For 7 years, children have been celebrating Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day! It’s a chance for teachers to highlight the work they do to help children learn about healthy foods and the importance of being active. This year brought lots of creative activities to classrooms across the country, in Canada, and Bermuda. Here’s a sampling of the fun!
At St. James’s Children’s Center in Richmond VA, the children heard Al’s Action Story and played Al Says (like Simon Says). They had a great time with the guessing game, What Animal Am I? The classrooms had taste tests and the children told their parents all about the new foods they tried. It was such a fun way to learn about healthy habits!
In Hot Springs AR, at the Langston Magnet School, Carol Gibbs’ class read the Al’s Action Story and the children acted out all the moving parts. The kids loved it so much that they are now re-telling and acting out the story themselves. They rolled the Activity Cube and even taught some older kids, who came to read to the class, how to play. They used the Foot Pattern Hopscotch to hop around the room. Their day ended with the children drawing self-portraits with “empty” bellies, then having a nutritious snack from each food group. Afterward, they drew what they ate for snack to “fill their bellies” on the self-portraits.
Kathi Rosbottom reported that the children at Highview Public School in Ontario, Canada love Al and had a great day! She used lots of activities from the AcornDreams website: the mazes, a tasting party, and the matching game. They made and decorated the hats, too! The children loved it all.
The children in Janet Clemons’ class at Westview Early Childhood Center in Petersburg VA got their parents involved. They wanted to have some healthy snacks to eat so parents brought in bags of clementines, red apples, and pretzels. Ms. Clemons reports that they talk about healthy eating regularly, and they discuss the fruits and vegetables they like before lunch which encourages the children to eat them more often.
In Fort Wayne IN, at Lifeline Youth & Family Services, Bernice Bush’s morning and afternoon classes participated in the “fun and educational activities and as well as some music with Al!” The children talked about healthy food and practiced building the food pyramid. Snack time included pinwheel sandwiches (turkey and cream cheese wraps), grapes, apple slices, carrots, apple juice, and water.
At St. Andrews School in Richmond VA, the children in Madeline Hendrix’s class had a lively discussion about what healthy food they like and what they do to keep active. They like to eat strawberries, broccoli, carrots, and apples. To stay healthy, the kids love to run, ride bikes, and play basketball. They used the Activity Cube to “work out!” Jumping jacks, hopping on one foot, windmill arms, and running in place got their hearts beating, and there was lots of laughter, too!
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, including this new activity for 2019.
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.
Teachers and children from around the country and in Bermuda went all out for the 5th annual Healthy Al, Healthy Me Day!
At Lowell Elementary School in Watertown MA, they had a wonderful celebration complete with fruit kabobs, hummus with carrots and cucumbers, dancing, and even selfies with Al. The children recorded their tasting preferences on this form. They added, “Can’t wait for next year!”
At the Child and Family Network Center in Alexandria VA, children made fruit kabobs, too, creating a pattern using strawberries, bananas, and blueberries. They talked about the importance of eating foods that keep their bodies healthy and strong!
Children at the Catholic Diocese of Evansville IN made Healthy Al hats, played Al Says, read the Al Story, played the rolling dice exercise game, colored on the sheet where they picked fruit for their salad, and completed the maze.
In Richmond VA at the Partnership for Families, we read Al’s Healthy Choices and did Al’s Action Story. It was great fun acting out all of Al’s movements like looking under the bed!
Down at the Corrigan-Camden School District in Corrigan TX, the pre-K classes made a day of it! The Food Service Director presented a short program on healthy breakfast choices. Each child got a chef hat, a cup of yogurt, and blueberries, strawberries, dried cranberries, and graham crackers. Then they created their own healthy parfait. For their outdoor activities, each class planned a game including a ball relay race. Parents attended and participated in the events. Even their principal joined the fun and played games with the children.
In Wytheville VA, children celebrated by playing duck, duck, goose and having races. They had a healthy lunch of turkey and cheese roll ups, salad, and sliced apples. They talked about the importance of drinking water and enjoyed water that was flavored with fresh strawberries!
Meanwhile in Little Rock AR, there was a tasting party going on at Glenview Elementary School. They tried different fruits and vegetables and made a chart of which were their favorites. They also sent home parent notes about Less Screen Time, More Play Time and Healthy Eating. The students enjoyed dancing and exercising and talked about how this helps them to grow and be strong.
We’ve all done this, we all do this. Habits are hard to change.
Imagine: You and your young child encounter another grownup you know. The grownup looks at the child with a smile and asks him, “How are you?” “What are you up to today?” Your child looks at the ground, then up at you, and you quickly answer “We’re on our way to meet a friend.”
What happened? The other grownup directly asked the child a question and the child didn’t get a chance to answer for himself. No big deal, right? Actually, children benefit tremendously when they have more time to process questions before answering. Some adults do, too.
As adults we often experience this rushed world. We have become accustomed to immediate responses, instant gratification. At the coffee shop, we expect our order lickity split. At work, or even socially, some people jump in immediately with ideas or suggestions. Others may have equally valuable ideas but may not articulate them as quickly. We all process information in our own individual way. It’s important to honor a variety of personalities with varying degrees of willingness to speak up in a group.
The Value of Giving Children Time to Respond
Let’s go back to the child. The value in giving the child 5-7 extra seconds to form their own response is immensely more powerful to that child’s individual development than saving 5 seconds and answering for them.
Why is wait time for a child important? What’s the big deal?
Having the support from a valued adult helps a child feel more comfortable thinking for himself and speaking up.
We are modeling that we value other people’s ideas and thoughts.
Thinking and speaking on one’s own terms builds self-esteem and confidence. This. Is. Huge.
Practicing wait time for children to respond is a valuable form of respect.
Waiting helps the child who needs more time to process and form a response.
If children are always spoken for, they may begin to believe they are unable to speak for themselves. They may believe their thoughts are not valuable.
Research shows that when a teacher asks a question, the average wait time is one second or less. But when teachers purposely wait a minimum of five or more seconds after a question, children give higher quality and more substantive answers, their self-confidence increases, and they interact with one another to advance discussion. What’s more, children reluctant to raise their hands begin to participate.
Tips on Giving Children Time to Think and Speak
So what can we adults do to intentionally give a child time to respond?
Take a breath. “Life isn’t a race.” (As learned from my preschool students.)
Believe in your mind and heart that the child can think and speak independently.
Show on your face that you believe the child can express himself independently.
Say nothing and allow the child 5-7 seconds to think and respond.
Look at the child. This will help the other adult also look at the child and wait for the child’s answer.
For a child who is particularly reserved, it might help to gently prompt or coach, after giving him ample wait time.
What if the child’s response isn’t true or isn’t right?
Ask them more questions! This can be an opportunity to gauge their level of understanding or reality.
Is it hurting anyone? If not, it’s probably fine if they answer incorrectly.
Ask yourself, what’s more important in the situation, being accurate or being kind? We have our whole lives to work on accuracy; we don’t have to race there, but kindness can go an incredible distance. (You can even transmit kindness by accepting a child’s response regardless of its accuracy!)
Are they using their imagination? Childhood is for fun, for learning through play, and it’s a time to make mistakes and figure out reasons.
Now back to habits… It is tricky to hold back from answering for the child if you are constantly doing it. Perhaps it’s a cultural norm, perhaps it’s a pet peeve. If we can begin by being aware that we’re not giving children wait time, that’s a step!
Sure, there will be times that you ARE in a hurry and can’t wait a few extra seconds for a child to respond independently. That’s okay, forgive yourself. Barely anything about caring for children is realistic with ALWAYS or NEVER.
Here’s a challenge: try it out, ask a child a question and wait much longer than feels comfortable, maybe 7 seconds. What do you notice?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and observations!
About Our Guest Blogger
Lisa has been in the field of early childhood for about 12 years, working with children 8 years and younger in Richmond, VA, Washington, DC, and Boston, MA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Decision Information Sciences from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree of Early Childhood Education (PreK-2) from Lesley University, and a Post Master’s Certificate in Early Childhood Practice, Policy, and Research from University of Massachusetts in Boston. She is aunt to four fantastic nephews and one incredible niece.
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.
Posted on November 24, 2015 | by AcornDreams Staff
Are you looking for research-based, practical, and easy-to-use resources that promote healthy eating and physical activity in young children? We can help! Take a look at the games, fun activities, and healthy snack ideas here.
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 – 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.