For many years, my sons’ school held a Health Challenge every spring. It was created by one of the parents (a fellow dietitian and blogger) and was a hugely popular program. Kids tracked habits like how many new foods they tried and how often they chose water over soda. Winners were awarded with fun, active prizes like a pool party or an evening of indoor rock climbing.
The kids (and parents) loved it, but it was also a lot of work. This year, with a smaller Wellness Committee and less volunteer power, we decided to simplify. We wanted to incorporate a lot of the ideas of the Health Challenge into a more manageable event. So we created Wellness Week.
Wellness Week consisted of different themes each day that encouraged kids to eat healthy foods, move their bodies more, and have fun. Here’s what we planned:
MONDAY: Take The Screen-Free Pledge
We distributed this Screen-Free Pledge form to students the Friday before Wellness Week (along with a summary of Wellness Week and the daily themes). We hoped that by going screen-free all week (no TV, video games, tablet computers, etc.) kids and families would be encouraged to be more active together. All students who signed and returned the form to school during Wellness Week were entered into daily prize drawings. We randomly chose 10-20 kids each day to pick a prize from a stash of items that have been donated by local companies and organizations over the years, like water bottles, bike helmets, and jump ropes. We displayed all of the Screen-Free Pledge forms on a banner in the cafeteria for everyone to read. (For a printable sheet of pledge cards, go here.)
TUESDAY: Try it Tuesday
Parent volunteers circulated around the cafeteria with samples of edamame and sugar snap peas for the students to try. This was a big hit! Lots of kids asked for seconds and thirds. (One of the parents purchased these items, but in the past we have had local markets donate produce for tastings.)
WEDNESDAY: Recess Rocks!
We asked parents to donate their time and talents on the playground during recess. Two dads arranged soccer drills, one black-belt dad taught Tae Kwon Do moves, two parents brought boxing gloves and held pads for the kids to punch, and parents turned long jump-ropes for students. I knew the event was a success when a fifth grader came up to me after school and said, “Recess was AWESOME!!!”
THURSDAY: Get Caught Eating a Veggie
We encouraged students to pack vegetables in their lunchbox or choose them as they went through the lunch line. During lunch, parent volunteers went around the cafeteria with cameras, snapping photos of kids who were spotted eating veggies. Then we put a bunch of the photos on a monitor in the school lobby for the kids to see. (The idea came from this post on the National PTA site.)
FRIDAY: Walk Or Bike To School Day–Plus a Dance Party In The Gym!
On the last day of Wellness Week, we encouraged students (who were able) to get to school using their feet instead of a car. Everyone who came to school by foot, bike, scooter, or skateboard got a sticker as they entered the school (get the printable sticker template here–registration required for the site). Despite the chilly weather that morning, we had more than 180 walkers and bikers–and a totally full bike rack! It was also the first day of our new Walking School Bus, in which parent leaders pick up students along designated routes and everyone walks together. Get more information about starting a Walking School Bus here.
On Friday, we also surprised the students with a dance party in the gym before lunch. We brought the students into the gym in three shifts by grade, and played a mix of popular tunes (like “Shake It Off” and “Happy”) over the sound system. Kids were doing silly dances, breakdancing, turning cartwheels, and forming conga lines. Most importantly, there were lots and lots of smiles. Even some teachers got in on the action! It was definitely one of my most favorite moments of the school year.
Overall, Wellness Week was a hit with the students and very manageable to organize. With only a handful of people on our PTA committee–plus some help from other parents–we were able to pull off a very low-cost, week-long program that encouraged healthy habits, exposed the students to different foods and activities, and was lots of fun for the kids.
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I hope you’ll consider suggesting a program like Wellness Week at your school too. And if you have other great wellness-related programs at your school, I’d love to hear about them!
Get more ideas on my School Wellness page, including food-free ways to celebrate birthdays and ideas for class parties.
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