Stephanie Bruck, staff member for the Green Bay YMCA's School Aged Child Care, hands out pieces of green cabbage to students during the Food and Fun program at Aldo Leopold School. / Matt Robinson/Press-Gazette correspondent
Create a healthier household
These tips will get you warmed-up to the idea of “playing with your food.”
Be a good role model
If you implement a rule for your kids, follow it yourself. Whether it’s a requirement to eat your veggies or to carry around a water bottle, what’s on your plate or in the cup you’re holding is sending a strong message. Make your words and actions consistent.
Designate screen time
Schedule a particular time that electronic devices can be used, and put them out of sight (or unplug them) during other times of the day. Be consistent to establish a routine and very clear boundaries.
Involve your children in meal planning
Whether it’s growing a garden or giving the kids a scavenger-hunt task at the grocery store, kids love being actively engaged. Show your kids how to read food labels, and ask them to make the best choices next time you’re shopping. If your kids are old enough–put them in charge of the occasional meal. You can even make it a contest.
Make sure that a good portion of your family activities involve movement. With winter approaching, it’s tempting to stay inside. Make sure that every family member has proper outerwear in advance so no one has an excuse to stay inside and miss out on an impromptu seasonal activity — including you. TravelWisconsin.com has a page dedicated to listing outdoor activities exclusively.
Make food fun
That isn’t cauliflower — it’s magic cloud fluff. A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to getting kids to eat healthier or try new foods. Host a dipping-sauce taste-test with veggies as the dippers. If you’re excited, they’ll follow suit. Parenting.com has a host of healthy, kid-friendly recipes.
Talk with your kids
If you’re implementing a new rule or activity, explain to your kids the reasoning behind it. When kids see how their health or wellness will be positively impacted by the change, they’re more likely to embrace it. Or, make the learning part fun with a game — Nutrition Explorations offers about 10 free online nutrition games for kids at nutritionexplorations.org/kids.php
Look to Family Time on the second Saturday of each month for more from Live54218, a community effort to encourage Brown County residents daily to consume 5 fruits and vegetables, drink 4 bottles of water, have less than 2 hours of screen time, participate in at least 1 hour of physical activity and sleep 8 hours a night.
The first column from Live54218 organizers will be featured here Nov. 10.
Learn more at www.live54218.org.
MORE HEALTHY EATING
National YMCA Food and Fun program at www.foodandfun.org
Playing with food has long been a no-no in many households. But is it time to change the rules?
Denise Mancheski, Enrichment Director for the YMCA’s School-Age Child Care (SCAA) department, might say “yes.” For more than a decade she’s been paired with Connie Bykoski 23-year-veteran SACC Executive Director, and together they form a team who isn’t afraid to step into a food fight.
In fact, it’s their job.
Teaming up with Live54218, Mancheski and Bykoski have spearheaded an initiative called Food and Fun, with the intention of the battling the childhood obesity epidemic. The program, based upon the national YMCA program, has been “tweaked” by Mancheski and others to cater to the needs of our local kids.
“Most days, the kids are given a choice of activities in our after school programs. But everyone participates in Food and Fun,” said Mancheski, which takes place twice each week in 19 locations and involves more than 900 kids. “We try to encourage the kids who usually don’t choose the ‘active’ activities,” she added.
Eighty trained staff members implement a special committee’s curriculum of activities–which range from physical games such as Capture the Bread, colorful taste-tests or lunchbox patrol drills. “Following every activity are follow-up questions to reinforce what was learned in the activity,” Mancheski noted. As a result, she says kids are taking ownership of their food choices.
And, said Mancheski, they’ve begun policing their parents.
“Parents often joke about how their kids are now ‘patrolling’ them at home, asking if they packed a ‘good’ lunch or not,” said Bykoski.
Joking aside, Mancheski says they’ve gotten positive parent reaction, but as families turnover it’s a constant challenge to keep parents involved in Food and Fun. To continue the outreach, they compile a monthly parent newsletter containing everything from easy recipes to nutritional information.
When parents or staff ask for advice on how to get their kids to eat better, Mancheski tells them to remember to be excited and a good role model. “It all starts with enthusiasm,” said Mancheski. “Make it fun.”