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Wellness activities and education in after school and camp programs
After school programs and summer camps are some of the largest programs that park and recreation agencies run. They are also programs where staff are able to develop a long-term relationship with children, which means that they are a wonderful place to teach kids about healthy lifestyles. Below are some small changes you can make to your programs to have a big impact on the health of your participants.
Adding healthy eating
How healthy are the snacks and meals that you provide your after school and camp participants? If you have control over the purchase of food for your agency's program, consider adding produce into your snack rotation. If you do not have space or proper storage space for produce, there are some pre-packaged snack foods that are healthier than others. The healthy snack guidelines and using local produce in agency programming sections of the Wellness Toolkit can help you choose and find healthy food for your program participants.
Adding nutrition education
While we want kids to be active, eating snack is a great time to add a short weekly (or more often!) health lesson. At the Medical University of South Carolina's summer camp, in addition to including a nutrition lesson during snack, they have a weekly theme about healthy lifestyles (water safety, sun protection, on the farm, eating colorful veggies, etc). You could even have a weekly healthy cooking class to teach about nutrition, if you have facilities for it. Look in the resource below for nutrition teaching tools and recipe ideas.
Adding physical activity
The CDC recommendation is that kids get at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. How much time do participants and in your camps or afterschool program spend being active? Create a policy that requires at least half an hour (for after school) or one hour of activity (for full-day summer camp) for every day the program is offered. This can be organized or free play; just make sure kids or being active.
Commit to Health
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has developed healthy eating and physical activity standards for children grades K-12 that are in before-school, after-school, and summer camp program. The initiative is called Commit to Health. There are 19 standards:
Youth and Family Education
NRPA's goal is to have 2000 sites to adopt these standards over the next five years. To learn more, check out NRPA’s Commit to Health FAQs and take the participation pledge. Commit to Health uses the Alliance for a Healther Generation's Healthy Out-of-School Time Framework to inventory and track progress toward adoption of these standards.
After you have completed adding wellness activities to your after school and/or camp programs, let us know how it went, so we can add your tips to the toolkit for other agencies. Then, consider one of these ideas: