Summer is the perfect time to focus on healthful activities and foods. Children tend to be more active during the summer months because of the extra daylight, great weather, and space to run and play. Of course, outside activity means healthy and hungry kids!
This section of activities takes a look at ways to inspire healthful eating and fitness. Most young children tend to be naturally active and fit, but recent studies show that the current population of children is heavier and becoming increasingly inactive with each year of life. We can help children make healthful choices about food and exercise by introducing them to the fun of it all. Read on for some great ways to do just that this summer.
Do you ever just feel like jumping for joy? Kids do! That natural exuberance and spunk is an important part of being a happy child and part of healthy living. A great summer goal for your program is to have children feel the happiness that comes with exercise and healthful eating. Of course, young children have an amazing amount of energy. just try following a toddler or preschooler around for a day!
A good way to get this section of activities going is to share something active (or yummy) together. Bring in a new play prop such as hula hoops, beach balls, or paper streamers, and invite children to brainstorm all the ways they can use the new prop, both inside and outside. Then explore the ideas some more! After all the activity, provide lots of water and a fruit snack. Talk about the importance of good hydration and nutrition before, during, and after exercising.
The activities will help students build the follow skills areas:
- Gross motor coordination
- Fine motor coordination
- Social interaction
- Cooperative play
- Problem solving
- Visual perception
- Duct tape
- Beach balls
- Tennis balls
- Sponge balls
- Movement music (great selection of world music at Putumayokids.com)
- CD player
- Hula hoops
- Bean bags
- Portable balance beam
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Large mixing spoons
- Rotary hand beater
- Plastic spoons, knives, and forks
- Paper plates and/or small cutting board
Using the Activities
The activities will help children appreciate how special their bodies are and how well they respond when given the right amount and kinds of food, water, and physical activity.
Through these health-based activities, children learn essential self-help skills that allow them to develop a growing sense of independence. Knowing about your body and how to take care of yourself is real big-kid stuff!
One way to introduce children to these health activities is to ask them to take a look at their bodies through the lens of the five senses. This will give them a perspective that will enrich all the activities in this section. You can help in the following ways:
- Focus children's attention on the sense of sight by providing all kinds of things for them to look through. Unbreakable binoculars, goggles, paper tubes, kaleidoscopes, even color paddles all add to a child's-eye view of the world. Provide paper so children can draw what they see.
- Bring in a box with things to feel. This will heighten children's experience of touch. Change the items daily. Pose a problem at group time for children to solve: "Can you guess what is inside the box today? How do you know?"
- Set out an apple taste test with all kinds of foods made with apples ( juice, applesauce, cider, vinegar, dried apples). Create a large graph for children to "vote" with either a smile face or a frown face for each item tasted. Which was the favorite apple item that got the most votes? Which got the least votes?
- Create a simple smell matching game by placing a variety of odorous items under cotton balls in small screw-top plastic containers. Make two of each and color code the bottoms so children can find the matches and correct themselves.
- Provide sound containers like the ones you made for the smell game. Fill sets of plastic film canisters (or any other container that echoes sounds) with items like paper clips, tiny bells, sand, and water! Don't forget to color code the sets.
Expanding the Experience
As an educator, you know that part of the pleasure of teaching young children is the flexibility you have with the educational content, timing, and approach. During the summer that flexibility grows even greater. You can take the time to expand children's experience and understanding with each activity as if it were a theme in and of itself!
Use these ideas for expanding each summer activity:
- You are bound to have some leftovers from the Veggie Buffet. Since the children can't eat them, you can use the leftover vegetables for art! Put out low pans of tempera paint and invite children to make vegetable prints. Older children can make veggie people and sculptures, using toothpicks to attach the vegetable pieces together.
- The Whole Wheat Scones just might inspire some "baking" outside. This is definitely a messy activity, but it's lots of fun. Bring in a bag or two of clean topsoil. Mix with water and spend a day making mud pies! Later, add the soil to the pots for planting seeds or cuttings.
- Healthful Fruit and Nut Corp is usually carried by hikers when they go on long walks in the woods. Pack the gorp in individual plastic bags, label them with children's names, and take a hike! just for fun, clip a pedometer to your belt to see how many steps you take. On your next hike, try to go for more steps than on the first.
- After exploring a Breakfast of Champions it's time for a workout! Provide juice containers lightly filled with sand to act as weights for a child's pretend workout time. Add jump ropes, a balance beam, and create a gym in the block center or outside in the shade.
- Visiting the Doctor brings celebrating the body to mind. So now is a good occasion to do something positive. Let children celebrate their bodies with music and movement! Play recordings of polkas, waltzes, rock and roll favorites, and blues, always ending with a peaceful melody. Invite children to dance along with scarves or streamers attached to different parts of their bodies.
- The information in the Bumps and Bandages activity helps children realize how important it is to protect themselves from germs. But how do germs spread to begin with? Talk with children about germs. At the end of the conversation, ask them to place one hand in a pan of white flour (this is then the "dirty" hand) before they go out to play. They will soon see the imaginary "flour germs" on everything they touch!
- Build on the experience of body measuring that began with Crowing Feet. Place ribbons, adding-machine tape, and thick yarn in the center of the room to use as measuring tapes. How tall are you? Can you find things that are taller or shorter than you are? Wider or narrower? Take the ribbons outside to see what they can find in nature that is the same size. Plant sunflower seeds and ask children to predict whether they will grow "as big as me" this summer. (They will grow bigger!)
- The What's Inside Me? activity is bound to get children interested in exploring further with flashlights. Shine a powerful flashlight in a darkish corner of the room or in a shady area. Suggest that children make shadows with their hands, limbs, and entire bodies. How can you use your body to make shapes and images? How do they change as you move? Later, children can add color paddies, prisms, and fabric or ribbon to the shadow making.
- Here's another challenge to try with the Challenging Courses activity. Create a "What My Body Can Do" graph, listing on the chart actions from finger snapping to hopping on one foot. Invite children to predict how many times they can hop or snap, and then test their predictions! Use tally marks to record the number of times they can hop, skip, or jump!