The 6th Annual Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day was a great mix of moving, reading, experimenting, and learning! Early childhood programs around the country and in Bermuda danced, ran, tried new foods, read books, and played games.
In DeWitt Michigan, at Capital Area Community Services Head Start, Jessie Nevius sent this report: “Our kids enjoyed celebrating being healthy with Al! We read the story Al’s Healthy Choices and did Al’s Action Story. We used the book to have a discussion about healthy foods and healthy activities. We worked hard to complete Al’s healthy food maze.”
The students at Lyceum Preschool in Bermuda enjoyed an interactive read-aloud by Mrs. Shavana Wilson. After doing about twenty minutes of exercise, students were given a healthy snack of fresh fruit kabobs and peanut butter and jelly rice cakes. Mrs. Kimwana Eve also presented all the students with their own Al’s Pals t-shirts and water bottles.
Debbie Miller’s class at Maymont School in Richmond Virginia read Al’s Healthy Choices and talked about their favorite healthy food and how they stay active. Then they had a tasting party with cauliflower, snap peas, mango, red pepper, cara cara orange, and starfruit. Most were a big hit, but the starfruit was not very popular! Everyone was adventurous and willing to try new foods.
In Arkansas, at the North Little Rock School District, Whitney Addie’s class celebrated Healthy Al, Healthy Me all week and tried different fruits and vegetables. The overall favorite was strawberries. After talking about how they grew and what they looked and tasted like, the children did a still-life drawing. Each child was excited about trying so many different fruits and veggies.
Angelette Pryor at Shady Grove Y in Richmond Virginia reports that Al was as popular as ever during the YMCA Healthy Kids Day. At the Al’s Pals station kids made Al hats. This station is a calm spot among the busy, noisy stations. Several kids came to the calm down spot which had big pillows on a small rug with the Calm Down and Problem-solving posters there. They had current Al’s Pals kids stop by as well as those who remembered Al from previous years.
The Grasshopper Class at St. James Child Development Center in Richmond Virginia did yoga poses and danced. The celebration fit right in with their focus for the month of April: exercise!
Ruby Allen’s STEPS Head Start class in Charlotte Courthouse Virginia joined the celebration by having the children choose their favorite fruits and decorating them. The teachers used the fruits from the dramatic play center to continue the discussion of their favorites. They all enjoyed the celebration and had such fun – they can’t wait until next year!
At Michelle’s Playland in Suffolk Virginia, they started their day with a discussion on the importance of healthy habits and taking care of their bodies. They exercised and danced to “Shakin’ It” by Paragraph Express. They read Al’s Healthy Choices – a couple of times! Their healthy morning snack was apples, cheese and crackers, and water. They were talking about butterflies that week, so their physical activity was moving like butterflies. That afternoon, their outdoor activity was to run races.
So it was another great Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day! And remember that all the resources for these and other activities are always available here.
Children in several states, Bermuda, and Canada recently celebrated Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day in grand style! Here are some highlights:
Fairyland family child care in Sandy, Utah made fruit smoothies and whole wheat french toast and egg kabobs for breakfast. Then they had a whole wheat tortilla feast for lunch! Beautiful and nutritious!
Children all got involved in special cooking activities at St. James Child Development Center in Richmond, Virginia. They also decorated hats and did yoga! The teachers said they enjoyed the day as much as the children did.
In Bermuda, children decorated their Healthy Al hats and wore their Al’s Pals tee shirts. They used a beautiful array of fresh fruit to make fruit kabobs, and sang “I’m a Healthy Child.”
Being active was a big part of the morning for children at the Childhood Early Enrichment Program in Lenore, Idaho. They talked about the importance of exercising and did a scarf dance and bean bag throw to prove it can be fun. They also had a healthy food tasting party and recorded their preferences (find the form here).
At St. Andrews School in Richmond, Virginia, children loved hearing the Al’s Healthy Choices book and made veggie faces. They really enjoyed eating the vegetables afterward!
At the Huron-Superior Catholic School District in Sault Ste Marie, Canada children had a ‘fruit extravaganza’, played games, and even the superintendent came by to join the fun! Only disappointment – their pictures got deleted!
Strawberry picking was the first activity for children in Sau’nia Kay’s family child care in New Bern, North Carolina. They took the strawberries to a retirement home and worked with their friends there to make a strawberry, spinach, almond, and mandarin orange salad! What a fun and delicious inter-generational activity!
Our friends at CACS Head Start in Lansing, Michigan invited Very Important Families to join them for their special activities. They read and acted out Al’s Action Story, sang songs about being happy, and had a nutritious snack together.
Children at Michelle’s Playland in Suffolk, Virginia were moving all morning. They did some exercise routines and then finished up with lots of dancing!
At the Shady Grove Y in Richmond, they celebrated as part of Healthy Kids Day. Everyone made a Healthy Al hat and they set up a Calm Down spot where several children took a moment to chill.
There is a no-cost, easy-to-acquire gift that supports the overall well-being and personal happiness of young children: Be More Present.
Being more present with children sounds simple, but for many of us our daily lives feel more and more chaotic. We often feel stressed and distracted – so much to do and so little time.
Tune Out the Distractions and Tune In to Children
Many adults today are plugged in non-stop and maintain hectic schedules. Balancing work lives (in or out of the home) and family lives can be tough. Parents and children are often “together”, but not really together. How many of us have found ourselves talking with our children, nodding our heads, but not really hearing what they are saying because we are distracted by other things? We are physically present but we might be thinking about a disagreement we had with a friend or an email that needs to be finished. Without even realizing it, we are often focused on the past or the future, preventing us from being truly “present.” It takes conscious effort to focus on the moment at hand.
Connecting with Children Helps Them Feel Valued
Young children are intensely present every day, every moment, absorbing and learning. They can be thoroughly engaged watching a squirrel wind its way up a tree or stomping in a puddle. In a child’s perfect world, their favorite adults will slow down and appreciate their interest in the squirrel’s acrobatics or how high the puddle water will splash. Those adults will take a little time to have that meaningful, in-the-moment interaction.
Consider offering your child (and yourself) the sweet gift of tuning in. Create some time to simply be more present, on purpose, with your child – even for just a few minutes. When you focus on your child and engage with him, you give your child a valuable message: “You matter. You are important. You deserve my time and attention.”
Tips for Being (More) Present with Children
Of course, we can’t always be tuned in to our children. We have things that need to get done. And we are busy. And tired. And sometimes, in our jam-packed world, it’s ok to “listen” and nod while we think about those things. But connecting with a child for just a few minutes can have a huge impact. A few strategies are:
When your child is telling you something, try to stop what you are doing, and really listen when you can. Let your presence show by validating your child’s feelings, making comments, or asking questions.
Watch for opportunities to connect with your child: in the car, walking the dog, settling down at bedtime. Whether for 10 minutes or an hour, focus on being ‘all in’ during this time. Let your child know she has your attention by looking at her, touching her shoulder, or holding her hand.
Put your phone away when possible. Let your child see that you value him above all else.
Plan a ‘together time’ or ‘just us time’ or ‘the two of us time’ and let your child choose a quiet activity for the two of you. Keep ‘together time’ media-free. Just making a long line of cars or drawing with markers or doing puzzles together creates opportunities for quiet sharing, or simply being close. If you have more than one child, let each know that they will have their chance for ‘together time’ too. Maybe it’s once a week, and maybe it’s for 10 minutes, but it’s invaluable.
Don’t worry if it’s not always a magical “movie moment.” Sometimes children are cranky just as we are taking a moment to be present. That’s life. You’ll have another chance.
Being Present Can Reap Many Positive Benefits
While we all struggle to find the right balance, it is worth the time and effort to deepen our bonds with our children. Being present with your child helps them feel valued and develop a sense of self-worth. They may even be more cooperative and are likely to show improved behavior. All the result of our truly listening and showing genuine interest in them.
As we reflect back on our own childhood, it is not the stuff we got for birthdays or holidays that stands out, but it is those times spent with a caring and present adult that was the best gift of all.
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.”
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)!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Posted on April 28, 2014 | by Norman Geller, Ph.D.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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