While it would be great if you could eat cookies and candy all day long, that is just not healthy. Help the youngest generation to learn how to keep their body weight ideal and exercise through nutrition activities.
Healthy Food Find
Preschoolers have a hard time understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy food. In order to build healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime, they need to be shown the foods they should be eating and why they are important.
For this scrumptious activity, you're going to need:
- Cut outs of several types of food (fruits, vegetables, cake, candy, meat, cheeseburger, French fries, etc.); the amount will vary based on the size of the class
- Healthy and unhealthy food sign that is easy for preschoolers to understand (picture showing a smile or a frown, etc.)
- Large area
Playing the Game
Before you start the game, you are going to need to hide the pictures of the food. These should be in areas that are going to be easy enough for the age group to find.
- Tell the littles that they are going to be going on a treasure hunt to find healthy and unhealthy food.
- When they find a food item, the child should either go to the healthy food or unhealthy food sign and stand.
- When all kids have found a food, discuss the foods.
- Ask them why they think it's an unhealthy or healthy food.
- Discuss any kids that might have gone to the wrong area with their foods. For example, the kid with cake stood in the healthy food area.
You can modify this activity for older kids by making the foods more varied or vague. For example, you might have an image of pasta salad and a listed calorie content of 900 calories. Since it has so many calories, it would be unhealthy.
Food Group Mobile
Help your kindergartners learn about food groups by creating a food group mobile. Not only will they learn about the different food groups, but what the most important food groups are.
What You'll Need
For this activity, you're going to need:
- Food images (dairy, vegetables, grains, fruit, proteins)
- Pipe cleaners
- Hole punch
- Plastic hangers
Creating Your Food Mobile
Prior to beginning the activity, you'll want to talk about the different food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein. Discuss why each is important and why each meal should have food for each food group. Then, you'll have kids:
- Find, color, and cut out at least one image for each food group.
- An adult helper should punch holes in each different food for kids.
- Have the kids use the pipe cleaners to attach the foods to a plastic hanger.
- Hang the mobiles around the room.
Fill the Plate
Elementary kids in first through third grade can typically tell you what foods they should be eating but many don't realize how much they should be eating of what. Help them learn the portions of each food they should be eating by filling a plate.
In addition to a large plate on the whiteboard or blackboard, you're going to need:
- Images of food from each food group - You should also have some that include multiple groups like a burger (grains and protein) and ones that don't belong like sweets and oils.
- Some way to adhere food images to board
- Group of kids
What to Do
Prior to this activity, you'll need to split the plate into four sections like on ChooseMyPlate.gov. You'll also add the circle for dairy. Then, split kids into two groups and give each a buzzer.
- Hold up a food.
- Kids must first tell you whether it is a healthy or unhealthy food, then where it belongs on the plate. Correct answers earn one point.
- The kids will then stick the food on to the plate. Foods like sweets and oils will go outside the plate.
- The team with the most points wins.
You can customize this activity depending on the foods you use. If you use single foods like bread, rice, chicken, cup of milk, etc. this works for younger kids too. If you use more tricky foods like spaghetti and meatballs, knowing how to place it becomes more difficult. This will modify the activity for older kids.
Name That Serving
In addition to learning the food groups and nutrition of the food they eat, early elementary kids need to understand how much they should be eating of a food. This activity will teach them about serving sizes. In addition to paper plates and markers, you're going to need images of food or real food.
To start, you're going to hand out a paper plate to each child. Using the markers, the kids need to break their plates into sections:
- Two larger sections: labeled vegetables and grains
- Two smaller sections: labeled protein and fruits
- A circle for dairy
Depending on your age group, you'll need to look on MyPlate website and give them the serving sizes for each food group. They should write this one their plates in the designated sections. You'll then:
- Show the kids different foods. For example, you'll show them an orange.
- The students must first tell you what group it belongs to and then how big the serving is.
- After all the guesses, you'll give them the correct serving of the food you are holding up and have them add it to their plate.
- Do this until their entire plate is full with recommended servings.
- Make it tricky by adding foods that don't fall into the groups like cake.
How Winners Eat and Move
As kids get older, they need to learn how to create their own dietary plan based on their level of activity. In this activity, fourth through seventh graders will learn to design a daily diet based on how much they move. To complete this, they'll need access to technology and the website choosemyplate.org.
What They Need to Do
This activity can be completed individually or in groups. After accessing technology, kids will need to:
- Look at how much they exercise every day and write it down.
- They also need to write down the foods that they've eaten in the last 24 hours.
- They then need to find the calories of the foods that they ate by using an online calorie counter.
- Compare their 24 hour calories to the daily recommended calories, noting whether they are eating too many or too few calories.
- Then based on their exercise, they will create a diet plan for one week using the government recommendations.
- The diet plan should include foods that are readily available at school and home.
- If they live a sedentary lifestyle, they also need to examine how they can add more exercise to their days so they can reach daily recommendations.
- Kids should then try to follow their diet plan for one week.
- After one week, they need to examine any differences that they feel.
You can modify this for younger kids by having them only look at the foods they've eating and how it compares to what they should be eating.
The Importance of Nutrition
Nightly on the news, you hear about the obesity epidemic. This is why it's so important to teach children about how and what they should be eating. Not only can you do this through games but fun activities that get them thinking about food and exercise.