March 04, 2022

Health and Wellness in Afterschool

By Anna Sanders |

Successful intentional health and wellness in afterschool is not always a piece of cake. Kids want cake, but not always yoga, competitive sports, or mindfulness. You might be asking yourself, why students wouldn’t love yoga, or basketball? It could be that mediation is practiced differently at home. It could be that a child is bored and would rather chew off their arm than meditate in child’s pose. It might be that competitive sports can be difficult and even overwhelming for some children. So, how do you find the perfect formula for intentional health and wellness in afterschool? 


First let's reflect on your personal views of health and wellness. You for Youth’s self-assessment tool, "Personal Views on Health and Wellness", can help you find your role in health and wellness.  Are your views of Health and Wellness different from when you were a kid? Most likely your views have developed over time and changed based on beliefs, environment, cultural backgrounds, and personal likes and dislikes. Students' views also develop in similar ways. So, how do you find out what interests students?  A simple way to do this is to ask your students this question: If you were in charge of our afterschool program, what would you like to do for Health and Wellness? 

Don’t forget that parents can support health and wellness in your programs. Not only can they help, but they want to see health and wellness in afterschool. Afterschool Alliance reported 8 out of 10 parents want afterschool programs to provide physical activities. Meals, snacks and beverages are also important to parents. Part of the formula for implementing health and wellness is engaging families with educational materials and activities around healthy living and physical activities.  Asking parents for input and listening to their voice will provide you with a wealth of information. You for Youth provides a "Family Health and Wellness Self Assessment".


Mindfulness can be a valuable tool to practice emotions, focus, and achievement. Mindfulness with students should be very intentional, and carefully planned out and introduced ahead of time, giving students time to make a positive transition. Using imagination with students can make mindfulness activities fun, playful, and engaging. Some of my favorite activities come from Mindfulness Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland and Annaka Harris.  For additional mindfulness practices check out this list of "Best Practices for Mindfulness" provided by You for Youth


Last but not least, consider your resources within the school day and on a federal level. Accessing federal child nutrition programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, the National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program, can support healthy nutrition. These federal programs provide reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children.

Another important resource is connecting with the school day Principal. Finding ways to support school day health and wellness goals will enhance afterschool programming, and create opportunities for success. If going to the Principal's office still gives you goosebumps, then you are not alone. Here are some conversation starters that will help connect with the Principal, and successfully help you to prepare a plan for partnering with the school day around health and wellness.  

If you would like to dive in a little deeper and learn more about health wellness, then check out the National AfterSchool Association(NAA) adopted standards for healthy eating and physical 2.0 activity (HEPA) in Out-of-School time. 

Photo by: //">Sarah Pflug