10 Ideas for Healthier Kids in 2014

Jan 3, 2014

Kids at Lincoln County’s Midway School love their brightly-colored trays.
Credit Kate Long

Sometimes, living a healthy life in West Virginia takes a little creativity. That's why I love this new website from our contributor and friend Kate Long: Try This West Virginia.

Long looks at West Virginia people and communities who are making it happen -- and she's turned it into a wonderful website with lots of great ideas, information, and pictures.

Since I have two kids, and we struggle to live a healthy lifestyle, I was drawn to some of Long's ideas that are targeted at children. Each idea is accompanied by stories about real West Virginia kids who are healthier today because they are "trying this."

1. Agitate for everyday recess -- Recess is as important to a child’s development as math or reading, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But many schools have cut or eliminated recess altogether.

In Putnam County, children at Eleanor’s George Washington grade school learn how plants grow, many for the first time, in the school’s high tunnel greenhouse.
Credit Kate Long

2. Create a school garden program -- "At George Washington Elementary in Eleanor, Putnam County, teachers illustrate classroom lessons with vegetables students are growing in the school’s high tunnel greenhouse," according to Long.

3. Encourage healthy breakfast -- According to Long: "Traditionally, West Virginia schools have offered breakfast before class starts as the buses are coming in.  Health experts say that is one of the worst times to offer it, since many children are just getting off the bus, they’re sleepy, and they want to socialize. The new Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act requires all West Virginia schools to offer breakfast at at least one different time and in at least one different way. Schools can offer “Grab and Go” breakfast sacks or breakfast in the classroom after first period."

4. Attract kids to healthy foods by attractive presentation -- Again, from the website: "After Lincoln County’s Midway School switched to brightly-colored trays, kids started eating significantly more at lunch, principal Cheryl Workman observed. 'It works,' she said. 'People don’t realize, but many kids choose their food by the way it looks."

5. Create school Walk/Run for Fun groups -- The idea is to have fun, active options for the majority of kids who don't play competitive sports.

6. Sponsor a Girls on the Run program -- This is a variation on #5. "More than 800 West Virginia girls now run for fun twice a week for eight weeks after school in Girls on the Run, a volunteer-run afterschool program," Long reports.

7.  Share school buildings after hours -- In rural West Virginia, safe places to exercise are in short supply. Communities that open school buildings after hours are providing a place for safe, healthy fun, so kids and adults.

8. Get kids jumping rope - It's cheap, it's fun and it's great cardio.

Cabell County cook Alice Gue is teaching cooks from other counties how to make a vegetable-packed red sauce.
Credit Kate Long

9. Make healthier school meals. West Virginia is actually a national leader in training school cooks to make meals from scratch, using fresh ingredients.

10. Just get those kids moving. Period. Here's one example from Trythiswv.com: "At Lenore K-8 School in Mingo County, principal Sabrina Runyon makes sure physical activity is laced through the day. She jiggered the schedule so every child gets an 18 minutes of recess after lunch every day, in addition to P.E. and regular recess. As kids change classes, they exercise in the halls. On Fridays, they get 90 minutes of dancing and gym as a reward."

Read about their program at http://www.wvgazette.com/News/theshapewerein/201302240104