In coordination with the PTO of the Rockford Iqra School, we put together a night of family fun and education called PEP Night; PEP stands for Play Harder, Eat Healthier and Power Down. The children and their parents had a fun filled evening and learned valuable life skills on how to eat healthy. The program was 3 hours long. During the first hour and a half the families visited 5 different stations, each unique in the message it sent to the children and parents.
The first station was called Go, Whoa, Slow. No they were not riding horses, families learned some foods could be consumed all the time like fruits and vegetables, others can be eaten sometimes like sweetened fruit yogurts and some should be eaten minimally like chips. There were three lines the children could choose from, red (slow), yellow (whoa), and green (go). The volunteer would call out the name of the food and the children decided what category the food belonged to and stood in the corresponding line. It was a fun game full of giggles and physical activity.
The second station named the Super Fun List encouraged the children to brainstorm their favorite physical activity and draw it on a big canvas. By the end of the evening the canvas transformed into a colorful masterpiece of each child’s favorite activity and was showcased in the school afterward as a reminder of all the fun options children had to choose from.
Choices, Choices was the name of the next station. It was a variation of musical chairs where children went from seat to seat each with a different habit written on it; some of the habits were healthy and other were not. Children who landed on the unhealthy habits had to explain why they were bad habits and the group then brainstormed for healthier options. The goal of this station was to teach children how their everyday choices affect their health.
Number 4 was Energy In, Energy Out where families learn the relationship between exercise and calories. Watching the parents and children doing jumping jacks for 1 minute then telling them while they are huffing and puffing they only burned 10 calories was the best part; how big their eyes got realizing the difficulty of burning calories. This station plays a vital role in helping parents and children realize exercise alone does make a person healthy or control weight. Health results from a balance of both food and exercise.
Finally my favorite station, Building a Healthy Plate, here families learned about the new My Plate and the different food groups. Then they were given a paper plate, glue and cuttings from magazines and grocery store ads with an assortment of foods to choose from. Using their new knowledge, children put together a healthy plate. The dialog in this workshop was both interesting and beneficial. Children asked about the nutritional benefits of different food and held discussions amongst themselves about which food group different dishes belonged to. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to some of the children one-on-one. Listening to their perspective and why they did not try different foods was enlightening. I was able to convince some of them to try the vegetables or fruits they claim not like by explaining how their bodies could benefit from them. The best feedback I got about this station was from a mother who says her daughter now refers to the healthy plate diagram for all of her meals.
Working with children is both delightful and inspiring. Getting a glimpse into their world and making a positive difference in their lives refreshes the soul and fuels optimism. I am grateful the Rockford Iqra PTO gave me this opportunity. Thank you for inviting me into your world.
Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you to all the organizations that donated to the PEP Night raffle and made your program even more fantastic: the YMCA of Rock River Valley, the Discovery Center, DolphinSwim Club at Loves Park, IL , Primm & Proper Personal Training, and Ha’s Tae Kwon Do. Thank you again for your generous donations and for giving back to your community and supporting health.