Teaching Kids Healthy Habits

February 1, 2012, Department, by NRPA

A Wise Kids participant practices reading food labels.Kids participating in the Rec-Plus program offered by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2011 not only benefited from the high-quality services provided by the Board, they also had the opportunity to learn about healthy living and how to develop habits that can help them pursue a healthier life. The Säjai Foundation’s Wise Kids program was implemented in 16 community centers serving over 300 children, via a grant the Säjai Foundation received from Northwestern Mutual Foundation. 

The students enjoyed the program, and more importantly, according to the program leaders, “they learned the whys and hows of healthy eating and physical activity.” Evaluation scores indicate a +6 point “Healthy Behaviors” gain, which highlights a decrease in screen time and junk food consumption, and an increase in breakfast and fruit and vegetable consumption. What’s more, according to parents, the children brought home what they learned, telling their parents about the lessons.  Forty-two percent of parents said they learned something new, and 53 percent said they’re doing something different in their homes because of Wise Kids. Parents reported that their kids were even reading and analyzing food labels on their own in order to judge what foods were better choices.

Many of the Minneapolis sites also celebrated the Wise Kids program by having a family night to conclude the program. The family nights were a way for the kids to share what they’d learned with their families and to promote a continued healthy lifestyle. Each site devised its own plans for the event:  from  having the kids prepare a healthy meal or snack to share, to playing some of the health-based games and activities included in the Wise Kids program with their parents and siblings, to hosting a fun game show takeoff called “Are you smarter than a Wise Kids?!” (of course the kids won! ), each highlighting what they’d  learned and helping develop a family connection to healthy living. 

Perhaps the best testament to successful collaboration between the Park Board and the Säjai Foundation is the fact that 80 percent of participating children want to learn more about healthy living. Quality programs delivered by enthusiastic , creative staff leads to a better future for today’s youth.