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Classroom Activities to Promote Nutrition & Health

Janelle Cox

 

March is National Nutrition Month. This is a great time for educators to provide classroom activities that help students understand their bodies and the importance of keeping it healthy. Here are a few classroom activities that will help students develop habits that promote fit bodies inside and out.

Classroom Activities to Keep Fit

Keeping fit is just as important as the foods that you put inside of your mouth. Here are a few activities to get students moving.

Sweat it Out – The purpose of this exercise is for students to get their hearts pumping. Before you begin, talk to students about cardiorespiratory fitness and what it is. Discuss how it’s important for everyone to be able to be active without losing their breath. Be sure that students connect cardio (their heart) to respiratory (their lungs). Next, demonstrate the mountain climber exercise. Have students get into an upright pushup position, then bend on leg in to their chest while the other leg is extended. Have students quickly switch legs so that the one they were standing on is now into their chest. Repeat without pausing until you tell them to stop. Did anyone stop before the time was up?

Mental Fitness – We need to exercise our minds as much as our bodies. Using our memory is one way that we can keep our mind sharp. Gather students onto to the carpet and have them sit in a circle. Tell students that they are going to pretend that they are going on vacation and they have to choose one thing that they have to pack. The trick is that they have to use a noun and go in order with the alphabet. Here’s how it works: The first student will say “I’m going a trip and I’m going to bring an apple.” Then the next person will say “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring an apple and a beach towel.” This continues until students get to the letter “Z.”

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Relaxation – Learning how to deal with stress and let go of worries is an important component in keeping fit. Stress wreaks havoc on the body and it’s essential to know how to relax. Instruct your students to lay down on a mat and close their eyes. Have them breathe in deeply filling their lungs up with air, then slowly exhaling all of the negatively they feel letting go of all of the tension and air from their lungs. Have students practice breathing as you guide them. Students can breathe in slowly for counts of seven, them breathe our solely for counts of seven. Instruct students to put their hands on their abdomen and feel it rise up and down as they breathe. After doing this exercise for about 10-15 minutes, ask students how they feel. Discuss how they can do this every day to feel calm and refreshed.

Food and Health

Like cars need gasoline in order to run, our bodies need food in order for us to stay alive. As students get older they are able to make their own food choices. It’s important that they learn about nutrition and its effect on their health, so that when they are choosing snacks and foods to eat, they choose the right ones. Here are a few activities about food and their health.

Food into Fuel – The first step into learning about nutrition is to help students understand the pattern of digestion and how the foods they choose to eat is broken down. It’s best to have a visual when discussing how food is broken down and digested, this way you can refer to it while you are talking. If you don’t have one then you can point to your body as you talk. Discuss how when food enters your mouth it is broken down and partially digested before down your body. Then the stomach squeezes it even more, and adds water, enzymes, and hydrochloric acid to break it down even more. After discussing digestion, challenge students to choose a piece of food and write a short story as if they were that piece of food going through their body.

A Balanced Diet – To encourage students to eat healthy meals have students create a balanced meal of their own. They will need to search through grocery ads and magazines to find a balanced meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instruct students to cut out photos and glue them onto a paper plate. Before sending them off to search for a balanced meal, discuss how our bodies need a variety of foods. Show students what a balanced meal looks like by going to choosemyplate.gov. Once students have made their meals, have students try and guess who made each plate and if the plate was balanced or not.

Food Diary – Ask students to keep a food diary of all of the foods that they eat for five days (Monday –Friday). They should keep a record of everything they consume, even the drinks.  On the next school day (Monday) have students diet compares to the national guidelines of what is recommended they should eat. Then, have students see if they need to modify their diets in any way. Remind students that when we eat a balanced meal we are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in order to be healthy.

Remind students that being fit and eating right is important, and it is their responsibility for keeping themselves healthy. There are essential nutrients that our bodies need, which can only come from healthy foods. So as much as students may love to eat their sugary sweets, it all has to be in moderation.

How are you celebrating National Nutrition Month in your classroom? Do you have any fun activities to promote health and nutrition that you would like to share? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.