It’s a question we ask our kids routinely.

“What did you do at school today?”

Winter activity

When it comes to physical activity and nutrition, we don’t always like — or know — the answer. As parents, we work hard to make sure our kids are eating healthy at home, limiting snacks and screen time and getting opportunities to play and be active. We can’t always know or control what our kids are eating or how active they are at school, where they spend almost 1,200 hours a year, more than anywhere else outside our homes.

The good news is parents can play a role in making sure their kids are exposed to healthy foods and getting plenty of opportunities to be physically active during the school day. In the winter months, it can be especially challenging for kids to get the recommended amounts of physical activity in school — 150 minutes a week in elementary school, 225 minutes a week in middle and high school.

How you can help

It can be difficult to know where to start, but as many parents involved in school wellness can attest, once they get started, it’s impossible to stop — school wellness is infectious. To make a difference in your child’s school and their day, get a handle on three things:

Does your school allow adequate time for kids to have recess? Do they avoid restricting recess as a punishment and provide extra recess time as a reward? Do they have an active indoor recess program to ensure kids get physical activity during inclement weather? Join your school wellness team and get involved in recess at your school.

“By getting involved in school wellness, you can help reinforce the healthy habits your kids are learning at home.”

Second, the school year is full of holiday and other celebrations that often involve sweet treats. Help make those celebrations healthy ones by working with the principal to incorporate healthy and active classroom parties into the school’s wellness policy. Ask parents to bring in colorful fruits, veggies and other healthy snacks instead of candy and sweets. Talk to the school about incorporating active games and non-food rewards as part of classroom celebrations.

Lastly, allow for brain breaks. Research shows that kids who are physically active during the school day are more behaved and better able to focus and learn. If you are concerned your child is sitting at a desk all day with little opportunity to get up and move around, talk to teachers and school administrators about incorporating brain breaks in the classroom. Brain breaks are short bursts of activity from 1 to 5 minutes that can energize the body and help focus the mind — from counting to 10 while doing jumping jacks to stretching and breathing exercises.

By getting involved in school wellness, you can help reinforce the healthy habits your kids are learning at home. And you’re bound to learn something new for your family’s health in the process.