What’s My Portion Size?

Lesson Overview

Foods commonly eaten by kids are typically served in larger portions than what their bodies really need. This lesson uses MyPlate to help young people recognize how much of a meal should come from each food group. The youth will compare healthy portion sizes to common items.

Instructor Notes

Foods commonly eaten by kids are typically served in larger portions than what their bodies really need. Often it’s the foods high in less desirable nutrients (fat, sugar and sodium) that are served as the largest portion. Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber are usually given the least emphasis. The impact of this distortion of portions over time could impact health by contributing to obesity and increased risk for chronic (long-lasting) diseases.


Show the youth the baggie with 1 cup of cereal in it. Then show them the baggie with 2 cups of cereal in it.

Ask the young people which portion looks like the amount they would pour in their bowl. Is it the single serving, double or possibly adding the two baggies together, which would represent three servings.

Display the three different sized bowls and ask the class what size bowl do they use when they eat cereal? It is easier to eat more than we need when we are using large portion bowls.

Pour cereal from box into each bowl and then measure how many servings actually fit into each bowl.

Ask the young people, what are some other foods that they would likely eat more than one serving at a time? Examples: macaroni and cheese, ice cream, chicken nuggets, chips/snack crackers.

Activity: MyPlate

Introduce the youth to MyPlate. Show MyPlate graphic or use our Interactive Whiteboard activity (see What You Need) to talk about MyPlate. Explain to the youth that it is important for our bodies to get the right balance of foods so we can stay strong and healthy as we grow. If we get too much of one kind of food and not enough of another, our bodies could end up getting sick or not growing the right way.

Show them how certain foods have a place on MyPlate.

Ask the youth why they think fruits and vegetables take up 1/2 of the plate.

  • These foods give us lots of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber) for our bodies so we want to make sure we are eating enough of them.

Now, let’s practice and see if we can match the different food group items to their recommended portion size. Ask the youth: What are some of the ways to get just the right portion of a food item the next time we eat a meal or snack?

  • Use the ChooseMyPlate.gov Food Gallery to see portion sizes visualized. (See links below).
  • Use common items such as a DVD/CD or a tennis ball to help us with our portion sizes.
  • Include fruits and vegetables more often because they are the foods we want to eat the most. If time permits, use the ChooseMyPlate.gov Food Gallery to come up with your own comparison of portion size to common objects.


Welcome additional ideas the youth have and encourage them to remember to often include fruits and vegetables with their meals and snacks.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing healthy portion sizes at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Portion sizes: What amount is ‘right’?

Additional Instructor Resources

Having a Positive Mindset

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand that the way they see things isn’t necessary the “truth” about the way they are. The youth will experience the impact a positive mindset can have, practice noticing subtle differences and cultivating an optimistic perspective.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

There is a lot of pressure these days on young people, teachers and others to “do and be their best.” Yet many of the things we do to try to accomplish this or help others accomplish it actually work against us. Mindset, the way we see things, plays a huge role in this.

People who thrive, rather than just survive, tend to have positive mindsets. They see the learning in difficult situations, they see the benefit that comes from hardship, and they see themselves and others as having what’s needed to be their best.

We can actually learn to think this way even if it doesn’t feel totally natural right now.

Consider this: Why is it that two people can see the same movie and describe it totally differently? Or what about when we watch the same movie more than once: Why do we notice different things each time? The truth is that our minds shape our experiences, our memories, and we can learn to influence our minds to see things differently.


Show the Mental Remix video from  ChangeToChill.org by Allina Health.

Explain to the youth that our “success” in life, however we define it, depends a lot on our attitude and how we see things.

Ask: Why is it that two people can see the same movie and describe it totally differently? Or what about when we watch the same movie more than once: Why do we notice different things each time?

Give time for discussion of the questions. Then explain that our minds shape our experiences, our memories, and we can learn to influence our minds to see things differently.

Activity: What’s Changed?

Let the youth know that you are going to do an activity that highlights the idea that how we see things is shaped by what we’re looking for and what we focus on. Don’t tell them more than that. Then give them the following instructions:

Round one (there are three total)

  1. Pair young people each with a partner.
  2. First, tell them to stand facing their partner and simply observe.
  3. Then ask pairs to stand back-to-back a couple feet away from each other. They are not to look at their partners.
  4. Ask each young person to change three things about their physical appearance, without their partner knowing what the changes are. If they need a little help with ideas suggest removing items of jewelry and/or clothing such as a shoe, rolling up a sleeve, changing something about their hair, and so on.
  5. After everyone has made the changes, ask the young people to face their partner again and each take a turn at trying to identify the things that have changed. Some will be able to identify the three changes in their partner’s appearance; some will not, that’s OK.
  6. Ask, “Who found all three?” “Who found two of the three?” etc.

Round two

Without changing the first three things back to the way they were, repeat round one. It may be harder this time for them to think of things to change. Encourage them to be creative.

Round three

Repeat the exercise again a third time and then talk about these questions:

  • What was it like doing this activity? How did you feel? What were you thinking about?
  • Was it easy or hard to think of things to change? Why?
  • Was it easy or hard to figure out what changes your partner made? Why?
  • Did you start looking at your partner differently after I told you to make changes? Why do you think that was?
  • (Young people may say things like that they looked more closely at details; they noticed different things, they tried to remember what the person “looked” like before and couldn’t).

Make the point that how we see something changes based on what we’re looking for, where are minds our focused, what our goal or task is. This is true for life as well as in the exercise.

Activity: Changing Perspective

  1. Ask the young people if they have examples of situations they could look at differently simply by changing their perspective or changing what they are looking for. Examples could include doing poorly on a test, something that happened in a sporting event, or a situation with a friend.
  2. Encourage young people to share examples and give a least two different perspectives, such as looking at a bad test score as having messed up or as a great lesson in needing to study more.
  3. After the conversation ask them to each write about a time when they saw something as negative but looking back on it could have been seen as more positive.


Remind young people that our minds shape our memories and that knowing that can help us be more resilient and thrive. Present this challenge: Next time you are confronted with a potentially negative situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the situation really as bad as I think?
  • Is there another way to look at the situation?
  • What can I learn from this experience that I can use in the future?

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can practice seeing situations from different perspectives at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Change To Chill by Allina Health

What We Can Do to Stress Less

Lesson Introduction & Overview

This short lesson is aimed at getting youth to think about their responses to stressful or challenging situations, and to respond positively rather than by adding to the difficulty.


1. Show the What Pizza Wears Gloves video and The Two Arrows Explainer video.

2. Talk briefly about what they noticed and what they thought about these two videos. Ask if anyone has any questions about them.

3. Then ask about stress:

  • Do you ever feel stressed out? Have you ever felt like the Pizza or the person who dropped the lunch tray? What does stress feel like in your body and in your thoughts?
  • What causes stress in your life?
  • Do your family members or friends ever get stressed? How can you tell? How do they act?
  • What do you think causes stress for other people?

4. Then talk about how the videos mention “mindfulness” and “Change to Chill.” Ask youth if they’ve ever heard those terms before and what they think they mean. Talk about their ideas and share your own.

5. Show the youth the pens, sticky notes and wall space. Explain that as a group you are going to write as many ideas as you can about how to stress less or deal with stress when it comes up. Give some examples like, “go for a run,” “listen to music,” or “make slime with your friends.”

6. Give youth a chance to post their own ideas and read through others. Talk briefly about:

  • What’s your favorite way to de-stress?
  • Did you get any new ideas today?
  • What’s one thing you might like to try next time you feel stressed out?


Keep the wall of notes up for as long as seems helpful. Consider also sharing the ideas through social media or school resources.

Additional Resources:

Additional videos:

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can stress less at home.

Water: Making Living Things Grow!

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides a visual example for young people of what happens to a living thing (in this case a plant) when it is hydrated with water vs. liquids with added ingredients such as sweeteners, flavors and colors.


Every living thing needs water to survive. Nearly every system in your body depends on water to work right, including our organs, muscles, joints, and nervous system.

Ask the youth, what would happen to plants, animals and babies if they were given beverages that have lots of sugar and other ingredients in them?

Answers:  Sick, tired, wouldn’t grow right, might die

The same is true of bigger kids and adults: If we depend on flavored drinks for our liquids, our bodies won’t grow right, we won’t feel well and we might get sick.

Ask: What do you think might happen to our bodies if we stopped drinking mostly water or milk and drank mostly pops, fruit drinks and sports/energy drinks? (Same answers as for babies/animals/plants.)


Explain that you are going to do a classroom experiment involving water and growing. Present the three plants. Explain that you are going to care for the three plants in three different ways:

  • The first one will get water every day or as needed.
  • The second one will be “watered” with soda.
  • The third one will get no water or other liquids.

Create (or have young people create) labels so you can keep track of the plants.

Explain that when doing a scientific experiment like this one it’s important to keep notes about your findings because otherwise when it’s over you might not remember the details.

Give each person a copy of the “Plant-Water Experiment Notes” worksheet. Ask the youth to complete the first row by jotting down notes about the color of the leaves, the texture of the plant, and other details. You can also do this activity with the interactive whiteboard template (see What You Need) and keep track of it as a class.

Ask the youth to take notes every day for several weeks to track what happens to the three plants over time. Younger kids can simply describe what they are seeing.

When doing this activity with younger children ask them to describe what they are seeing and you write the notes.

Consider taking regular photographs of the plants in order to visually track the change over time.


Even if the results of this experiment aren’t dramatic, there will be differences the young people can discover if they pay close attention. Encourage them to think about this the next time they are choosing how to “water” (hydrate) their own bodies.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the importance of hydrating with water at home.


Vegetarian Basics

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand healthful ways to follow vegetarian diets by researching the different types and how to get enough nutrients while following each one.


Ask the youth:

  • Has anyone has heard of vegetarian diets?
  • Do you know of anyone or do you follow a vegetarian diet?
  • What do you think it means to be a vegetarian?

Explain that a vegetarian diet is one way of meeting an individual’s nutritional needs. A person may follow a vegetarian diet for cultural, ethical, environmental or health reasons.

Activity: All About Vegetarian Diets

Introduce young people to the different kinds of vegetarian diets in the Vegetarian Online Learning Activity. Young people may explore the lesson independently on computers or mobile devices, or it can be projected on the classroom’s SMART or Promethean Board.

Review the 4 types of vegetarian diets listed in the presentation.

  1. Strict Vegetarian or Vegan: This diet includes only plant-based foods. It doesn’t include any kind of animal food sources, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
  2. Lacto-vegetarian: This diet includes all plant-based foods and dairy products. It doesn’t include meat, fish or eggs.
  3. Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: This diet includes all plant-based foods, dairy products and eggs. It doesn’t include meat and fish.
  4. Flexitarian: This diet includes mostly plant-based foods and occasionally includes eggs, fish, dairy products and meats.

Conclude that there are many different types of vegetarian eating styles. One is not necessarily better than the other and all can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Explain that if a person chooses not to eat a certain type of food or food group, he or she may not get the right amount of some nutrients. Some of these nutrients include calories, protein, and calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc and Vitamin B12.

Activity: Vegetarian Nutrition Research

Have the young people research one type of vegetarian diet and create a poster board and the nutrients that may be missing from that diet. Have them include what food sources may be included instead that would provide the nutrients they need. Each poster should include the following:

  • The name of the type of vegetarian diet
  • Nutrients that may be missing or hard to get from this diet
  • Pictures of allowed food sources to meet those nutrient needs.

Invite each young person or group to present their project to the class.


Remind young people that it is possible to be healthy while following a vegetarian diet if you know about healthful sources of protein, calcium, and Vitamins D and B12. Young people considering vegetarian diets should refer to MyPlate’s Information for Vegetarians to get more information.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, with information about vegetarian diets so that families can continue discussing balanced nutrition at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Vegetarian Lifestyles from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

 Vegetarian Nutrition

Tips for Vegetarians from ChooseMyPlate.gov

The Dish on Gluten

Lesson Overview

This lesson will help young people understand gluten allergy and gluten sensitivity. They will look for gluten in the food groups on MyPlate and think of ways to be kind to those who follow a gluten-free diet.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about gluten-free diets. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. (Experts recommend only consuming oats labeled gluten-free as cross-contact may occur when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, barley or rye.) This includes a lot of foods you probably eat everyday like bread, cookies, crackers and pasta.
  • The gluten in bread makes it soft and spongy. Gluten helps baked goods like bread, cakes and muffins rise and hold their shape. It also acts like glue to help food such as crackers to not crumble.
  • There are many health claims surrounding following a gluten-free diet, some of which are not supported by scientific studies. Many believe that eating a gluten-free diet is healthier and will increase energy levels. This can be true if a well-executed gluten-free eating plan is established. It often means buying fewer processed foods and eating more fresh, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. If not carefully planned gluten containing foods are often swapped for more highly processed foods, which is an unhealthful way of eating.
  • Gluten is harmless for most people, except those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
  • Celiac disease damages the small intestine and keeps the body from using nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot eat any food that has gluten. Their immune system responds to the gluten by damaging the small intestine. It can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. They may also have a headache and feel really tired. If not treated it can affect growth and cause damage to the nervous system. It can also cause people to be malnourished.
  • A gluten sensitivity is similar to celiac disease, but it does not damage the small intestine or affect growth and development. Eating gluten may cause someone with a gluten sensitivity to feel sick, but the person’s body will still be able to use the nutrients from the food he or she eats. Other symptoms someone may have who is gluten sensitive is “foggy mind”, depression, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they eat gluten containing foods. They will want to eat gluten-free so they feel better every day.
  • Food you eat has many nutrients (vitamins, minerals and calories) to help you be healthy. When people who shouldn’t eat foods with gluten in them do, their bodies will not be able to use the nutrients as they should.
  • Common gluten-free grains include rice, corn (maize), soy, potatoes, beans, quinoa (KEEN-wah), tapioca, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, flax, chia seeds, teff, nut flours and gluten-free oats. Despite the name “buckwheat”, there is no wheat or gluten found in buckwheat and instead it is actually a relative to rhubarb.
  • Other gluten-free foods include fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and eggs.
  • It isn’t always clear which foods have gluten in them. It can be very challenging to try to eat only foods that are gluten-free. People who have to eat this way get very good at reading nutrition fact labels to see if a food is gluten-free or not.
  • People who have food allergies, sensitivities or other restrictions often have to deal with people not understanding their situation. Sometimes other people can be unkind about it, or put their friends at risk by not being careful.


Give some background on gluten and gluten-free foods.

  • Show the youth grains that have gluten: wheat, rye, barley.
  • Show the youth examples of grains that do not have gluten, such as rice, quinoa, corn and others listed above.
  • Show the youth how on MyPlate the gluten-free grains fit into the same orange section as the grains with gluten.

Activity: Gluten-free Foods on MyPlate

Go to MyPlate. Click on each food group, one at a time, to explore which foods are gluten-free. Within each food group, click on “View Food Gallery” and click through the slideshow to have the young people guess which of the foods are gluten-free.

  • Fruit: All gluten-free.
  • Vegetables: All gluten-free.
  • Grains: Brown rice, popcorn and white rice are gluten-free. (Note: Many cereals have other things added to them that have gluten even if they are made from corn. Cornbread is only gluten-free if it is made in a special way without regular flour.)
  • Protein: All fresh cuts of meat, nuts and seeds and beans are gluten free. (Note: Deli meat is usually not gluten-free unless it is made especially for people who cannot eat gluten. The gluten-free deli meats will be labeled “gluten-free.”
  • Dairy: Milk, soymilk and cheese are gluten-free. (Note:  Yogurt, pudding and frozen yogurt may all have gluten in them because of added flavorings. Always check the label to see if a product is gluten-free.)
  • Oils: All oils are gluten-free as long as the one type of oil is the only ingredient in the ingredient list.
  • Special consideration: Even though potatoes are naturally gluten free, when you deep fry them to make French Fries they can be cross contaminated with other gluten foods that were fried in the same oil.

Activity: Gluten-free Birthday Party

  1. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of someone who needs to avoid gluten. We are going to act out a story about a birthday party. A boy named Logan has celiac disease and needs to avoid eating gluten. All of his friends can eat foods with gluten, including the tasty birthday cake. As you are acting out the story, remember how hard it would be for someone like Logan to not be able to eat the same food as his friends.
  2. Read the following story out loud: Logan has celiac disease. On Friday night, he goes to his friend Andrew’s birthday party. A birthday cake made with wheat flour is served, but there is also a special cupcake for Logan. Some of the other friends tease Logan and are rude. They seem to be jealous about the special treatment. Alex stands up for his friend Logan and helps explain that celiac is a serious disease.
  3. Break the youth up into small groups to act out the story. Walk around and offer ideas for what Alex could say when he stands up for Logan. If young people need prompting in how to address the topic in a positive way, Alex could respond that he wanted everyone to feel special at the birthday party without excluding anybody for any reason.  The gluten-free cupcake was just one consideration of the needs of the friends invited to the party.
  4. Then ask for a few volunteers or one small group to act out their storyline to the entire group. Discuss.

Activity: Word Find

Pass out the Gluten Word Find and instruct young people to find all 18 foods that contain gluten. The answers can be found on the Gluten Word Find Answer Key.


Remind young people that it can be very challenging to try to eat only foods that are gluten-free. Ask the youth to pay attention to nutrition labels and notice how many of the things they eat contain gluten. If they have a classmate or friend who can’t eat gluten, think of ways they help that person from being left out when food or treats are given out at special events.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can practice spotting gluten in their meals at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

The dish on gluten

What you need to know about food allergies

Food Allergy Awareness for the School Year

Additional Instructor Resources

Does My Child Need a Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten-Free Diet



The Concussion Conundrum

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the basic concepts of concussions. Youth will discuss brain injuries and complete a KWL chart (already Know, Want to know, what I Learned) to list facts about concussions. A hands-on learning activity gives young people a chance to experience what living with a brain injury may be like. Finally, the youth will reflect on what they learned about brain injuries and how to prevent them.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about concussions. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Young people who play sports or are active other ways, such as riding bikes or playing on the playground, are at risk for concussion. This is a blow to the head that affects how the brain works. It is a form of brain injury. You can’t see it but it causes changes in a person’s behavior, thinking or physical actions.

Your brain is a soft organ that is protected by spinal fluid and your skull. Normally the spinal fluid acts as a cushion between brain and skull. When your head or body is hit hard enough, however, your brain can get knocked against your skull and be concussed. Signs of a concussion can occur right away or hours or even days after the injury occurs. It’s possible to have a concussion even if you never lose consciousness. Signs and symptoms of a concussion can include:

  •   headache
  •   problems with memory
  •   upset stomach (nausea) or vomiting
  •   balance issues or dizziness
  •   double or blurry vision
  •   being sensitive to light or sounds
  •   feeling hazy, foggy or groggy
  •   problems concentrating
  •   confusion
  •   not “feeling right”
  •   seizures.

Long-term problems are possible if a person has more than one concussion, or is re-injured before the brain fully heals. That’s why rest, seeking medical treatment, and following a doctor’s instructions are all important. Even better is to prevent concussions in the first place. The Centers for Disease Control recommends these prevention methods:

  1. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
  2. Wear a helmet that is fitted and maintained properly when:
    • riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or all-terrain vehicle
    • playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse or boxing
    • using in-line skates or riding a skateboard
    • batting and running bases in baseball or softball
    • riding a horse
    • skiing, sledding or snowboarding.
  3. Ensure that during athletic games and practices, you:
    • use the right protective equipment (should be fitted and maintained properly in order to provide the expected protection)
    • follow the safety rules and the rules of the sport
    • practice good sportsmanship
    • do not return to play with a known or suspected concussion until you have been evaluated and given permission by an appropriate health care professional.
  4. Make living areas safer by:
    • installing window guards to prevent people falling out of open windows
    • keeping stairs clear of clutter
    • securing rugs and using rubber mats in bathtubs
    • not playing on fire escapes or on other unsafe platforms.


Introduce the lesson by discussing concussions, how they occur, and why young people need to be aware of this type of brain injury. Use the information about concussions in the Instructor Notes above.

Ask if anyone in the class has ever had a concussion. If so, ask if they are willing to share a little bit about what that was like.

Activity: Concussion KWL

Hand out the KWL Student Activity Sheet. Invite the youth to fill out the worksheet with a list of things that they know and things they still have questions about on this topic. On a KWL chart, full sentences are not necessary; the ideas are more are important. Suggest they use bullet points or numbers to make their lists easier to read.

Activity: Experiencing Altered Senses

In advance of the lesson set up the stations as described below.

Explain that you have some stations set up with activities that are simulations of some of the possible effects of a brain injury such as concussion. Divide the young people into groups and have them move through the stations before holding a discussion at the end:

    1. Sensory loss: Sometimes people who have a brain injury don’t feel things the same way anymore, either temporarily or even permanently. Simulate this by putting common items in a bucket filled with rice. Have young people put a thick rubber glove on their dominant hand and reach into the rice to feel the items. Can they identify what they are?[1]
    2. Vision impairment: Smear the lenses of several pairs of goggles with petroleum jelly. Have the youth do a variety of regular classroom activities such as sharpen a pencil, copy a sentence off the board, write their names on a worksheet, walk to the bathroom and so on while wearing the goggles.[2]
    3. Loss of taste: Have several types of snacks available. Have each young person choose one of the types of snacks to taste. The first taste should be with their noses plugged. Have them write down a few words to describe the taste (such as sweet, salty, spicy). Then have them taste the same snack with their nose unplugged and again write down a description.
    4. Sensory hypersensitivity: Give the youth a math worksheet that’s at their level. Have them complete the worksheet while wearing headphones blaring loud music.

After the youth have completed the stations, reconvene the group a debrief using the follow questions as guides:

    1. What was it like to do those different things? Describe the experience as well as your feelings as you trying to accomplish them.
    2. Were some of them more difficult than others? Why?
    3. Were some of them more frustrating or upsetting than others? Why?
    4. What surprised you?
    5. Did you know that having a concussion could cause these kinds of problems?

[1] Adapted from Sharon Thorson, Injury Prevention Specialist, and the Denver Osteopathic Foundation, and from the “Brain Injury Empathy Experience” of Mapleton Center for Rehabilitation.
[2] ibid.


To conclude the lesson, ask the young people what they now know about how to prevent concussions. (Discuss and make sure they touch on all of the information mentioned above.)

Ask the youth to complete the last section of the KWL chart on the student activity sheet, listing things they learned about concussions.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing brain health and brain injuries at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources

Information about Concussion in Sports from CDC.gov

Super Sleep

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how important sleep is to growing bodies and minds. The youth will determine how many hours of sleep they should get each night and learn how to track healthy sleeping habits in a sleep diary.


Introduce the topic of sleep by asking the questions below and facilitating a discussion with the participants’ answers.

How many hours should kids sleep every night? Let young people guess first. Then tell them the answer according to the following guidelines:

  • ages 3 to 10: 10 to 12 hours each day
  • ages 11 to 12: about 10 hours each day
  • teenagers (ages 13 to 17): about nine hours each day.

Then ask them: OK, so if you get up at (use an example of a time they might get up), what time should you go to sleep at night to make sure you get enough hours in? Help young people figure this out if they cannot do it on their own.

Why do kids need plenty of sleep? Let the youth answer, but make sure they understand the following reasons why sleep is important:

  • Sleep plays an important role in healthy growth and development. Your body needs the deep rest it gets during sleep to help your muscles, bones, and skin prevent injury and illness and helps your brain develop well.
  • Sleep also helps you remember what you learn, pay attention and concentrate, solve problems and think of new ideas. Studies show that people can focus better when they’ve had enough sleep, that’s especially important during school. Having enough sleep simply makes you feel better during the day.

Is all sleep the same? Let young people answer first and then explain that just like nature is full of cycles (the earth rotates, causing cycles of light and darkness – day and night; the moon has cycles) we have cycles in our sleep as well. Our bodies can’t get fully rested unless they are able to go through all the cycles several times. Explain that there are five stages in one cycle of sleep. Each cycle of sleep takes about 90 minutes. That means that within 10 hours of sleep we go through about six cycles and 33 stages of sleep.

  • Stage 1 and 2: You first fall asleep, but are not yet in a deep sleep.
  • Stage 3 and 4: You are in a deep, restful sleep. Your breathing and heart rate slow down, and your body is still.
  • Stage 5: You are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Your brain is active and you dream.

Activity: Healthy Bedtime Habits

Ask the youth to think about what bedtime is like right now.

  • How do you sleep best? (Have kids demonstrate their favorite way to sleep.)
  • Do you sleep with any special blankets, stuffed animals, pillows etc.? (Have kids raise their hands to answer.)
  • What kinds of things things help you relax and feel sleepy? 
  • What makes it easier for you to go to sleep when you need to? 

Can you name some things that might help you have better bedtime habits? When young people come up with helpful ideas for how to develop good sleep habits, ask them to write them down on a piece of paper in checklist form. (Alternately, create a master checklist based on the answers and distribute copies.) Possible answers:

  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Your body gets used to a schedule and will be ready to sleep.
  • Don’t drink sodas with caffeine, especially in the afternoon and at nighttime.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
  • Exercise during the day. Running and playing at least 3 hours before bed helps your body get ready for sleep.
  • Avoid big meals before bedtime. Drink a glass of warm milk or have a light, healthful snack like fruit.
  • Have a bedtime routine. Do the same relaxing things before bed each night, like taking a warm shower, reading or listening to quiet music. Your body will know it’s time to get ready to sleep.

Activity: Sleep Diary

A good night’s sleep is important. Keep track of your sleeping habits using a sleep diary.

After a full night of sleep, you wake up ready for a new day of school, fun activities or family time. You use a lot of energy throughout your day to go to school, play outside, do your homework, participate in sports, practice an instrument, and play with your friends. After all of that, your body needs sleep!  Your body is just like a car’s gas tank, full in the morning and empty at the end of the day. If your family has a car, your parents have to fill up the car’s gas tank. Getting enough sleep will help you to fill up YOUR own gas tank! A full tank gives you enough energy to stay busy and do your best each and every day!

When you get enough sleep, you can:

  • pay attention better in school
  • be creative
  • fight sickness so you stay healthy
  • be in a good mood
  • get along with friends and family
  • solve problems better.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you can:

  • forget what you learned
  • have trouble making good choices
  • be grumpy and in a bad mood
  • have trouble playing sports/games
  • be less patient with brothers, sisters and friends
  • have trouble listening to parents and teachers
  • become sick more often.

You should talk to your parents and doctor if you:

  • have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • snore or have trouble breathing while you sleep
  • have weird feelings or “growing pains” in your legs
  • feel sleepy or tired during the day.


Ask the young people to use this sleep diary to keep track of their sleep over the next week to help them know how healthy their sleep habits are or are not.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing healthy sleep habits at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Promoting a good night’s sleep

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Additional Instructor Resources

Your Kid’s Sleep

Stretch for Your Best!

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps children understand that stretching their muscles is a part of a healthy lifestyle at all ages. This activity will teach several easy stretches for kids to do together.


Provide kids with information on the positive benefits and importance of stretching:

  • Stretching is important at any age
  • Stretching:
    • helps move joints through a full range of motion, by keeping ligaments (attach muscle to muscle) and tendons (attach muscle to bone) flexible
    • prevents injury
    • improves athletic performance
    • encourages a healthful lifestyle
    • helps ease sore or tight muscles
    • promotes better posture
    • avoids stiffness and speeds recovery of muscles after running or playing sports
    • encourages blood to circulate to the muscles and joints throughout the body
    • reduces stress

Before the beginning of these stretching exercises for kids, inform participants of the proper way to prepare:

  • The President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports states, “warmed-up tissues are less likely to be injured.”
  • Stretching before warming up increases the risk for pulled muscles and doesn’t promote increased flexibility, so it’s best to wait until the end of physical activity, or at least warm-up, by walking or jogging and gradually increasing heart rate, for five to 10 minutes before stretching. Warming up helps to deliver more blood to the muscle and helps the muscle become warm and able to stretch easier.
  • Warm-up phase should not cause you to feel tired. Tell the kids to stretch for the feeling of a gentle pull, not a painful feeling. Advise them to stretch after exercising.

Activity: Stretching

On yoga mats or other dry, soft, flat areas, such as in the grass, lead the way in the following easy stretches for kids. Note the parts of the body that each pose stretches.

Toe Touch

A toe touch stretch is a basic stretch for kids, an easy one for most to perform. This stretch targets largely the muscles of the legs, especially the calves and hamstrings. From a standing position, the kids will bend over at the waist and reach for their toes with feet together. If the kids can’t quite reach their toes, they can stretch just as far as is comfortable. From a sitting position, each kid sits with legs outstretched and together. They then bend forward, reaching for the toes or as far as is comfortable. In both stretches for kids, they should hold the stretch for 15 seconds and then release.

Neck Half Circles

This stretch for children starts by touching the right ear to the right shoulder. The kids then roll their heads around, chin to chest, in a half-circle to the left shoulder, and then back again, chin to chest. Slow movements in this stretch for kids are important to protect the neck muscles from injury.

Shoulder Circles

Begin this kids’ stretching exercise by having them shrug their shoulders and rotate them forward and down in a circle. Switch directions after five or six turns by shrugging the shoulders and then moving backward in a circle.

Arm Circles

Arm circles can be used to stretch the muscles supporting the elbow and shoulder joint where the arm attaches to the shoulder. The child holds their arms out to the side, creating a horizontal line with their arms. The child then draws circles with their hands, starting with small circles and slowly growing to large circles, then back to smaller circles. Start first by drawing circles clockwise, and then switch to counter-clockwise. Keep the movements slow, and prevent the child from just flailing his arms around.

Side Bends

Have each child stand up straight with arms to the outside of each thigh. Slowly move the fingers down toward the outside of one knee, while bending at the waist. Alternate sides, do 10 side bends on each side.

Reach for the Stars

Just like the title of this stretch for kids, have the kids reach up as high as they can while standing on their tiptoes. This stretch can even be done while lying down on a mat. The goal is to reach their hands and feet away from each other.

Child’s Pose

The child’s pose is a stretch for kids, taken from yoga. It can be used outside of yoga as part of your child’s stretching routine for more of a full-body stretch. To perform the child’s pose, the child gets on their knees with feet together. The child then sits on their heels and bends their body forward until the forehead touches the ground. Bring the arms around to each side of the body, resting with their palms facing towards the sky. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then return back to an upright kneeling position.


After these stretching exercises for kids, ask them to recall the reasons for stretching offered in the Lesson Introduction above. Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue stretching together at home. Find more health lessons for kids from Health Powered Kids to help children and families live their happiest and healthiest lives.

Additional Instructor Resources

How to Stay Safe During Physical Activity

Lesson Overview

This health safety lesson helps young people understand the equipment they need to stay safe during different sports and activities. They will color images of athletes and then label the different gear that keeps them safe.


Explain to the youth that using the wrong or improperly fitted equipment is a major cause for injuries in playing games and sports. For example, playing tennis with a badly strung racquet while wearing worn-out shoes can be just as dangerous as playing football without shoulder pads!

Ask young people if they can think of any equipment they have used or have seen others wear while playing sports or doing other physical activities.

Remind young people during this health safety lesson, that before wearing protective equipment or playing, they should always check equipment for proper fit and replace worn-out equipment. For example, replace a child’s bike helmet if it:

  • has been in a bike accident
  • is damaged from being used (such as cracked or dented).

Activity: Staying Safe Coloring Sheet

Distribute the Staying Safe Coloring Sheet. As you walk through the different kinds of equipment below, have the youth color the athletes and label the different gear that keeps them safe.

Here are the “Most Valuable Pieces” of equipment that you should mention when teaching kids how to stay safe during physical activities.


  • Always wear a helmet made for the sport you are playing.
  • Bike helmets should have a CPSC sticker. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) set up the federal safety standard that all bike helmets must meet. Helmets that meet this standard will have this sticker attached.
  • Helmets should fit snugly but comfortably on your head and shouldn’t tilt backward or forward.

Eye Protection:

  • Eye gear for sports is made from a plastic called polycarbonate.
  • Facemasks, either a guard or shield, attached to helmets should also be made of polycarbonate.
  • Goggles should be worn to cover prescription eyeglasses. You can also purchase prescription polycarbonate goggles.

Mouth Guards:

  • Mouth guards can protect your mouth, teeth, and tongue.
  • Mouth guards should be worn in contact sports.
  • If you wear a retainer, always take it out before you start to exercise, practice or play.

Wrist, Knee, and Elbow Guards or Pads:

  • You should wear guards or pads when doing any activity that requires moving on wheels, such as skateboarding.
  • Guards or pads can prevent breaks, cuts, and absorb shock from falls.
  • Guards or pads should fit snugly and comfortably.

Protective Cup

  • Boys who play contact sports should wear a protective cup.
  • Boys should wear an athletic supporter when playing non-contact sports that involve running.
  • If you are unsure, ask your coach if you need a protective cup for your sport.


  • Football, baseball, softball and soccer are some sports that require cleats.
  • Skateboarding and biking have special types of shoes that are best for performing well.
  • Replace cleat and shoes that have worn out or are no longer supportive.

Activity: Safety Tips

Here are a few other tips on how to stay safe during physical activities.

Warm Up for Injury-Free Play: Muscles that have not been warmed up the right way tend to be injured more easily.

  • Start out with some light cardiovascular activities, such as easy jogging, jumping jacks, or brisk walking, to get your muscles moving and blood circulating.
  • Follow your warm-up with some stretches. Stretching works best after a warm-up because your ligaments and tendons are more elastic (flexible) due to the increase in heat and blood flow to the muscle.
  • Do not overdo your play, game, or sport. If you increase how often, how long or how hard you play too fast, you might see better performance at first, but this can lead to injuries later.

Stay Off the Court When You Are Hurt: If you have been injured and you try to come back too soon, you run the risk of re-injuring yourself – maybe even more seriously than before.

  • Concussion: A concussion is a blow to the head that affects how the brain works. A concussion can also happen after a hit to the body that causes the head to move quickly back and forth. Because you cannot see this type of injury, it is easy to come back too soon from a concussion. Always listen to your doctor and get the OK from him or her to play again.
  • Pain relief: Some athletes use pain relievers to avoid pain. Pain is your body’s way of signaling it is not happy with what you are doing. If you have pain, get treatment so you can fix what’s causing it.

The Rules of the Game: Rules are made to keep you and your teammates in the game and to avoid injuries. Follow all the rules to have a safe season.

  • Rules are made to promote safety so that everyone can enjoy the game.
  • You need to follow other rules even if they don’t relate to the sport. For example, if you are inline skating on a public street, pay strict attention to all traffic laws.
  • You need to use the right techniques when playing a sport. This will help you or your opponent not get injured. For example, when playing football, always keep your head up when tackling, neck injuries are common when players tackle with head down. In hockey, high sticking is a violation because it can be dangerous to other players. The right technique would be to keep the stick below waist level. It is also important to use the right technique when lifting weights. This will keep you from holding your breath and possibly fainting.

Whether you are following rules, regulations, or proper techniques, remember that they are not there to restrict you, they are there to keep you safe and injury free.


At the end of this health safety lesson, ask the young people to think of one way they will keep themselves safe during sports or other activities this week. If time permits, allow the youth to share their reflections. Conclude this lesson on health safety by reminding young people that rules and protective equipment are not there to restrict you, they are there to keep you safe and injury-free! Depend on Health Powered Kids for safe and simple exercises for children.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing ways they will stay safe during sports and other activities.

Additional Instructor Resources

Concussions in Sports: What You Should Know