Use the Healthy Eating Toolkit to Build Healthy Habits at Home and School

Every parent wants their child to eat well and develop healthy habits, but with today’s busy lives, helping your child build those skills can be a challenge. Action for Healthy Kids has created a Healthy Eating Toolkit for parents and educators to help improve student learning, behavior, and emotional health.

The toolkit is made up of interactive tiles that:

  • illustrate simple ideas that can be done at home or in the classroom to build healthy habits
  • link to blog articles and recipes for healthier breakfasts, snacks, and other meals
  • help parents understand how school lunches work 
  • provide tools to work with your school to improve student meals
  • explain how PTAs can use healthy fundraisers to support their work

On the teacher side of the toolkit, the tiles show how to support healthy habits in the classroom and in the curriculum. Check out the toolkit and begin planning how your PTA can support healthy habits for students.

Helping Your Teenager Get More Sleep

Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep to function at their best, but only about 8% of American teenagers are getting the sleep they need and, according to a recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, more than half (59%) are suffering from severe sleep deprivation, meaning six or fewer hours of sleep most school nights. The Child Mind Institute has a Parent’s Guide to Teenagers and Sleep that covers why teens are sleep deprived, what the consequences are, and how parents can help their teen get more sleep.

The Child Mind Institute also has an article that goes into depth about how you can help your teen get more sleep. There is a lot of evidence that parents can play a critical role in helping their child set limits on bedtime, study time, and media usage, though with teenagers’ desire for autonomy, you can expect some pushback if you haven’t started these limits when they were younger. Among the things you can do to help your teenager develop better sleep habits:

  • Be consistent, even on the weekend (with a little flexibility)
  • Screens off an hour before bed
  • Limit the after-dinner snacking
  • Consider a low dose of melatonin to jumpstart normal sleeping patterns
  • Be realistic with their activities and don’t overschedule
  • Set a good example
  • Streamline mornings
  • Focus on productivity to maximize the time available to sleep
  • The bed is just for sleeping

Find out more about these ways to help your teen get more sleep by reading the article at Child Mind Institute and read or download their Parent’s Guide to Teenagers and Sleep.

Photo © 2007 by Becka Spence under Creative Commons license.

Getting to Know Your Child’s PE Program

Physical Education (PE) at school can help children build lifelong healthy habits to exercise. Illinois was the first state to mandate daily Physical Education (PE) with at least 100 minutes per week, and in 2015, Illinois adopted Enhanced PE standards. But in 2018 that requirement was cut to three days with no minimum time requirement. With the loosening of PE requirements, it is important that families know what their child’s school PE program actually includes. To help, Shape America has partnered with National PTA to create Getting to Know Your Child’s PE Program: A Parent’s Guide.

The guide provides you with 13 questions to ask about your child’s PE program and explains why it is important to ask these questions. Among them are:

  • Is physical education taught by a certified teacher with a degree in physical education?
  • Is the physical education class size similar to that of other content areas, to ensure safe, effective instruction?
  • Does the program provide maximum participation for every student (e.g., inclusion, no elimination games, all students active at once, developmentally appropriate activities)?
  • How are students with disabilities included in your physical education program?
  • Is physical activity—or the withholding of physical activity—used as a negative consequence when students misbehave?
  • Are social and emotional learning skills integrated into the health and physical education classroom?

Share the guide with your families, or use it as a basis for a program at your next PTA meeting on how your school does PE.

Photo © 2011 by Brad Barth under Creative Commons license.

ENDS Update

In 2018, Illinois PTA Convention delegates passed a resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). The resolution followed years of tracking the data and science surrounding ENDS use by youth, and Illinois PTA continues to keep its members informed about new developments. Once again, e-cigarettes are in the news, with reports of pulmonary illnesses and even deaths, including one here in Illinois.

The investigations into the causes of the illnesses and deaths are ongoing, with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) vaping juice and vitamin E acetate found in many of those THC cartridges sampled being one early area of focus. However, a recent study in the journal Radiologyindicates that vaping itself can damage lungs.

The study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania performed MRI exams on 31 healthy, non-smoking adults between 18 and 35 before and after taking 16 three-second puffs on an e-cigarette containing only “vaping juice,” a mixture of water, glycerol, and propylene glycol, the latter two being used in vaping cartridges to keep additional chemicals such as nicotine or flavorings dissolved in the cartridge.

The results of the study showed that even in non-smoking, first-time vapers with no nicotine in the cartridge, the use of an e-cigarette resulted in poorer circulation, stiffer arteries, and less oxygen in the blood. As the study’s principal investigator, Felix Wehrli, put it, “The results of our study defeat the notion that e-cigarette vaping is harmless.” Although both chemicals used in the study, glycerol and ethylene glycol, are considered safe to eat, they may not be safe to inhale.

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96 under Creative Commons license.