternoon need to be planned? In our busy day-to-day lives, if there is a job to do or decision to make, we tend to mull over the options, choose one that seems manageable, and just do it. Quick and easy, right? But when we do it all, we are missing opportunities to involve children in meaningful ways that can help them become more independent, creative, and resilient.

Everyone Needs a Voice in Family Life

When we find ourselves making the decisions, telling children what to do, where to go, what to wear, what to eat, we are inadvertently depriving them of the chance to think for themselves and to voice their opinions. Like adults, kids begin to bristle when they are micromanaged all the time. Even the youngest children benefit when they get to be involved in life’s little decisions.

When given opportunities to express themselves, share their experiences and make decisions, children feel valued and develop a sense of self.  This gives them the message that they are an important part of the family.  And when they are involved in a way that has meaning to them, when they have a Voice, children become more cooperative and behavior issues decrease.  So how can we let children know that we value their ideas and experiences?

Joining in children's play helps them have a Voice

Joining in children’s play helps them have a Voice

We Need to Listen

One way for children to have a Voice is to take a few minutes to let them know you are genuinely interested in what they have to say:

  • Listen to how their day was. Prompt them with something specific like “tell me about one person you played with (or talked to or laughed with) today.”
  • Ask them to tell you that joke again (even though you’ve heard it 100 times).
  • Have them tell you about the picture they made or the block structure they built.
  • Ask a silly question like “What super power would you like to have?” or “If you discovered a new planet, what would it be like?” or “If you were the boss of the world, what rules would you make?”

While most adults can listen and do something else at the same time, to a child it feels like you are not tuned in. So when they are talking, be sure to stop what you’re doing and really pay attention. Let them know you are listening by looking at them and responding to what they say.

Involve Children in Decision-Making

Another way to help children have a Voice is to encourage them to share ideas and opinions when decisions must be made or problems need to be solved. Some examples:

  • Giving ideas about a family activity (which park to visit, which movie to watch)
  • Working through a problem with a sibling by brainstorming possible solutions
  • Helping to pick out gifts for relatives or friends celebrating birthdays
  • Brainstorming dinner ideas
  • Helping to plan a party or celebration

While they may not end up getting the final say, children get the message that their input is valuable and is taken into consideration. Needless to say, certain decisions are not appropriate for children to be involved in such as bedtimes and how much TV is watched. It’s important for children to understand that some things are not negotiable. Giving children a Voice is not the same as letting them ‘rule the roost’. Having a Voice means being involved in the process of child-appropriate decision-making and problem-solving, not necessarily the outcome. Life does not always feel fair, but it is valuable and reassuring for children to learn that there are times when caring parents make the decisions

What Caring Adults Can Do

To help children have a Voice, Dr. Richard Grossman, a psychologist in Brookline Massachusetts, suggests that we keep 3 guidelines in mind:

  1. Assume that what your child has to say is just as important as what you have to say.
  2. Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you.
  3. Enter their world through play, activities, and discussions; don’t require them to enter yours in order to make contact.

By letting children know that we value their thoughts and ideas, and that we want their active participation in the life of the family, we give them the message that they matter. Research tells us that involving children in a meaningful way helps them become more resilient and ready to take on the challenges that life will certainly throw their way.

Wingspan’s Bullying Prevention Training for Early Childhood Educators

Understanding and Preventing

 Bullying in Young Children

 Training for Early Childhood Educators

This three-hour interactive training expands early childhood educators’ understanding of bullying behavior in young children.  Participants learn how they can intervene when bullying occurs and what they can do to prevent bullying.  The workshop addresses these questions:

  •   What is bullying and why do some children bully others?
  •  What does bullying behavior look like in young children and why should educators be concerned?
  •  How is bullying different from aggression typically seen in young children?
  •  How can adults curb aggressive and bullying behavior demonstrated by young children?
  •  What strategies help prevent bullying behavior and promote more positive social interactions?
  •  What are effective ways to build empathy in young children?

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The Empathy of a 2 Year Old and His Dinosaur

Healing Dinosaur Offered

Caring and Empathy Start in the Early Years

“I’m going to visit Papa in the hospital today,” my daughter said to her two young sons. “Wait a minute, Mommy,” said 2½ year old Noah. He then disappeared up to his room. After rummaging through his drawer, he emerged from his room, proceeded downstairs, and placed a tiny orange plastic dinosaur in his mother’s hand. She did not remember him having this toy and asked what it was all about. Noah explained that when he went to his doctor when he was sick, the doctor gave him the dinosaur to help him feel better. He then instructed my daughter to bring the dinosaur to me to help me feel better as I recuperated from knee replacement surgery.

When my daughter presented the dinosaur to me in my hospital bed along with the Noah’s instructions, I was overwhelmed by the level of empathy demonstrated by such a young child. It was hard to fathom that he felt that connected to me and what I was going through. That wonderful, healing dinosaur proudly sat on the mantle in our family room and inspired me every day to hang in there through the challenging physical therapy that followed and helped me heal so I could play with my grandchildren.

While I continue to be amazed at how a 2½ year old could empathize so appropriately, it was a real-life reminder that even the youngest of children can understand other people’s feelings and show they care. While children are born with the capacity to be empathetic, empathy is a skill that children learn. When children have adults in their lives who respond to them with compassion and understanding, they are more likely to be empathetic towards others. Children who are empathic are more likely to do better in school, have more friends, and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

 

How Can Caring Adults Help Children Learn to be Empathetic? 

  • Talk about feelings often – how you are feeling, how the child might be feeling, how characters in a story might be feeling. “How do you think the boy feels when his kite gets stuck in the tree?
  • Teach children words to express their feelings.  Accept all feelings and validate them.  Help them cope with strong feelings. “I see how frustrated you are that the puzzle pieces won’t stay together. That would make me frustrated, too.”
  • Encourage children to consider that other people also have feelings just like they do.  “You told me you felt sad when Maria teased you. How do you think Trayvon feels when you tease him?
  • Brainstorm with children what they can do to help a child in distress feel better. “Alisha is very sad because her mom is on a trip. Do you have any ideas for what you could do to comfort her?
  • Recognize children when they show caring towards others. “You were a good friend when you asked Kendall if she wanted to play with you.
  • Role model kindness and empathy.  Verbally express your concern for someone’s feelings.  Give caring gestures like patting a child on the back or calmly tell a child you understand how she feels if she is scared, frustrated, sad, or upset. “That loud truck made you feel scared, didn’t it? I understand. Loud noises scare me sometimes, too.

When children’s own emotional needs are met in warm, caring ways, they are more likely to be able to respond to other’s discomfort and pain – and extend a dinosaur of kindness to those in need.

Norman Geller, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and Assistant Professor

Autism and Educational Diagnostics, LLC.

 

2014 Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration

A Great Time was Had by All!

Classrooms and family child care programs in multiple states, Canada, and Bermuda participated in this year’s Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration on April 3. Here is a sampling of the myriad of marvelous activities that took place that day:

In Bermuda, Romeika Brangman coordinated celebrations at Gilbert Institute and West End Primary. They read and acted out Al’s Action Story, then made and savored tasty fruit kebobs. A big thank you to Ms. Correia, Ms. Tacklyn, Ms. Taylor, and Ms. Millett for their energetic participation. They even made a video! Watch it here.

Groovin' on My Fruit Kebab

Groovin’ on My Fruit Kebab

Love those Grapes!

Love those Grapes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Programs throughout Virginia participated in activities such as making veggie faces, dancing, taking a walk, reading Al’s Action Story, and making collages, hats, and banners. Kudos to Vicki Mollenauer at North Richmond YMCA, Sue Blanco at Walnut Grove CDC, Michelle Freeman at Michelle’s Playland, Debbie Gillispie at Four Seasons, Sheila Thompkins at William Byrd, and Donna Hopkins at Rooftop Head Start for your enthusiastic coordination of the celebration.

Big Smiles Mean F.U.N.

Big Smiles Mean F.U.N.

 

Singing About Healthy Choices

Singing About Healthy Choices

Singing and Coloring Together

Singing and Coloring Together

 

In New Bern NC, Sau’nia Kay took her children to a market where they picked out fruits and vegetables for a homemade salad and snacks. They tasted and evaluated what they thought of their special purchases.

Ants on a Log - YUM!

Ants on a Log – YUM!

The children in Cindy Zappascosta’s class in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario had a visit from Al, Ty, and Keisha. They sang, danced, and made healthy snacks together. Then they graphed their favorite parts of their snack.

My Veggie Face has a Hat!

My Veggie Face has a Hat!

Grand River EHS, part of Capital Area Community Services in Lansing MI spent all week talking about staying active and being healthy. Julie Shea and Faye Phillips led the children in yoga, had bean bag tosses, started their days with morning exercises, and enjoyed a tasting party.

Al Joined Us for a Healthy Snack!

Al Joined Us for a Healthy Snack!

We are already looking forward to next year’s celebration! Remember, that you can have a Healthy Al, Healthy Me celebration any time with these great resources!

 

5-2-1-0: Preventing Childhood Obesity In The Early Years

Habits Start Forming In Early Childhood

Healthy apple, healthy me!

Healthy apple, healthy me!

What do juice boxes, toy-fortified kid meals, chocolate-covered granola bars, and single-serving sugar-bomb cereals hawked by cartoon characters have in common?  These “grab and go” foods have little nutritional value and are directly marketed to young children.  Many parents appreciate quick, easy foods children will eat without a fuss.

Unfortunately, while convenient, this kind of sugary, junky food is one culprit contributing to today’s childhood obesity predicament.

Other factors include:  not enough fruits and vegetables, too many sugar-sweetened drinks, too much sedentary time in front of TV and other media, and not enough physical activity.

Won’t Most Children “Grow Out Of” Childhood Obesity?

Twenty-three million (one in three) American children are overweight or obese.  We used to believe that overweight children had “baby fat” they would naturally grow out of. We now know that when a young child becomes overweight or obese it is usually very difficult for them to reach and maintain a normal weight.  Half of all children who are obese at age six will be obese in adulthood, continuing to face health and other challenges.

According to Robert Wood Johnson’s childhood obesity researchers, today’s children could be the first generation to “live sicker and die younger” than their parents because of childhood obesity.

Overweight or obese children are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems in their childhood years and in adulthood.  They feel more stressed and anxious than healthy-weight peers and miss more school.

Early Childhood May Be Key To Preventing Obesity

Many health experts believe that teaching and establishing healthy habits in early childhood holds tremendous promise for reversing the epidemic of obesity.   After all, it is easier to initiate good habits than to turn around bad ones!

Important environmental changes that support children’s pathway to healthy weight have emerged in the past few years – like updated USDA nutrition standards for school lunches and snacks, and restrictions on marketing junk food to children.

Many schools, child care settings, and families work hard to provide children healthier food, more opportunities for active play, and limited screen time.

Young Children Develop A Foundation of Healthy Habits

Environmental changes are important, but not enough.  Children benefit when they learn to take care of their bodies and make healthy choices.

The 5-2-1-0 Model, recommended by medical experts, provides clear guidelines for teaching children daily habits that promote health and prevent overweight and obesity.

 

5-2-1-0 Model

5 – fruits and vegetables

2 – hours or less of screen time (TV, computer, tablets, smart phones, etc.)

1 – hour or more of physical activity

0 – sugar-sweetened drinks

 

How Can 5-2-1-0 Help Young Children?

The 5-2-1-0 concepts are concrete and specific enough to be taught to young children.  Unlike complicated information about proteins, carbohydrates, calories, or food groups, young children “get” that fruits and vegetables are healthy choices!  They can understand that screen time is a quiet, stay-still activity, and that children’s bodies get strong through active, run-around play time.

Teaching children to make positive choices every day that align with 5-2-10 practices creates a foundation of healthier habits that can promote good health over their lifetime.

5-2-1-0 Practices and Healthy Choices For Children

5 Fruits & Veggies

Many younger children eat fruits and vegetables.  However, as children get older, most eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume more salty, sugary, fatty foods. By the teen years and adulthood, few Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.  Guiding young children to eat five fruits and vegetables each day – including for snack time– can develop the habit of consciously choosing nutritious foods over less healthy, junk foods.

  • Teach children that eating fruits and vegetables will help them be strong and healthy.  For ideas about creating fun, healthy snacks for young children, click here.

2 Hours or Less of Screen Time

Despite years of recommendations by pediatricians to limit children’s screen time, American children are clocking up many hours on TV and other media in their homes.  Out and about, young children can be found tapping and scrolling on hand-held devices – in grocery carts, car seats, at restaurants, you name it.  The amount of time spent with screens only increases as children get older.  Screen time is largely sedentary, and replaces more active and creative play that children are likely to pursue when no screens are available.

  • Teach children that too much TV and other screen time is not a healthy choice, and that growing bodies need to move around.  For a reproducible parent note about the importance of limiting screen time, click here.

1 Hour of Exercise

Most American children get less than half the recommended amount of daily physical activity.  Healthy bodies need the muscle development and raised heart rate that comes when children run, jump, dance, and just play.  Providing plenty of time and space for active play for young children can establish a habit of exercise that leads to more fit teens and adults.

  • Teach children that active play is not only FUN, but it makes their heart healthy and muscles strong!  For suggestions about lively, active ways children can play click here.

0 Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Juice

More than sweet treats like cookies or candy, sweetened drinks are the largest source of added sugar in children’s diets.  Offering almost no nutritional value, sweetened drinks often replace actual food for children.  Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is considered a key contributor to weight issues.  Even 100% juice – long seen as healthy for children – has the same amount of sugar as soda.  Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% juice daily.”  Many physicians go so far as to say that even 100% juice is not a necessary part of a healthy diet for children.  Actual fruit is a more nutritious choice.

  • Teach children that water and milk are “anytime” drinks that are good for their bodies.  To see some lively Pinterest suggestions for encouraging children to drink more water, click here.

Adults Can Help Young Children Get A Healthy Start

Teaching children what they need to know, in fun and age-appropriate ways, equips them to create a brighter future.  Adults CAN make a difference in preventing childhood obesity.  Starting in the early years is key.

 

AcornDreams Healthy Choices Resources

The following easy-to-use tools align with 5-2-1-0 guidelines and can help equip you to teach young children about making healthy choices and recognize them when they do. 

 

Ready or Not, Here It Comes! Preparing for Kindergarten

Getting Ready for School: Supplies AND Support

Starting school can be exciting AND scary!

Starting school: exciting AND scary!

Schools provide a checklist of materials children will need to be ready for school – washable markers, paper, pencils, tissues, and glue sticks.  Check, check, and check!  This part of getting ready is clear-cut.

But what about getting “ready for school” on the inside? For some children, kindergarten is their first time being away from home for so long. They may feel worried about all the new children they’ll meet or if they will like their new teacher. Children may wonder if they’ll get lost in the school or if the bigger kids will be mean.

Starting school is often unnerving for young children (and their parents!). Luckily, with a little preparation, adults can help children feel excited and confident about their upcoming school experience.
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More Vitamin N For Happier, Healthier, Kinder Children

Nature's Toy Shop Is Open For Business.

Spending Time Outside – Vitamin Nature!

If Vitamin N could be sold in stores, it would surely fly off the shelves. Although not found in stores, it IS widely available and usually affordable.

Children Need More Vitamin “Nature”

According to Richard Louv, author of bestselling book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, children today do not get enough Vitamin N – a phrase for the health benefits of nature popularized by his books. [ more ]

Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration: Awesome!

~ Celebrating Children’s Healthy Choices ~

Who knew learning about making healthy choices could be so much FUN?! Thousands of children in 5 states and Canada found out when they participated in our first annual Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration on May 2.

Take a look at the creative ways teachers involved children in learning to make healthy food choices and be more active. From elementary schools, child care, Head Start, and YMCAs, to programs serving military, faith-based, and special needs populations, the children were all in!

Check out some of these highlights:

Choosing Favorites for My Fruit Salad

Favorites for My Fruit Salad

We are SO proud!

We are SO proud!

 

 

 

 

 
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How Much TV Is Okay For Young Children?

Lots of Screens In Children’s Lives

Screens here, screens there, screens, screens everywhere — in our pockets, on our phones, in our cars, and in our homes.

It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.

It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.

It’s no wonder National Screen-Free Week was created!

And it’s not just mobile devices, computers, and smartphones — TV screens are everywhere.  You see them in the pediatrician’s  waiting room, restaurants, convenience stores, banks, and car repair shops.    Even movie theater lobbies have TVs running previews of movies!

Preschool age children spend between 2 and 4 1/2 hours using some sort of screen each day. However, according to the “Zero to Eight:  Children’s Media Use in America” study (published by Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media), 74% of young children’s screen time is television.  Although the use of apps and video games is on the rise, for preschool children, TV is still the number one screen of choice. [ more ]