Winn Army Community Hospital’s Department of Public Health and Fort Stewart’s Dental Activities Command teamed up last month to teach healthy habits to children at Stewart’s child-development centers as part of Winn’s observance of Month of the Military Child.
Child and Youth Services health consultant Shirley Frasier, childhood-obesity prevention coordinator Sandra Durrence and DENTAC Sgt. Joel Galarza taught nearly 300 CDC children healthy habits, including hand-washing, healthy eating, exercise and proper oral hygiene.
“If the kids of those who protect us are well, their parents can do their jobs more efficiently,” Durrence said. “We start out teaching (3- to 5-year-olds) about hand washing, then we move on to healthy eating and exercise, then to proper tooth-brushing.”
Twelve children, with three adult supervisors, marched into the room and sat in semicircle facing their special guests. Frasier, who coordinated the instructional visits, began by asking the kids if they wanted to have some fun and learn something new. The response to learning was less enthusiastic than the one for having fun. When they heard she was going to read a book, however, they got excited.
Frasier sat in a folding chair in front of them, reading “Germs Are Not for Sharing” by Elizabeth Verdick. She facilitated their participation in the reading by getting them to respond to her questions about what to do when they’re about to sneeze or cough. She explained why hand-washing is important, telling them the best way to prevent colds and an infection is through hand-washing.
Together, the children simulated how to wash their little hands, rolling hand over fist. Frasier then gave them a visual example of “virtual germs” with a dye she applied to one boy’s and one girl’s hands.
They could only see the “germs” when Durrence shined an ultraviolet light on their hands. These children were allowed to go to the sink and wash their hands. When they returned, Durrence again shined the light on their hands. This time there were no germs. To reinforce this illustration even more, they watched a video about proper hand-washing.
Durrence turned the discussion to healthy food and exercise. The kids learned about the five basic food groups and were told the number of servings of each they should have every day. She taught them how to distinguish between foods that help them grow and foods that help them go. She reinforced this part of the lesson with an activity that allowed them to rise from a sitting position to standing for “grow” foods and run in place for “go” foods.
To see if they understood, she’d call out the name of a particular food and ask if it was good or bad for them. Bread, for example, was good and candy was bad. But when she called out ice cream, she got mixed responses with most kids saying ice cream was good.
“Yes, ice cream is good, but too much of it is not good for you,” Durrence said with a laugh.
To reinforce the healthy-eating lesson, she taught the kids the chicken dance. After walking them through each step — beak, wings, tail then clap — the chicken-dance song prompted the kids to follow along with her. The youngsters seemed to particularly enjoy shaking their tail feathers.
Galarza, who was awarded DENTAC’s Military Outstanding Volunteer Services Medal in 2012, brought out a very large toothbrush and a just-as-large set of teeth. Two volunteers came forward to show Galarza how to properly brush the teeth. He reminded the children to brush their teeth twice a day.
Frasier, Durrence and Galarza concluded their instructional visit by telling the little ones it was good that they learn healthy habits at a young age so they can grow to be strong and healthy. After the program, the kids each were given a toothbrush, sugar-free candy and a healthy-habits coloring book.