Kids fitness and nutrition in the classroom
As a teacher and runner, I want all of my kids to experience a fun run. I host a family fun run every year, just for my class and their families. We all wear running numbers. This year we are having mile run (Run, Spot, Run!) as a reward for completing 12 running/writing assignments. Set an appropriate but challenging goal for your class. Promise them a fun run. Reward their achievements with physical activity, not food. If you do this once, your event will probably be the first of many.
2. "Get Fit"
Teaching is a sedentary job, so if you've been at it for years, chances are you have a sedentary life style. It's never too late to get fit. I started running in my mid-forties. You can, too. Just start out easy. Buy a basic running book, the Runner's World mag, or write to me. Running and fitness will change your life and your enthusiasm will spill over to your students.
3. "Use Running as a Theme"
Reaching goals in running correlates with reaching goals in academics. Your bulletin boards will come alive with paths, routes, and footprints. Better yet, running as a theme will actively involve your students, and they will take 'ownership' of the bulletin boards.
4. "Christmas Cookies"
Save your special treats for the holidays only (and ONLY the holidays, not the month preceding). Eat healthy every day. Encourage your kids to bring healthy snacks. You can send a parent letter home, but the most effective practice is getting through to the kids themselves. Make sure kids know exactly what healthy snacks are. List, discuss, reward, and model.
Downplay or eliminate competition in a classroom fitness program. Let the kids know it's all teamwork. If you are working for a goal, do so as a class. You want ALL kids to participate and embrace health and fitness as a lifestyle. Competition is appropriate for after school sports or high school teams, not a primary or elementary fitness/running program. You can still reach VERY high goals of achievement without making things competitive between classmates. "We're all winners," is the best motto.
Create a recess run/walking program with incentives for participation. Make sure to sometimes participate with the kids. Kids will have something to do at recess, they will get more cardiovascular activity, and recess will eventually be easier to manage. Working for incentives or tokens can let children reach their own level of achievement. Make a class goal: something like 100 miles, 500 laps, or 200 toe-tokens by the end of spring. Challenge your class to meet a preset goal.
Award participation in a home exercise program, a recess program, a school event, and a town event. Awards kids, teachers, families, teams, classes, and schools. Motivate with trophies, pins, placques, certificates, prizes, announcements, recognition in newsletters and newspaper, and assemblies.
8. "Be a Role Model"
Make sure that your children know about your exercise schedule, your healthy eating habits, and your upcoming fitness events. Model well. Young kids like to be like their parents and teachers. Keep exercise clothes and gear in your classroom at all times, so that you are always ready to work out.
9. "Free Samples"
Bring in small portions of healthy snacks for kids to sample. If 'Triscuits' are on your list as a healthy cracker, make sure to bring one in for each child. Let them taste them and see what they look like. Also bring in the package and show them where it says 'whole wheat'. They'll now be more likely to choose this type of cracker when they accompany Mom and Dad to the grocery store.
10. "At the Movies"
Purchase kids' exercise and dance videos. Push the desks out of the way and try them out with your class. Let the kids write kid reviews or critiques of the videos. Use your 'video' time to stay active.
11. "Rainy Day Rhythms"
Use the rhythm of exercise to teach rote facts and skills. Try jumping jacks to practice math facts. Start with the doubles, which are the first to be memorized and jump and say. Spell words while jogging in place. Name states and capitals while jumping rope.
Note from Carol, Editor: Over the years, I have tried MOST of the above tips and written about ALL of them. If you need help implementing any, please send me an email at email@example.com.