- Describe your role in promoting active lifestyles for program staff, children and families.
- Model an active lifestyle.
- Describe strategies and resources for motivating staff and families toward fitness.
Promoting Active Lifestyles in the Program
The majority of your time is probably spent helping staff members support the curriculum: reviewing activity plans, observing in classrooms, meeting with teams, completing paperwork. You probably have many different priorities and responsibilities on any given day. It’s easy to forget that taking care of yourself and setting a healthy example is just as important as many of your other roles! This lesson will help you think about all the ways you can support active lifestyles in your program and in the community.
Training and Curriculum Specialists as Role Models
Whether you realize it or not, you are a role model for staff members and families. Your actions and behaviors make a difference. Think about the messages staff members receive from you. Do they know that you value their health and wellness? Do they know that you value your own health and wellness?
This can be a difficult question. Many Americans are not as fit as they would like to be. Perhaps you struggle to find time to go for a walk, or your hectic days leave you with no time to make a healthy dinner in the evening. You and staff members share the same struggles. You can take a first step toward helping staff members know your program prioritizes wellness. Walk down the hallway to talk to someone instead of sending an email. Bring in fresh fruit for staff appreciation instead of doughnuts. Organize an evening or morning walking club that meets outside of business hours. Encourage staff members to take walks on their breaks, and you should do the same. Talk about swinging by the gym on the way home, and invite someone to go with you.
Try your best to be healthy, active and positive. Do not make negative comments about yourself or talk about the new diet fad you are trying. Be confident, positive and accepting of who you are both inside and out. The following tips will help all children and staff have positive body images and healthy self-esteem.
- Identify and redirect negative or inaccurate thoughts. If you overhear a child or staff member call himself or herself stupid or make fun of his or her own appearance, help by redirecting the negative comments. Focus on something positive, or help set goals. For example, if a child is frustrated because she or he is having a difficult time understanding math homework, explain that the child has to work hard to understand the content and that certain concepts don’t always come easily to everybody. Work through the problems together and provide tutoring help and resources when needed.
- Give appropriate praise: Make an effort to recognize staff members and children every day. Having an adult who is proud of them and believes in them can mean a world of difference to children who have self-esteem issues. It can also make a difference for your staff members. Observe daily so that you can give compliments on a new pair of glasses or a new haircut. Observe and notice how hard someone is working or a recent success. Give encouragement when children are playing a game of soccer or working on a project. Give compliments for a job well done.
- Discuss acceptance: Have open discussions about accepting yourself for who you are. Help children and staff members understand the difference between the characteristics or features that they cannot change about themselves, such as their shoe size or ethnicity, and the features they can change, like reaching a healthy weight or improving athletic skills.
Training Staff on Wellness
You might have some questions: What if I’m not fit? What if I don’t know how to help staff improve their wellness? This is a perfect opportunity to model lifelong learning. Invite experts to come talk to your staff and families. Invite a colleague from the medical center or family health organization to organize a brownbag lunch session about fitness resources in the community. Invite a mental health professional to provide some tips for healthy living. Invite a yoga instructor from the local workout facility to come do an hour-long session for staff members and families. Plan a staff party at a skating rink or ropes course. Reach out to the community to see if your staff and families can get discounts at local gyms or recreation centers.
Creating Opportunities for Physical Activity
You can create meaningful opportunities for physical activity every day. These don’t have to be formal events. They are just moments when you make an intentional effort to incorporate physical activity. Here are a few examples:
- Store a few large balance balls in your office. Encourage staff members to sit on those instead of chairs when you have meetings.
- Have walking meetings when appropriate. Take a lap around the outside of the facility while talking to staff members about your latest observation.
- Post something silly or encouraging above your office door and encourage staff to reach up and touch it on their way out.
- Begin and end meetings with a few stretches or breathing exercises.
- Have a contest to see who can park the farthest away from the building (safely).
- Encourage staff members to wear pedometers and track the steps they take at work. Have a workplace challenge.
- Participate in community events as a staff. There are 5K walks nearly every weekend in many locations around the country. You can get involved in walk-a-thons, jump-rope marathons, or dance marathons.
- When school-age programs take active field trips, get involved. Make sure staff members know they are expected to be participating with the children as part of active supervision. Bring your swimsuit when the group goes to the pool!
- Get everyone involved. If your program has a PA system, have a daily “movement minute.” Announce a fun or silly movement that everyone should do wherever they are.
- Use the Explore section activity to brainstorm fun or silly ways you could incorporate movement into your workplace over the next 30 days. You’ll be surprised how quickly movement becomes a habit.
Promoting Active Lifestyles at Home and in the Community
Families are their children’s first teachers, so they set the stage for a lifetime of physical activity. Unfortunately, many families struggle to find time to be active together or individually. Your program can make a difference by offering ideas and support. Become familiar with the resources available in your community.
The first step in promoting a physical lifestyle is to let families know what is going on in your program. Then help them get involved. If you have a bike club, can you organize a family ride on the weekend? If the children have started a walking challenge, can families add their data to the challenge? Invite families on active field trips. Model for them how to get involved and have fun while staying active.
You can also send ideas home. The Apply section has some really wonderful resources for families. One of the best is a simple calendar with ideas for movement every day of the year. These ideas help families build warm memories and lasting relationships while promoting fitness. Consider posting the calendar in your program, too, and using the ideas across settings.
Help families find resources of interest to help them improve health and manage stress:
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
A to Z Health Topic list (includes Tai Chi and Yoga) - https://nccih.nih.gov/health/atoz.htm
- Military One Source
Resources to manage stress - https://www.militaryonesource.mil/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-stress/follow-these-stress-relief-tips
Motivating Children, Youth, and Adults to Engage in Physical Activity
The key to motivation is feeling supported and rewarded by your efforts. When physical activity is part of your program culture, staff members are motivated to participate. By creating daily opportunities for movement, you are cultivating staff members’ motivation and participation. Continue to explore the Healthy Kids, Healthy Future website https://healthykidshealthyfuture.org/trainers/ for ideas about building momentum for movement in your program. Start by creating a sense of fun and excitement. Talk to local businesses or gyms about whether they would donate items to help motivate staff, families, or children: a free pass to the gym or pool, a kettlebell, a yoga mat, a T-shirt, or a water bottle could all help motivate staff, children, or families to keep going. In the previous lesson, you watched a video about the Air Force Fit Factor program. This type of program, in which children track their activity, can be a great model for your program. How can you help children, families and staff members be aware of their activity levels? Sometimes the simple act of tracking your activities can be motivating. Learn from others in your community and outside of it, and you will do your best to help develop a program that promotes healthy lifestyles for all.
Physical activity is easiest if you make it part of your lifestyle and your program’s culture. This does not always come easily, and it can be hard to fit physical activity into busy days. Planning ahead is the solution. Take the time now to think of 30 days of simple physical activities that your program can promote as an organization: families, staff and children all participate!
Use the Calendar Challenge Template to fill in a simple game or activity that all members of your program community could do (for example, stand up and stretch after breakfast, walk like an animal toward the door on the way home, turn on music and dance until you feel your heart beat fast, have people toss something in a basket in the lobby). If you need ideas, look at the resources in the Apply section.
The Healthy Kids, Healthy Future website includes resources for promoting physical activity in early childhood programs, home, and in the community. Take some time to visit its Technical Assistance Manual and plan to use some of the ideas presented in your work.
- Healthy Kids, Healthy Future Technical Assistance Manual, available at https://healthykidshealthyfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/HKHF_TA_Manual_Final.pdf.
This resource addresses five best practices around the topics of physical activity, screen time, food, beverages, and infant feeding, along with ways to overcome common challenges that prevent implementation of recommended best practices. For example, concerning the best practice around adequate daily physical activity, the technical manual offers suggestions to overcome these common challenges:
- Unsure about how to promote physical activity (p. 3)
- Lack of space (p. 4)
- Idea that kids are already active and don’t need help being active (p. 5)
- Bad weather (p. 6)
- Accommodating children with disabilities (p. 6)
- Lack of time (p. 8)
- Fussy infants (p. 9)
- Unsure how to make tummy time productive (p. 9)
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Game on activity library. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/game-on-activity-library/
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Tip sheets: Before and after school activities. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/references/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Physical Activity and Health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html
Child Care Aware. (2020). Health Resources and Links. Retrieved from https://www.childcareaware.org/our-issues/health-nutrition/health-resources-and-links/
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (2018). Resource Center for Obesity Prevention. State College: Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from https://militaryfamilies.psu.edu/resource-center-for-obesity-prevention/
eXtension Network for Better Childcare. (2012). Nutrition and Physical Activity in Child Care.
Let’s Move! (2014).
The Nemours Foundation. (2020). Healthy kids, healthy future. Retrieved from https://healthykidshealthyfuture.org/
Sanders, S. W. (2002). Active for Life: Developmentally appropriate movement programs for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Sesame Workshop. (2014). Sesame Street: Healthy Habits for Life. Retrieved from http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/healthyhabits
University of Minnesota Reach Program. (n.d.). Mind, Body, and Wellness Tools.
University of Minnesota Reach Program. (n.d.). Wellness Resources for Returning Service Members.