Every school across the country faces the challenges of keeping students healthy and well while under the care of the institution. In the United States alone, almost 3 percent of school-aged students under the age of 12 will miss 11 or more days of school in a given year because of illness or injury. For some children, missing that much school can have a great impact on their learning and ability to keep pace with fellow students.
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Health promotion and wellness within the classroom can be taught as well as modeled in order to set a positive example. Whether that means moving more with fun exercise sequences or working to keep germs at bay, there are many creative ways to teach students to make good choices. You can use the resources already at your disposal as well as offer incentives for good habits. Whichever way you choose to spread the message, getting students excited about a healthy lifestyle can be fun!
Simple Tips for Student Wellness
No matter the size of your classroom or the grade level, implementing healthy habits is possible with a bit of creativity and the right tools. This may take place on a schoolwide level or in individual classrooms, and can by modified in whatever way works best for the student body. It may be fun to provide prizes and offer friendly competition in order to set the foundation for a lifetime of good habits.
Here are some simple health promotion and wellness ideas which school administration and staff can use to encourage students of all ages to make healthy choices and live an active lifestyle.
- Encourage handwashing: Students touch numerous surfaces all day, including their desks and lockers, doorknobs, and playground equipment. Students are often encouraged to share, and so the opportunities to pick up germs are endless. Hands should be washed before eating and after using the restroom or sneezing. Using warm water, hands should be rubbed well for 20 seconds, including both sides and under fingernails. The more students know about effective handwashing, the more prepared they can be when it’s time to lather up.
- Provide sanitizer: Although handwashing is our first line of defense against germs, hand sanitizer is a great secondary option when soap and water are not readily available. It should be rubbed in until the surfaces of the hands are dry, and should always be used according to the directions. In addition to providing students with their own small bottle of hand sanitizer, staff can also arm them with keychain sized-bottles, customized with the school’s name or mascot.
- Discuss nutrition: We’re told to eat balanced meals, avoid sugary snacks, and implement fruits and vegetables into our diets. By passing this information onto students, they can begin to make those healthy choices for themselves. In-class snacks should always be nutritious options, as well as the offerings during school meals. Nutrition, when taught as a lifestyle, can become a regular habit rather than an exception.
- Keep skin moisturized: Keeping hands moisturized, especially during the drier months, can help students avoid itchy and cracked skin. Providing lotion in the classrooms is one way to allow everyone to soften hands during the day. In addition, lip balm can prevent cracking and dryness as well as provide SPF protection. Use customized lip balms and mini bottles of lotion as giveaways during class quizzes or trivia times for a win-win!
- Model an active lifestyle: In addition to proper skin cleanliness and nutritious food choices, modeling an active lifestyle for students is an important key in health and wellness instruction. Adequate exercise during school hours, the opportunity to spend time outside, and implementing activity into everyday life are all ways to encourage kids to move more and have fun at the same time. Arm students with colorful pedometers that they can use to measure how far they walk during a given time period. At the end of the week, the month, or the quarter, hold a contest to see which student walked the most steps.
- Teach the importance of hydration: Water is good for the body, good for the skin, and the purest beverage we can consume. How much water kids need depends on a variety of factors, including weight, age, and gender, but can be anywhere from 5 to 11 cups per day. One way to encourage water consumption is by providing each student with a water bottle that they can fill throughout the day; this is especially important before and after physical activity.
Set the Example of a Healthy Lifestyle
Health promotion and wellness instruction for students can be easily woven into each day and encouraged as part of a balanced lifestyle. By setting the example through proper hand washing, healthy food and drink choices, and living an active lifestyle, students may be inspired to do the same. When they are armed with the right tools, they can be empowered to:
- Choose fruits and vegetables over candy and other sweets
- Drink more water and less soda
- Move more and spend time outside
- Prevent the spread of germs and keep their skin healthy
Alongside reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, health and wellness practices are important to teach to kids of all ages. As students are in close contact throughout the day, sharing not only pencils but also germs, learning the basics of handwashing and the benefits of a healthy body are vital to their growth.
When school staff use these tips to contribute to a healthier learning environment, it is possible to work toward less absent days and more time spent in engagement with others. You may have your own creative health promotion and wellness ideas to inspire students to choose healthier options and take care of their bodies. Whether you choose to customize water bottles and hand sanitizers or provide healthy snacks during the school day, the lessons taught now can contribute to a lifetime of good choices and better overall health.