Health & Wellness
As parent volunteers, the PTO can take an active role in promoting healthy habits to ensure that the health & wellness we teach at home is carried through during school.
Encourage students to live a healthy lifestyle. Health relates to food, fitness, social & emotional health, or community & environmental health. Offer wholesome foods and activities that energize, sharpen focus, boost attention, raise motivation, and build self-esteem - all of which heighten academic success!
PROMOTING HEALTH & WELLNESS
RECESS THEN LUNCH
Have recess before lunch. Students rush through their lunch to get to the playground. Instead, have recess first. The kids will work up an appetite and then be able to sit and relax while they eat their lunch.
SHOW & TELL... & TASTE
Good nutrition is essential for high academic achievement. Teach students about healthy food choices and how these healthy choices help them learn and live a healthy life style!
Show & Tell:Assign each student in the class a day in which they will bring in enough of one unique (washed) fruit or vegetable to share with their class during snack time.
Make a Smoothie: Ask each student to bring in a fruit or drinkable yogurt. Mix various combinations to make fruit smoothies. For example, using a blender, mix together frozen or fresh strawberries, 1 banana, 1 Stonyfield FarmŽ Drinkable Vanilla Yogurt Smoothie, and a cup of crushed ice. Show the kids how they can add a handful of iron-enriched greens like fresh spinach or kale to make it even healthier.
Plant Seeds: Plant vegetable seeds and watch them grow. Tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, and more!
Make a Salad: Ask each student in a classroom to bring in one washed vegetable. Join all of the vegetables into a single bowl to create a garden salad the students can share! Similarly make a fruit salad with fruits.
Visit a Farm: Take the students on a field trip to a local farm where they can learn about planting, growing, and picking their own fruits and vegetables. This combined with a photosynthesis lesson could be great!
Make Applesauce: Let the students make applesauce. Each student brings in a washed apple. Peel, slice, and place the apples in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave until soft. Mash softened apples with a fork. Add cinnamon as desired. If you must add sugar for a sweet taste, use very little.
Make Pizza: Students can also make their own pizza. Ask each student to bring in an ingredient (sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and toppings - peppers, fresh mushrooms, onions, black olives, pineapples, ham, fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes). Prepared pizza crusts can usually be found in the canned sauce isle of the grocery store. Less expensive crust options are soft, whole grain tortillas or english muffins.
As always, check with your head of school and the school food service to ensure that such activities are allowed. And be cautious of food allergies.
HOST A SCHOOL ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
Enrichment Programs are educational programs that go beyond the scope of the typical classroom. Host at least one enrichment program each school year that focuses on health and wellness. Some ideas include:
- Nurse or Doctor: Ask a nurse or doctor to come to school and talk to the students about good nutrition. This can be a school nurse, a school parent who is also a nurse or doctor, or a local pediatrician office.
- Dentist: Ask a dentist to speak to students about oral hygiene.
- Athlete: Ask a well-known athlete to speak to the students about the importance of staying fit through exercise.
- Martial Arts: Contact your local martial arts center and ask them to do a demonstration for the school. Martial Arts teaches self discipline, confidence, respect, fitness, relationship building, and self defense.
EVALUATE THE SNACK & SODA MACHINES
We cannot expect our children to eat healthy if we, as the adults, are giving them unhealthy food. So take a close look at the snacks & drinks being offered and ensure that ALL of the options are beneficial. Offer nuts, raisins, dried fruit, and whole grain treats low in sugar and free of trans and saturated fats. Choose water or juice low in sugar. If soda is included, choose caffeine-free soda and sodas that are free of artificial sweeteners.
PROMOTE A HEALTH & WELLNESS WEEK
Children learn by repetition. By constantly teaching and reminding them how to maintain a healthy body they are more likely to pick up on these good habits. Early in the school year, plan a week-long tribute to health & wellness. This may be something you want to repeat later on.
Plan a different activity each day. See more activities below.
- Display Health & Wellness Week banners and balloons.
- Give the event a theme to motivate the students:
- Fuel Your Body
- Training for a Healthy Body
- You Are What You Eat
- Move & Grove
- Provide a healthy tip over the loud speaker each morning. Ask students to submit the tips and then choose a student each day at random to share their ideas over the loud speaker. Give the volunteers a health button (i.e. Do It! Pursue Wellness! from Wellness Quest).
- Have a school-wide morning stretch where the principal announces over the loud speaker for all students to stand and stretch together.
- Each afternoon, play some music over the loud speaker and have the kids stand from their desks and stretch, move, or dance. Brain research shows how physical activity pumps body/brain chemicals to enhance learning and memory.
- Tell a joke each day. Laughter helps pump endorphins, the body/brain mellow chemical that eases stress and dulls pain.
- Host wellness enrichment programs.
Nutrition Labels: One of the first steps to understanding healthy eating is understanding exactly what is in the food we eat. Teach the students how to read nutrition labels so that they can choose foods that are low in sugar and low in fat, particularly saturated and trans fats.
Food Journal: Ask the students to keep a food journal for a day or a week, then have them try to physically build their own food pyramid using blocks or paper cups based on their journal. Let them see if their food pyramid can support itself or is it too top-heavy?
School-wide Chart: Create a school-wide chart to document how many fruits and vegetables the students eat in one week or one month. Reward the classes with a "fruit & yogurt" or a "make your own healthy pizza" party.
Food Pyramid: Classrooms build their own food pyramid and by referencing food labels.
Students watch and learn from each other. So have the older students in the school prepare a school newspaper or newsletter with nutrition and wellness stories. Give them news story ideas to include in their paper:
- Clementines Now In Season!
- Interview with School Nurse Jones.
- Students Awarded for Eating Their Vegetables at Lunch!
- Student is Gym Teacher for a Day
- School Food Services Plans Healthy Menu
REPLACE A BAKE SALE WITH A FRUIT & VEGETABLE SALE
If your school hosts several bake sales throughout the school year, try turning one of them into a Fruit & Vegetable Sale. Instead of donating baked goods filled with sugar, parents donate fruits & veggies as a healthy alternative. Apples, oranges, pears, bananas, grapes, carrots, peppers, etc! Ask parents to wash all produce prior to bringing it in for sale. Check with your principal and school food service to ensure that proper food handling procedures are followed and that this type of sale is allowed.
Posters & Advertisements: If we want to know what images and advertisements have an affect on our children, why not ask them to show us. Host a poster or advertisement contest in which students are asked to make a design that promotes Health & Wellness. It may relate to nutrition, healthy eating, healthy foods, or exercise. Display the winning posters in the school lobby or cafeteria.
Costumes: Ask students to dress in the color or costume of their favorite fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, or dairy product. Silly prizes can be awarded to several students per class:
Label Collections: Classrooms can participate in a food label contest. Students are asked to bring in food labels and organize them according to a pre-determined weekly challenge (i.e. sodium content, calories per serving, fat grams, sugar grams, etc.). Offer a health treat to the class bringing in the most labels.
- Most Delicious
- Most Nutritious
- Most Colorful
- Highest Fiber Content
- It Aint Easy Being Green
- Apple of Our Eye
- Go Bananas!
- Orange You Glad
- Two of a Pear
- Two Peas in a Pod
- Eye See You (potatoes)
- April Showers Bring Cauliflowers
Small prizes, stickers, and cookbooks can be awarded to those students eating healthy foods during lunch. Or perhaps they got the "lucky tray" or "lucky milk" that day.
OFFER AN ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT FRUIT & VEGGIE BUFFET
If you can afford to offer a fruit & vegetable buffet year-round - fantastic! If not, offer it once a week or once a month. Designate a portion of your PTO funds to cover these expenses. After all, we run fundraisers for the benefit of the students and this would certainly benefit them!
KEEP THEM MOVING
Physical activities can help raise academic performance by improving visual, auditory, and sensory motor skills. So encourage students and staff to move frequently throughout the day. Physical movement pumps energizing chemicals throughout the body & brain boosting attention while easing stress that interfere with learning.
Field Day: Organize a Field Day for the students so they can get outside and get active. Field Day is usually held on the school grounds on a large grass area. Play kickball, volleyball, badminton, and run relay races.
Walking Club: Open up the school gym and make it available for students and teachers to walk laps and get energized before school, after school, or during free time.
Walk-to-School Day: Ask everyone in the school to walk to school. If children take buses, arrange for the buses to drop the students off at an athletic field about a mile away and they can all walk as a group. Make it a "Green" day and also promote the environmental benefits of not driving the cars that day.
Log Miles: Encourage classes to track the miles they walk. Mapping miles across America or the world teaches math and geography. Create a large map and move a paper person across the map to show their individual or group progress.
Pedometers: Purchase pedometers, helping walkers track the number of steps taken during school. Notice how school performance improves as students gain physical stamina, priming their body/brain with learning chemicals.
Walk & Talk Contest: See how far students can walk while talking about what they are learning during school. Rules are simple... when you stop talking, you must stop walking. Class champs can compete for the school PTO Walk-Talk Championship.
Classroom Cheer: Encourage each classroom to write a classroom cheer, motto, and 'secret' handshake. A sense of classroom ownership develops, invigorating the body/brain.
Aerobic Sitting Balls: Offer large sitting balls to classrooms. Students who have trouble sitting still may find sitting on the ball a great learning aid.
Juggle: Order classrooms sets of juggling scarves or balls with your PTO funds. Give participating classes time to master juggling skills using one, two, and three scarves as shown on the instruction card. Crossing the body's midline while juggling improves vision and brain transmission from one side of the brain to the other, helping reading, writing, spelling, and math skills. Hold a PTO Juggling Contest at each grade level.
Sign Language: If you've ever known a child with hearing loss, you've probaly noticed that they are wonderful at getting their point across before their verbal skills have completely developed. Similarly, have students show what they are learning in class using gestures, facial expressions, dances, role plays, raps, and other physical expressions. Notice how the hard-to-reach students are more fully engaged using their body to master classroom concepts.
COMBINE NUTRITION WITH READING
Getting students to read is just as important as getting them to eat well and exercise so make it an event. It may be for one week or the second Tuesday of every month. Ask students to carry a book with them. At random intervals, announce over the loud speaker that they stop what they are doing and READ! Make sure all students bring a book to lunch because the principal may just "catch them reading" and give them a prize (or an apple!). Name lunch menu items after popular books (Franklin french fries, Hardy Boys Hamburgers).
Unless you take a close look and really evaluate the amount of sugar you take in on a daily basis, you may not even realize how it affects our bodies and our emotions.
"Although I didn't think I ate that poorly, I decided to see if I could improve upon my food preparation and eating habits. What amazed me was that I didn't realize how much sugar I was actually eating on a daily basis. In short, I eliminated adding table sugar to my cereal and coffee, switched to low-sugar cereals (i.e. Cheerios, Rice Crispies), switched from white pasta and rice to wheat pasta and whole grain rice, and cut out cookies and candy. For 3 months I was dedicated to eating a minimal amount of sugar. In doing so, not only did I begin to lose weight and have increased energy, but what most amazed me was that my mood dramatically improved. I no longer had the emotional mood swings I thought was associated with caffeine and hormones. I am not a doctor or in the medical field. This was my own observation on how sugar affected me, but just imagine the possible positive effects of reducing the quantity of sugar in our children's diets." (PTO Ideas, Editor & Publisher)
HAVE A PICNIC
Host a "school picnic lunch" in the cafeteria. Set up a few tents and lay out some (new, clean) disposable plastic tablecloths as picnic blankets. Maybe even make a few imitation campfires from brown paper towel rolls and colored tissue paper. Note: Ask the custodians to wash the floors well just prior to this event.
The USDA also offers some informative information at teamnutrition.usda.gov.
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