Yoga, Yogurt, and Tag: We Promote Health Creatively Encourages Families to Get Healthy
During a meeting with their county executive and health officer, We Promote Health, a nonprofit organization, realized there was a need in their hometown of Ellicott City, Maryland, for a program where parents and children could learn about maintaining healthy lifestyles together. In their search for programming, this Intensive community site found We Can!®.
"It fit perfectly, we loved the fact that it was a program out of the National Institutes of Health," said Brian Jolles, President.
Since then, Jolles and his staff members, in partnership with five local elementary schools, have been teaching the We Can! Energize Our Families: Parent Program. Third and fourth grade students along with their parents, siblings, and school faculty participate in the four week program. "The school is behind this. It's important for parents to see the school is supporting them. We find that the parents appreciate it and participate in the program more when the schools are involved," said Jolles.
"We are following the lessons in the 'Energize Our Families' curriculum, while placing a heavy emphasis on empowerment," adds Jolles. Each week, the families come together for opening remarks and then provide updates about their weekly goals, which focus on eating well and being more physically active. Then, the parents and children split up and parents engage in the weekly lesson, taught by guest speakers. Past speakers have included a dietician, personal trainer, and yoga instructor.
Meanwhile, the youth head to the school's gymnasium for active games led by the school's physical education instructor. Each game corresponds to a We Can! lesson. One favorite is an interactive game called "fat-cell tag;" where the children learn about the impacts of healthy and less healthy food choices. Three children are selected to be 'WHOA' foods (click here to learn more about GO, SLOW, WHOA foods). If a child gets tagged by a 'WHOA' food, (s)he has to go to the "fat-cell center" and grab a plastic ball, which represents a fat cell, and stick it in her/his pinnie. If a child gets tagged three times, they must go to the "gym" to burn off the fat. They can do jumping jacks or push-ups. Once completed, they are able to remove the fat cells and rejoin the game. At the activity's conclusion, the physical education teacher explains to the children and their parents how the game relates to their eating and physical activity habits, reinforcing the lessons the parents learned in the classroom.
Another popular activity, called "Yoga & Yogurt Night" has entire families doing yoga together led by a local yoga instructor from Awaken Wellness, a community yoga studio. After families master downward facing dog, they head to the cafeteria for yogurt parfaits with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit toppings. "Yoga & Yogurt was a great program. It sends a very important message to kids and parents about how important it is to stay active and eat healthy especially when electronics are taking the place of playing outside," said Darcie Bowers, a parent participant of the We Can! Cradlerock Elementary School program.
Clearly, We Promote Health has added its own creative spin to its We Can!. Learn from their successes with these tips to get your community's families inspired:
- Have families set small weekly goals. Each week Jolles and his team encourage parents and children to set goals, making small changes to their family's daily routine. At the beginning to the following week's class they dedicate the first few minutes to sharing updates, allowing the families to discuss successes and challenges. For more information on setting goals, check out the We Can! tip sheet Get Started! Eating Healthy and Moving More (91 KB)
- Seek Partners. We Promote Health receives help from yoga instructors and Registered Dieticians. Each of these speakers provides a unique perspective on ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Need help engaging local partners in your programming? Download the We Can! Partnership Presentation and use it when introducing potential partners to the We Can! program and requesting their involvement.
- Change it up! We Promote Health adapts the lessons of the We Can! Parent Program for its community. Incorporating games and activities, healthy snacks, and local guest speakers can be a great way to encourage engagement and participation from families.