Child Health Day is October 7th, and while of course we should be concerned with the health of our children all year round, it’s nice to have a special day to focus on things that we can do to help improve the well-being of our nation’s little ones. One initiative that presents lots of ideas for promoting healthy lifestyles for children is called 54321Go! Here’s a little information on this popular, nation-wide program.
What is the 54321Go! program?
You may have heard about 54321Go! at your child’s school or daycare center. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the scoop. Created by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, 54321Go! is a public health program that provides appropriate messages, a variety of support materials and lots of healthy living ideas for children. Each number (5,4,3,2 and 1) pertains to a step that a child can take to improve his or her health:
- 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- 4 servings of water a day
- 3 servings of low-fat dairy a day
- 2 or less hours of screen time a day
- 1 or more hours of physical activity a day
I know lots of adults who would do well to follow these same guidelines, which is what makes this program very family-friendly—it’s appropriate for pretty much everybody!
Who can use the 54321Go! materials?
The program can be used by lots of different groups, including families, schools, businesses, faith groups, doctors and other places where children can hear about the messages and participate in the activities. There are lesson plans for teachers and 54321Go! organizers, activity suggestions, ideas for parents, handouts and other printed materials for both the children and the organizers. Many state and regional public health organizations have adopted 54321Go! to use with their populations. One great example of this is Teach a Kid to Fish in Nebraska.
What can adults do to help?
Model healthy behaviors
Seeing the adults in their lives do things to promote good health makes it easier for kids to adopt those behaviors, too. Drinking plenty of water, getting daily exercise and making wise food choices at meal times—all of these activities can be made visible to children. Adults can also use these activities as jumping-off points for conversations with children about health and wellness.
Keep a variety of healthy foods in the house
If fruit is what’s available for snacks, that’s what kids will eat. The same is true for adults, so it pays off for everyone. Children generally aren’t doing the shopping for the house, so it’s up to you to provide for them—they eat what you bring home. If you don’t bring in lots of empty-calorie, less-than-nutritious foods, kids won’t be eating them.
Be active together
Physical play is a great family-time activity that everyone can enjoy. Make it a point to be active together so you can all reap the rewards of fun and healthy exercise.