This is a guest blog post by Emily Kleiman, University of Maryland
Seventeen percent of children are currently obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and childhood obesity has become a dangerous national epidemic. Mission:FITPossible, a group of University of Maryland students working with medical experts from Children’s National Medical Center and professionals from the United Way Foundation, is combating the childhood obesity epidemic in Silver Spring, Md., through fun games that fuse education and fitness.
After hearing from two groups of children ages 10-14 in the local YMCA and Boys & Girls Club about their current eating and exercising habits, along with the fact that most had been teased for their weight at some point in their lives, the Mission:FITPossible team came up with a three-pronged approach to improve the health of these children:
- Challenge Yourself,
- Balance Yourself, and
- Be Yourself.
Two games that Mission:FITPossible brought to the after-school programs are Grocery Dash and Balance Zone. Both are played in teams, but you can play these at home with your children if you make slight adjustments to the rules.
How to Play: Grocery Dash
You will need plenty of space for your agents to run for this game!
1. Create a “Food Facts” sheet and a “Grocery Checklist” that shows healthy foods and their benefits. You will also need items to represent the 10 power foods listed on the “Food Facts” sheet. We used large images of the foods, but feel free to use the real food! Set up the 10 foods at different stations in your backyard or a spacious room, and cover them so your agents cannot see which food is where.
2. Have your agents match the food facts to the items on their grocery checklist.
3. Once they match the items, each team must run to a station to check for the proper food. They must complete their list in order, but they can only check one station at a time. Once the agents check a station, they must return to the team’s “base” with or without the food item. If the food was not found, then the whole team must search a different station until it is found. The team that finishes its list first is the winning team!
4. Agents will have to work together to communicate which food is where. The team that finishes its list first wins.
In the pictures above, students at the YMCA Benchmarks Program raced to one end of the gym to capture the food items they needed to complete their list (left). The winning team holds up the power foods they found (right).
How to Play: Balance Zone
You can make a “Balance Zone Board” at home by using a spare bed sheet with markers, or by putting down colored paper on the floor.
Red = Fruit • Yellow = Dairy, Poultry • Green = Vegetables • Blue = Meats, Beans • Brown = Grains • Purple = DANGER ZONE: Fats, Sweets, Oils
1. Get into teams of 3 agents.
2. Each agent on the team should write down what he or she ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks the day before.
3. Together, go over each agent’s meals. Determine who had the most nutritious day and ate foods from the most food groups.
4. Have each agent represent one meal by using body parts to cover the different food groups. Try to avoid the Danger Zone (purple).
5. As each agent puts a hand, foot, elbow, knee or head on a square, he or she should yell out what food is being represented!
6. Once all agents have represented their meals, determine the winner by choosing the person who had the most balanced day.
Play these games with your children, and remember: Fit is possible!
- The Mission:FITPossible Team
Nicole Andes, Devin Carroll, Julia Halloran, Emily Kleiman, Janet McClenny