Young children don’t have a lot of control over their world and choices, which can easily lead to frustration. So why not give them control over something with the practice of energy balance, a fundamental aspect of the Together CountsTM program.
Energy balance is all about balancing the energy we take in with the energy we put out. Introducing our little ones to the idea of energy balance can be a super successful method.
One activity I love doing simply requires a paper plate and some crayons. I ask my three-year old to draw a meal, and then we talk about it after. Sometimes she draws cookies and candy, but it can also be chicken or salad. Her drawings provide an opportunity for us to talk about food choices in a neutral setting. When kids are refusing to eat the salmon or beans on their plate they are not open to learning. You need to find less emotionally charged times to teach.
Other techniques to teach energy balance include:
- Having a variety of fruits and vegetables available (even just two options) at dinner. I ask them to choose one or two and let them serve themselves.
- Instead of requiring kids to clean their plate or ask if they’re full, we ask if their belly is still hungry. We want to teach our kids that you eat until you are no longer hungry, not until you feel like you might burst.
- Dessert isn’t daily, but it’s not so rare that foods like ice cream or cake are only seen as a reward. All food in moderation is a vital part of energy balance.
- Have kids help pack lunches for school. Demonstrate that a balanced lunch need grains, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy.
- Give your kids choices about how they move, too. On rainy days play hide and seek, have a dance party inside, or do a mini boot camp! It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Home isn’t the only place kids learn about food or activity. Young kids often learn all about this at school and Together Counts is dedicated to sharing the energy balance message with all kids. In fact, they even have an awesome curriculum for teachers to teach their students about energy balance and living healthy, active lifestyles.
Energy balance is such an important lifelong lesson that Together Counts has partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative, to launch the Smart From The Start grant program, offering an exciting opportunity for one preschool to win a grand prize of $20,000 and ten runner-up grants to win $2,500 for their school! The Smart From The Start awards recognize early childhood education programs including Head Start programs that make a plan, create goals and find ways to teach their students about energy balance. Apply here!
How do you teach your kids about energy balance?
For more energy balance thought starters, check out these Together Counts’ resources:
Allison McDonald is the mom and former preschool teacher behind No Time For Flash Cards, a blog filled with learning and play for young kids. When she isn’t blogging about crafts and learning, you can find her running with friends or exploring the forests around her home with her two kids. Allison lives outside of Seattle with her daughter, son and husband.