Q. At this time of year, the weather is so unreliable. We try to take the children outdoors everyday, but sometimes driving rain or other weather conditions make it impossible. I think they're getting a bit weary of the active games we introduce indoors. Any ideas to help make sure the children get the exercise they need?

A.  Put together a fitness goody basket that you can keep in the classroom. Inside, place age appropriate items like hand weights, exercise bands, kid-friendly CDs, and a jump rope. Alternate lively background music as children use the hand weights. Let them take turns choosing a CD to move to. Use the jump rope as a swishy snake moving along the floor that children can jump over. Or make a circle with the rope and invite them to listen carefully as you give them directions to move all around the rope.

Source: Carrie Myers Smith is a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, and mother of four boys in Landaff, New Hampshire.

15-Minute Moves: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Deep breathing exercises are an easy way to relieve stress. They also help young bodies power down and relax.

* Invite children to sit comfortably with their arms and shoulders relaxed. Ask them to breathe in through their noses while you slowly count to three. Next, ask them to imagine they are blowing out a birthday candle to a slow count of six.

* Invite children to raise their arms on the inhalation, and lower them on the exhalation.

* Calm children by asking them to close their eyes and picture a place that makes them feel happy and safe. Let them know that they can "spend time" in this place to calm their minds whenever they feel stressed.

Source: Fitness pro, Carrie Myers Smith

Read the Label!

When choosing snacks for children, it's important to read the nutrition labels on the food items you choose. To help you choose wisely, we've provided three things to keep in mind when reading labels.

WHOLE GRAIN. Look for the word "whole" before the name of a grain (wheat, corn, oat). Whole grains retain fiber and essential nutrients.

RED FLAGS. Items with hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and a # sign (indicating a chemical additive) are all found in junk foods. Try to avoid them whenever possible.

FAST FATS. Don't fall for "Lower fat! " or "Fat free! " on the front of a box. If a food is fat free, it may have added sugars to pump up the flavor. Be sure that saturated fats are low, and that there are no trans fats.


Nutritionexplorations.org. This interactive Web site sponsored by the National Dairy Council provides educators, parents, and school nutrition professionals with useful information. Children can also explore good eating habits through games, puzzles, and activities.