Healthy, active holidays: Tips and activities

With the holiday and celebration season upon us, it’s more important than ever to balance treats with healthy eating and activities in services, and to be a resource of ideas for parents and carers. Educators are well-placed to advise families on ways to balance holiday indulgence with healthy activities that will help parents bond with their children and even save money.

Getting children active in early learning settings

It’s very important to find ways of keeping children active while they’re in an early learning setting.

A recent study found that children are less active during childcare/early learning hours, than outside these. It also found that boys were more physically active at centres that had more 'natural' ground coverings, such as grass or bark.

To get all children more active, the study suggests moving chairs outside and making sure the outdoor areas are not too crowded with equipment to allow children room to move around freely.

How do you feel about the mix of outdoor-indoor time in your service? What ideas do you have about getting children more active? Perhaps this could be a focus in your QIP in 2018?

Read the full report here. Study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity by Trina Hinkley, Jo Salmon, David Crawford, Anthony D. Okely and Kylie D. Hesketh, from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University.

Helping parents in getting children active

  • Spread out short spurts of activity throughout the day. Play ‘I Spy’ in the backyard or local park, or create a ‘treasure hunt’ using items from nature, or toys.
  • Have a ‘dance party’ and play the children’s favourite songs and music.
  • For Christmas, gift them toys or games that involve outdoor play—swimming floats, sand buckets, ball games, quoits, etc.
  • Plan outings that involve being in nature together—a day at the beach, picnic in a local park, bushwalk in a national park, bike ride in a safe area.
  • Find out through your local council website what holiday activities are planned in your local area.
  • Download Nature Play Australia’s excellent app: Nature Play Passport to an Amazing Childhood. It’s designed to get children aged between three and 12 years (and older) outside to run, jump, climb, splash, invent, imagine, play and be a free-range kid (and you can join in). Or, if you are in WA, SA, ACT or Qld., visit the Nature Play website to join your nearest Nature Play partner activities. 
  • Check out this Active Travel Charter for Children, which lists 18 ways to increase children’s active travel. 

Celebration craft ideas and tips

Making decorations is a popular activity with children at this time of the year. To be culturally inclusive, use the symbols of stars or candles, as they work well across several cultures.

Glitter is under the spotlight because it’s made of tiny pieces of plastic that can harm sea life when it gets into our water ways. Here’s a great resource that explains why glitter is a problem, and offers nature-safe alternatives like coloured sand, wattle and bottlebrush petals.

Here are more tips for natural alternatives to glitter.

Craft ideas across cultures:

Healthy food and snack ideas

We’re sure your service already practices healthy nutrition in the food you serve to children, but parents could do with advice on how to replace tempting processed treats with healthy food, and make it fun and tasty for children to eat.

  • Here’s a fantastic range of kid friendly’ recipes with suggestions of tasks for children:
  • Here are some ideas for tasty treats: Fruit kebabs; rockmelon ‘smiles’; fruit set in jelly; make an apple slinky with a vegie peeler; mini-pizzas using low fat cheese and plenty of vegetables; low fat yoghurt parfaits with fruit and muesli; spiral sandwiches; un-iced carrot cake. Check out these fun healthy snack recipes from kidspot
  • On a hot day, try frozen fruit snacks instead of store-bought ice cream or cordial ice-pops. Grapes and berries can be frozen as they are, oranges can be sliced into thin wedges, and watermelon, rockmelon or honeydew can be cut into bite-sized pieces. As a treat, frozen bananas make for a great popsicle or delicious smoothie with juice or any type of milk.  
  • Here is the full range of NSW government healthy kids’ recipes.
  • Here is a link to more healthy recipes for children from the WA government.

HEALTH TIP: Make water your every day and every meal drink. Add ice cubes or frozen fruit to make it fresh and novel.