‘A healthy outside starts from the inside.’ ~ Robert Urich
The ancient Roman poet, Virgil, was 'right on the money' when he stated that ‘the greatest wealth is health’.
It is a very sad fact of modern day life that a preventable disease such as childhood obesity is not only on the increase, but that it is increasing at such an alarming rate.
There are many reasons for this, but our main concern as educators, is to do what we can to address this, by equipping children with information, skills and experiences to enable them to develop healthy habits and lifestyle choices.
Thinking back through the centuries to when I was a child, exercise was a natural part of our daily lives, and the foods on offer were very close to their original state.
Speaking for my own family, we did not have a car until we came to Australia, so we walked everywhere, including quite a distance to and from the nearest bus stops.
We made our own entertainment, which meant we played outside a lot, and foods were closer to their original state, making choices much simpler and healthier, when it came to what we put in our mouths.
‘Fast food’ meant just that - something that would quickly satisfy our hunger: fruit, vegetables, home made bread, etc. If we complained of hunger between meals, we were given sticks of celery, carrots or a piece of fruit.
‘Sometimes foods’ (treats), in our house, were reserved for special times, such as family holidays, birthday parties, Easter, Christmas - and once a month on paydays, when Dad would arrive home from school with ‘crisps’ and confection for all.
I can still taste those almond toffees and coconut-covered mushroom cup sweets - Mmm!
Of course, being children, we still did what children do - my siblings and I were very fond of sneaking sugar cubes from the silver sugar bowl on the dresser, when Mum wasn’t looking!
We’d keep those blissful morsels in our mouths for as long as possible, savouring the syrupy sweetness, as they slowly dissolved on our grateful tongues, before trickling down our happy throats.
And we are still getting great mileage out of an incident that occurred on my 5th birthday...
I’d awoken that morning, covered in measles spots, leaving Mum with no alternative but to cancel my birthday party (suffice to say, I'm still looking for the right support group, but that's another story :-)!
My fun-loving, best friend (let’s call her ‘X’ - now, also a teacher), saved the day by turning up to help us eat the party food, her mother explaining that she was more than happy for her daughter to catch the measles sooner rather than later, to get them out of the way!
We were playing Hide ‘n’ Seek, and no one could find ‘X’ anywhere! She was eventually discovered, hiding, crouched in a corner, stuffing her face with chocolate crackles as though there were no tomorrow!
It wasn’t long before her mother had to take her home, green around the gills and suffering, not from the early stages of measles, but from chocolate crackle overload!
There is no denying it - we all love our ‘sometimes foods', and there is certainly a time and place to enjoy them - it's all about balance.
It is our role to educate children about finding this balance, and to make sure that their environments support healthy habits and choices.
Many schools are already addressing this issue, with the introduction of healthier food canteens, and programs to promote physical exercise and healthy food consumption - ‘fruit breaks’, ‘brain breaks’, where I teach, it's 'Crunch 'n Sip', and activity sessions built into the day, to enable students to engage in some kind of physical movement activity.
My colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, addressed this issue by writing a song, ‘Healthy Kids’, to provide primary schools with a child-friendly, practical resource for helping students learn basic health facts, and understand the link between healthy lifestyle choices and general wellbeing.
The song, with its catchy, melody and content-laden lyrics, discusses everything from the five food groups to the need for daily exercise, providing the perfect vehicle for kick starting a discussion about healthy living.
Below, you will find sample song lyrics, as well as some simple suggestions for using this or any other song about health.
Sample Lyrics: 'Healthy Kids':
Happy, happy, healthy kids!
Happy, happy, healthy! (X2)
We’re happy, happy, healthy kids,
It’s how we’d like to stay.
We eat nutritious, healthy food
At every meal each day.
We know that there are five food groups,
So, now we can’t go wrong;
’Cause we know what we must do
To grow up healthy, fit and strong.
Vitamins, minerals, good fats,
Help keep bodies healthy, so –
Put good food on your plates.
Bodies are like fine machines, let’s
Eat the things we’re meant to.
Fruit is beaut, go use your loaf AND
Choose what you chomp into!
Do do do do, da da da.
Do do do do do.
©Lyrics: Nuala O’Hanlon/Music: Kathryn Radloff
Image: Hayden Williams
Suggestions For Use:
Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
- How many food groups are there?
- What does the word ‘nutritious’ mean?...
- Lines 1 & 2: Define the terms: ‘vitamins’, minerals, etc.
- Line 7: - What do ‘fruit is beaut’, and ‘use your loaf’ mean? What do we call this play on words?
- Line 8: - Brainstorm ‘healthy choices’ for daily meals/snack - What does it mean, to ‘chomp’ into something?
- Create a class/individual ‘Healthy Kids’ acrostic poem
- Brainstorm, create and record health slogans, e.g. ‘Rice is Nice’
- Students work in groups to write own verses for song, and perform for class
- Students create a recipe and write a procedural text for making a healthy sandwich
- Student groups create shopping lists of ‘Health Foods’/Sometimes Foods’
- Collect favourite family recipes and publish a class recipe book (sell these through the school, to raise funds for a charity)
- Students paste pictures from magazines into correct trolley
- Students create a painting of a person – using only fruits and vegetables
- Students paint health slogans on paper plates and attach to rulers
- Use the above slogans as props for an assembly performance of song
- Get physical - Older students choreograph movements to accompany the song, and teach to other students, at assembly
- ‘Healthy Kids' available as an MP3 download (song & lesson materials) (Download includes 2 versions: An International Version: ‘We’re happy, happy, healthy kids…’, and an Australian Version: ‘We’re happy, healthy Aussie kids…’.)
- 'Healthy Kids' also available as an MP4 download (song & lyrics video for your whiteboard)
Until next time!
Yours in Singing to Learn,
- Healthy Kids ~ Eat Well, Get Active: http://www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/
- Schools & Healthy Kids by Healthy Kids - eat well get active: http://www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au/home/fact-sheets/schools-and-healthy-kids.aspx
- Healthy Eating: http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/mums-united/healthy-eating/Pages/default.aspx
- Kids Health.Org: http://kidshealth.org/