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Building Social Support with Families: Practical Ideas and Tips

Monday, 14 July 2014 16:02

Research shows that parents believe it's important for their children to have water, fresh fruit and vegetables, and physical activity opportunities during out-of-school time (OST). Parents also believe that OST programs should promote healthy environments for children.

Here is a quick checklist for engaging families to advance healthy out-of-school time:

  • Make sure the meeting space is inviting and easily accessible. Post signs that direct families who may be unfamiliar with the site. Clearly mark restrooms and water fountains. If possible, make space available for younger siblings to play.
  • Ensure snacks and meals are not only healthy, but are also culturally sensitive and inclusive. Use the Alliance's Smart Snacks Calculator and Product Navigator to help find and identify healthier foods and beverages. Consider reaching out to your local Extension agent for guidance. USDA Team Nutrition can help, too.
  • Make a point to ask families their interest in helping promote healthy eating and physical activity. Create a survey to distribute to families to find out what they'd like to do and what barriers keep them from contributing. This could be as simple as providing index cards and a suggestion box.
  • Invite family members to volunteer. Find out the skills of family members and ask them to contribute. Does someone have coaching experience? Perhaps you have parent athletes who could volunteer to teach an activity.
  • Provide a wide range of activities and host events on days and at times that encourage participation. Families like variety, and work schedules could affect when and how they participate. Utilize sign-up sheets to ensure participation.
  • During holiday parties or community events, create opportunities for families to collaborate and share successes and challenges. Provide an open mic for sharing, or host small group discussions. A Year of Being Well and Weigh In are two free discussion guides.
  • Use newsletters, bulletin boards, or regularly scheduled meetings to connect families with resources in the community. Whether a free cooking class or an activity group, let families know how they can get more involved in creating a healthier community.

Written by Daniel W. Hatcher, MPH National Healthy Out-of-School Time Advisor, Alliance for a Healthier Generation; Jill R. Turley, MS, RD/LD, SNS, National Nutrition Advisor, Alliance for a Healthier Generation; and Lauren Puzen, MPH MSW Manager, Philadelphia, Alliance for a Healthier Generation