Engaging Kids in Healthy Fall Activities
By Sandra Osborn-Peters
No more teachers, no more books, well, at least for another few weeks. The return to school is just around the corner for many local school districts. With the increased time children will be spending indoors and the return of more hectic schedules, it’s easy for fitness levels and proper nutrition to decrease during the school year. However, there are several activities both parents and schools can engage in to help families maintain healthy, active lifestyles during the coming months.
Many schools offer student running clubs throughout the year. Stafford County’s Grafton Village Elementary School Principal Michael B. Sidebotham sees these running clubs as an essential effort to maintaining health and fitness. “We started a running club to get our students prepared for fall races,” explained Sidebotham. “We feel in this day and age when there are many things vying for students’ attention, it is important to emphasize health and fitness. Running clubs have been one way we’ve done that.”
One such fall event students are working toward is the one-mile Healthy Kids Fun Run hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October. This annual event, hosted one day prior to the marathon in the Pentagon North Parking area, is open to children ages 5 to 12. Many schools participate in this event as a way to set and achieve goals.
“We have a long and short term goal setting program based on the Virginia Wellness Program,” offered Richard Dexter, physical education teacher, Lynbrook Elementary School, recipient of the MCM’s Healthy School Award. “We set a pacer test baseline in September for students’ cardiovascular fitness. We challenge the students in the short term to beat their scores by one lap each month. Three months into the school year, we ask them what they want to accomplish in June as their long-term goal.”
Though running provides excellent health benefits, it is not the only fall physical activity in which students may wish participate. Other activities such as peewee football and indoor swimming offer similar cardiovascular benefits. Local YMCA branches offer sports programs tailored to specific skill and age levels. For example, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington offers T-ball, blastball and baseball in a progressive program that emphasizes proper technique in a manner geared toward a memorable, fun and rewarding experience for each child.
Parents should also be active with their kids whenever possible. Activities such as rock climbing, laser tag or dance class offer parents a chance to model healthy behaviors and demonstrate a life-long commitment to health and fitness.
Students also must eat appropriate snacks in order to properly fuel their bodies for sustained energy levels. One simple way to sneak in nutrition is to prepare homemade granola bars with ingredients such as peanut butter, honey and wheat germ. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website Choose My Plate.gov features a page named My Plate Kids’ Place geared toward children’s nutrition and education. Here, parents and children can find recipes created by kids as well as games and activity sheets focusing on proper nutrition and physical activity.
For active families, the back-to-school grind doesn’t just include new notebooks and classes, but a renewed commitment to activities, healthy eating and shared fitness experiences. Build on this concept early and start the school year by registering the whole family for a heart-healthy fall activity like the Crossroads 4-Miler, hosted by the MCM on Sept. 7 in Stafford, VA.
Sandra Osborn-Peters is the MCM Community Relations Coordinator. Parents can register their kids individually for the Healthy Kids Fun Run via the MCM website, and schools can register groups of students by contacting her at [email protected].
Articles in the Healthy Kids Series are presented by the Marine Corps Marathon’s Healthy Kids Fun Run. No federal or Marine Corps endorsement implied.