As the district manager for the La Petite Academy locations in Mesa and Tempe, Ariz., I have the pleasure of working regularly with staff members who educate young children. Part of our well-rounded curriculum requires that we work hard to encourage children in all our schools to make healthier choices.
Recently our schools were awarded the prestigious 2017 Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Partner of the Year Award for our commitment to prioritizing healthier practices in the daily lives of young children.
Our curriculum and classroom environment promote healthy living, and we have aligned with PHA’s Let’s Move! Child Care goals for physical activity, food, beverages, infant feeding, screen time and parent engagement.
Within each classroom, we implement our GrowFit™ healthy lifestyle initiative throughout the day. These everyday activities not only encourage and promote learning, but they also include the secret to learning – movement! Movement not only supports children’s physical growth and health – it contributes to their cognitive, social and emotional development.
These everyday activities offer great ways to get children moving and help them develop skills they’ll use for life:
1. Just Dance
Dancing helps children develop confidence in their bodies, aids their dexterity and elevates their mood. Children at La Petite Academy schools take a daily dance break to change gears, shake things up and get re-energized for learning. Have your family take one at home, any time, just because. Dance like a monkey or monster. Pass along the classics: your kids will love the running man, robot and sprinkler.
Benefits: Builds strength and coordination skills, boosts self-esteem and supports self-expression.
2. Walk with purpose
Strengthen your child’s critical thinking, language and pre-literacy skills while staying active. Hunt for colors, letters or words on signs. Explore new ways to get to familiar places. Play “I Spy” or sing while you stroll. Notice unusual sights and sounds. Use fitness trackers and challenge the family to see who walks the most.
Benefits: Improves concentration, increases alertness and promotes independence.
3. Be handy and DIY
Involving children in home improvement projects empowers them and might even help you finish a job more quickly. Painting is easy and rewarding for children; they immediately see the results of their work and mistakes are easily correctable. A 4-year-old can help build ready-to-assemble furniture, peel wallpaper or tile a backsplash. Be sure tasks are age-appropriate, and that activities are properly supervised.
Benefits: Develops problem-solving skills, builds self-confidence and creates a sense of accomplishment.
4. Chores that Don’t Bore
Studies show that giving children household chores at an early age has long-term emotional, social and academic benefits. Make tidying rooms into a game. Set a challenge to see how many toys can be put away before the buzzer sounds. Fun tools such as a short-handled broom or hand vacuum make tasks more appealing. Resist the urge to redo what your child has accomplished. Be consistent with your expectations.
Benefits: Strengthens gross motor skills, develops self-respect and promotes independence.
5. Dig it
Gardening teaches children to take care of living things and develops patience. Start with a few seeds or plants that grow quickly, such as sunflowers, beans or peas. Harvesting fall vegetables, digging, watering and weeding all offer great sensory experiences. Your budding botanist will learn to sort, count and compare as the garden evolves. Turn raking and shoveling into a family affair.
Benefits: Sharpens fine motor skills, supports math skills and builds hand-eye coordination.
Physical activity is an essential part of every day at La Petite Academy, where learning to make smart choices is readying children for their future success.
La Petite Academy has six locations in the Metro Phoenix area with hundreds of students enrolled. Teaching healthy habits must start early and the results will pay dividends for years to come. For other healthy lifestyle ideas or for more information on La Petite Academy, visit lapetite.com.