To thrive with a healthy lifestyle, we need to adopt daily healthy habits. Many see these habits as the thread that runs through an overall sense of wellbeing. We have been taught from an early age that these habits will impact our zest for life – sleep, hydration, fresh air, laughter – all should play a part in our recipe for a long, fulfilling life. Unfortunately, in our busy lives, we find these practices a challenge. They become our reaction to ill-health, rather than preventative measures which can enhance our everyday lives. For children, health becomes achievable and less daunting with simple daily habits, and these lifestyle choices may form the key to complete wellbeing. By combining habits such as hobbies, routine, laughter, moderation and abundance with healthy eating, movement and thoughts, we create a health ecology so strong, our children could flourish, despite modern health disruptors. Our Healthy Habits unit encourages more interaction with the natural environment, gives children an opportunity to reflect on their daily actions, and the tools to upgrade their health and wellbeing.
[See all our Healthy Lifestyle lessons plans in the CHP Academy]
How can teachers encourage a ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ with ‘Healthy Habits’?
Teachers often ask us what a healthy lifestyle is, and to put a definition to it is challenging. Over the last few years, we have formed the impression that a healthy lifestyle is based on balance, a holistic approach (thinking movement, nutrition, habits and mindset), and trying not to overcomplicate things. One of our Healthy Habit topics is ‘Moderation and Abundance’ and the ethos behind this demonstrates the approach we feel most comfortable in describing. To us, living in moderation and abundance means to enjoy/experience a little of anything that could be considered ‘less healthy’– be it sitting and watching TV, eating cake, staying up late, staying indoors instead of venturing out, feeling cross/worried about something – but to manage how often this happens – to find balance, and not to feel bad about it. To my Grandparents, having two biscuits with a cup of tea was excessive – they’d have just the one biscuit, but everyday, at 11am. They lived to 96 and 97 years old, so moderation in this sense clearly worked for them! We advocate balancing moderation with abundance though – spending 80% of your time doing more healthy activities – moving for enjoyment and learning; eating an abundance of fibrous vegetables and fruits; getting outside several times a week; getting early nights with a good bedtime routine; challenging yourself with new activities. This is not a perfect definition, but using the topics of ‘Healthy Habits’ (below), this approach definitely promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Now onto how teachers can help pupils achieve this in their own lives. Here are a few essential tips for classroom teachers who are promoting a healthy lifestyle across the curriculum:
Promoting a healthy lifestyle is not just about finding where these topics sit within the curriculum. So much support can be offered to children in good old-fashioned conversation (which we must make time for in the classroom). Our free resource ‘Question of the Day’ can initiate great conversation to start the day/afternoon. It helps children to reflect about holistic health, and their own practices.
Are you a teacher who is working to maintain balance and a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family? Share this with the children – they love to hear how their role models are striving to improve their health and wellbeing! Simply mentioning you went for a walk in the evening, played a board game with your children, had an early night, visited the dentist, spent time with a friend who makes you laugh, joined a new club or that you are trying to instigate a new routine into your week shows the children that this is a human need, and encourages them to ask questions and feel inspired.
Utilise assembly time
The time of day when all children are together. Why not create themes to your assemblies that encourage healthy lifestyles – a theme of the week could be ‘sleep’ where the whole school take part in our Sleep Survey, then all try to do one thing before they fall asleep each night (eg. read a book, do a breathing activity, have a bath, turn of screens an hour before bed, write in a journal to reflect on the day). We anticipate creating school challenges based around healthy lifestyles, which can be featured in your assembly time.
Often, children learn about healthy habits in the small moments of the day – as they’re tidying up; when they pop to the loo; time spent outdoors; the little giggle they have with their friend; a conversation with a classroom assistant…Making the most of these opportunities, indeed providing them, is key. Ask how children slept the night before, find out whether their bedtime routine could improve – promote a restful routine, where you can also encourage reading with a family member, sharing thoughts on the day, personal hygiene etc. As much as these do not sit explicitly on the curriculum, we know that our curriculum is our baseline, and as Primary teachers, we take pride in caring for pupil wellbeing.
We are proud to have lessons on laughter – teaching the science behind why laughter is health-promoting, and providing opportunity to laugh in class. When we ask teachers the last time they laughed whole-heartedly as a class, they pause and often say they can’t remember – if anything, they try to prevent too much laughter in the classroom because it can get out of hand. But in a structured activity, where there’s learning about knowledge and understanding of what’s socially acceptable, a good belly-laugh can’t hurt a healthy and productive classroom – also recommended for teacher health and wellbeing!
In our assessment training, we ask teachers to consider a child’s Physical Literacy, and their Health Literacy (more on this in future posts). When assessing a child’s knowledge, understanding, skill, commitment to learning, we need to consider the whole child. That includes their time outside of school as well as in curriculum time. Part of their Physical Literacy pathway may include growth in confidence at swimming clubs outside of school. If a parent tells you their child has achieved the next swimming badge, it makes sense to include this in their learning journey. Encouraging children to continue their learning outside of school with hobbies not only helps their mind to be further stimulated, it encourages personal growth, socialisation and often distraction from pressing worries they may be experiencing. Hobbies don’t have to take the form of sport or physical activity – indeed any hobby could be encouraged. It’s the commitment to something for themselves; the regular attendance; the different environment and social interaction with alternative groups to their family and school friends. Schools should take a strong approach to encouraging a child’s development out of school, with celebration, and sharing in assemblies/classrooms, topic work on hobbies and interests, and planning future adventure, whatever the setting may be.
There is enough research to demonstrate how important time in green space, or the great outdoors is, that it should really be woven through our school lives. Taking any opportunity possible to learn outside will support your pupils’ mental health, and reflection on how we feel when we’re outdoors will help children build the knowledge and skills of a healthy lifestyle.
[See other classroom resources and tips for health and wellbeing in the CHP Academy]
Lesson plans in The Children’s Health Project Scheme of Work
Healthy Habits (also known as Healthy Lifestyles) is the most diverse unit in our scheme of work. It crosses several topics – from mindset, to movement to hydration. But it also includes key topics which are now featuring more heavily in new curricular across the globe – sleep, time outdoors (Vitamin N(ature) to us!), an upgrade on resources for dental health, the emphasis of community and helping others, personal hygiene and the most incredible tool for physical and mental health – breathing exercises. Browse the topics from our lesson plans and see if they take you back to traditional health values, the ones that sometimes get forgotten on the quest for a healthy lifestyle:
Promotion of restful sleep is essential for a child’s health education. This is one of our most popular units, and one that we will definitely create more resources around. This would sit well within your Science curriculum, your PSHE curriculum, and could easily be discussed as part of your PE programme when promoting holistic health. The focus areas for this unit are the practices of getting to sleep, having a restful sleep, getting enough sleep, and lifestyle choices that may inhibit sleep. Many pupils within our programme struggle either to get to sleep, stay asleep, wake up on time, or even feel rested after a ‘good night’s sleep’. Before starting their sleep lessons, few pupils were making the connection between daytime habits of healthy eating, reducing screen time, moving plenty, managing their thoughts and feelings, getting outside in the fresh air and daylight among other healthy habits. Now they can discuss ways to improve sleep, and are more informed of how to approach sleep holistically. Our sleep survey within the CHP Academy can help you to understand the need for a sleep curriculum in your school.
This could have sat in the Nutrition unit within our scheme of work, yet we actually see hydration as a healthy habit – part of our healthy lifestyle. Instead of informing children of hydration recommendations, we make these lessons practical and visual, allowing them turn theory into practice. Key nutritional information for hydration is given to the teacher alongside the lesson plans, to ensure they feel informed about water recommendations.
[See a sample lesson plan from our Hydration topic]
This a term coined to describe Vitamin Nature…the theory being that the benefits of getting outside and spending time in green space act almost like vitamins for our bodies, and having a reciprocal effect on our mental health. Emerging evidence recommends children spend more time outdoors, for both their physical and mental health, and these lessons allow children to explore nature itself, as well as learning about their environment. Our Vitamin N Challenge could be used as an effective piece of holiday homework for your pupils, and we’ve had several teachers comment on their personal enjoyment of the lessons in this topic.
It takes a whole community to raise a healthy, happy child…in this topic, children investigate and acknowledge what they can learn from other members of their community, and equally what they can teach them in return, through practical activities, which could be done outside in nature. Positive role models are encouraged, and multiple, varied communities are celebrated. An essential healthy habit in this topic is also to ‘give back’ to the community, taking care of their local space, and people they respect locally.
We have always said we are immensely proud of including lessons on laughter in our scheme of work. These lessons are fun, light-hearted, thoughtful yet also educational. They teach children the physical and mental benefits of laughter, and if practised regularly, allow for laughter to happen naturally in a happy classroom, and appropriately for the age of the children. We find that these lessons start the children off on a ‘laughter curriculum’, where they often design follow-up short activities, knowing it can provide a break from the seriousness of life and school.
This topic takes the form of very practical, relaxing, mindful activities for the classroom. Children learn a progressive curriculum for breathing, and the scientific reasoning behind why it helps to stop and breathe sometimes. We have heard classes say these lessons help the children sleep, calm anxious feelings after lunchtime, help to reduce tension in children who feel angry or upset and encourage a calm classroom. This is another topic where we feel inclined to create more useful resources, as the teachers use them so often in their daily practices. A break from meditation, this is more a physical activity, promoting both energy and rest, where the children learn lots about their bodies.
There are two aspects to this topic in the healthy lifestyles unit. The first is lessons on germs, and keeping themselves clean. The second is focused on healthy routines at home during a normal week, and in the holidays – practical habits that are health promoting, both for the body and the mind. Children consider their weekly habits, and how they can be upgraded to be holistically healthy, and set about creating a healthy holiday plan, with the help of prompts in the scheme of work. Some of our Health Ambassadors have done this with pupils and taken the challenge online, encouraging families to share their health promoting activities during the holidays and allowing children to challenge the teachers themselves!
Ideally, we want the children to make a connection between the activities in this topic, and how they can affect their health positively. We’d like them to recognise that hobbies require commitment, and that they will improve with any hobby over a period of time. Many children will attend clubs, yet find occupying themselves with independent, or creative tasks, quite difficult sometimes. We encourage the pupils to consider what motivates them, how hobbies foster confidence, the importance of developing knowledge and understanding around hobbies, whether their hobbies are ones they may practise for life and why hobbies are important at any stage of life.
Teachers are telling us all the time that they struggle to have influence with children brushing their teeth, as it’s mainly a habit practised at home. These new lesson plans are a modern approach to children learning about their teeth and gums, as well as learning how to take care of them nutritionally and practically. As with many other topics throughout our scheme of work, there is ample opportunity for creating classroom displays with this work!
Moderation and Abundance
Two diverse concepts here, which actually complement and bring balance to a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging the pupils to consider which health promoting activities they do ‘lots of’ and which activities are best done ‘sometimes’ allows them to understand the concept of moderation and abundance. This evolves into more mature language as the children progress through school, developing their understanding of the terms and how they can apply the principle in their everyday lives. Pupils are encouraged to debate, to analyse and to summarise, eventually creating a plan of action for real life.
See all health and wellbeing lesson plans in the CHP Academy
Agent Lifestyle inspires ‘Healthy Habits’ and helps children to understand the diverse aspects of a healthy lifestyle
Agent Lifestyle© places in value in some of the forgotten health secrets of past. He sleeps deeply for long periods, resting his mind and body to prepare for new learning. Every cell in his active, nourished body is plump with water, bringing clarity to challenging tasks. Outside, he breathes the fresh air which will aid his sleep, while the sun shines on as much of his skin as possible, allowing his body to produce Vitamin D for his bones and immunity. He fills his days with healthy hobbies, whilst maintaining balance with routine. Generally, his life is experienced in moderation, but abundance blossoms with healthy foods and activities. When spending time with family and friends, his teeth glisten with a happy smile.
Please note: You need a license to use Agent Lifestyle© in your school, which comes with membership to the CHP Academy
Regardless of whether you use The Children’s Health Project resources, Health Champions© or the Healthy Habits lesson plans from the Scheme of Work in your school, you can encourage a healthy lifestyle, full of abundance yet moderation, in school. Think outside the box – what are your staff’s daily health practices that keep them feeling happy and healthy? Talk to the children about how you moderate, and what should be enjoyed in life. This is a positive unit, with less emphasis on rules, and more focus on health promoting activities.
We’d like to hear your thoughts on what a ‘healthy lifestyle’ is to you, and how you develop this in school. Please comment below, or on our social media posts.