A project of the Afterschool Alliance

Social, Emotional & Physical Health

The well-being of our young people is top of mind today. Use Lights On Afterschool as a moment to connect, reflect, and support the well-being of youth in your program, or to highlight and showcase the ways programs help instill healthy habits that support physical and mental well-being.

Afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs have an important role supporting both social and emotional learning and physical and mental health. Your Lights On Afterschool event can raise awareness about the importance of providing programs where kids learn healthful habits for life.

  • (Remote or in-person) Issue a physical activity challenge to students to log a certain number of jumping jacks, laps or other physical activity​ either over the course of a day, week, or month.  Add up your total exercises and see if you met your goal.
  • (Remote) Learn to cook a healthy recipe together! Host a step-by-step virtual event for children and families to make a healthy recipe together.
  • (Remote) Encourage families to connect virtually with students from another home across the country to have a facilitated conversation using Empatico’s Home-to-Home Connections and resources.
  • (Remote) Lead your students through a session on social emotional skill development and communication with Empatico’s online Bite-size skills lessons. These lessons on perspective talking and respectful communication are online and available free in Spanish or English.
  • (Remote or in-person) Host a mindfulness or meditation exercise for students, parents, and/or staff.
  • (Remote or in-person) Hold a reflection session for youth to talk about the challenges of living through a pandemic, ​their thoughts and feelings on the recent civil unrest resulting from the killing of George Floyd, and the supports that help them. Youth can draw, write, or speak about their feelings.
  • (In-person or remote) Find an SEL or Health & Wellness activity that’s right for you on the MIZZEN for afterschool app. Designed for afterschool educators by the Mott Foundation, this free app allows you to search activities by topic, age group or duration of the activity.  Many activities are appropriate for social distanced or remote application. A few of the activities we saw that take 30 min or less:
    • (In-person or remote) Group meditation, Tricky Conversations, 20 Questions, Commercials for Sugary Foods, Yoga for Worry and Anxiety, Mindful Breath
    • (In-person) All About Me, Obstacle Course, Dance, Relay Race
  • (In-person or remote) Listen to Committee for Children's new podcast, The Imagine Neighborhood, and use their facilitation questions to have a discussion with youth or do some of the activities that they've developed to accompany the podcast. 

Hear about ways programs have used Lights On Afterschool to showcase how they help keep kids healthy and active using the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards.

There are more ideas you can adapt from past Lights On events for remote or small group activities!

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Partners for Healthy Kids

This year, your Lights On Afterschool celebration of healthy eating and physical activity can be an event that makes a positive, lasting change in your program. These tools, standards, and partners can help you take big steps toward success.

The best got better: The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards 2.0 from the National AfterSchool Association provides up-to-date, evidence-based, practical quality standards for providing children with healthy food, drinks, and physical activity in out-of-school time. The standards have been recently refreshed to be more user-friendly and practical, with revamped details and recommendations for offering the best of health and wellness programming to young people.

A little help from your friends: To get more ideas on supporting health and wellness in your program, become a leader with the Voices Action Center, a group of peers actively working in their communities to change policies and environments to promote childhood health. Check out their OST-specific toolkit and the new message wheel.

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Celebrate Afterschool Meals

Afterschool meals help reduce childhood hunger and promote a healthy weight. At your Lights On event:

  • Grab a menu from the 2018 USDA meals designed for afterschool programs from CACFP and serve it at your event. (Offering food is a tried-and-true way to boost event attendance!)
  • Hold a recipe challenge: ask parents and kids to submit their favorite healthy afterschool meal and offer the winning submission a small prize.

To make sure the children in your program are receiving healthy meals throughout all year long, check out these USDA programs geared toward out-of-school time programs!

  • The Summer Food Service Program is designed to fill the nutrition gap left in the summer months and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need.
  • The At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program helps give children and teenagers the nutrition they need while drawing them into afterschool programs like yours that are safe, fun, and filled with opportunities for learning.
  • The Afterschool Snack Program can be operated by school nutrition departments through the National School Lunch Program.