There’ll be no lazy days of summer when leaders of YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh roll out their plans to keep kids moving and motivated once school is out.
YMCAs throughout Allegheny County will join together on April 21 at 11 locations to celebrate Healthy Kids Day, a national initiative to improve health and well-being for families by encouraging them to jump into a season of fun. Nearly 1.2 million children and their families are expected to participate at more than 1,600 locations nationwide.
Each site will offer a variety of free activities, in addition to visits with community partners who will help kick off a safe and healthy summer. Some of the topics will focus on the importance of bike helmets and swimming safety.
Healthy Kids Day will feature educational activities, too, such as parent-child exercise classes, police and fire safety demonstrations, aquatic activities, healthy eating, plus arts and crafts, all designed to motivate families to develop healthy routines at home.
The Wilmerding YMCA is planning carnival-themed activities, including balloon darts, cat-rack and a fish pond. Free swimming will run from noon to 1 p.m. and a bounce house will be open in the afternoon. Sports, including flag football and kickball, will be offered outside, weather permitting, and vendors and food trucks will be on site.
“The goal of the day is to promote the YMCA as a whole, and to promote fitness and nutrition for our youth,” says Mike Nicastro, youth and family program director.
“I’m really excited to be hosting the event at our branch this year,” says Marisa Iverson, senior program director of healthy living & aquatics at Allegheny YMCA on the North Side. “Our neighborhood and facility have changed so much over the last few years and we have more kids around in our YMCA. We have become that spot where youths come to hang out after school and the place people on the North Side come to for swim lessons.”
In collaboration with the Pittsburgh Police, they will host a SWAT truck, police motorcycle — and probably the bomb squad.
The YMCA will offer a “zero join fee” that day with the purchase of any Y program or service, such as swim lessons, summer camp, or youth sports programs. Discounts will be offered at participating locations. Healthy Kids Day participants will receive a “passport” for special giveaways and door prizes.
“We strive to help kids find potential within themselves,” says Kevin Bolding, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh president and CEO. “A child’s development is never on vacation and Healthy Kids Day is a great opportunity to educate families and motivate kids to stay active in spirit, mind and body throughout the summer.”
Research shows that without access to out-of-school learning activities, students fall behind academically. They gain weight twice as fast in summer than during the school year. Healthy Kids Day is intended to help families address both issues during the upcoming summer vacation.
“As an organization that prioritizes youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, it is exactly what we stand for,” says Gretchen North, associate vice president of healthy living. “Kids and families get to experience youth sports samplers, group exercise demos, healthy snacks and fun competitions.”
A few Ys will be holding their Healthy Kids Day at community locations other than the YMCA. Check out each branch’s schedules and locations here.
Healthy living tips for parents:
In celebration of YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, the Y offers the following tips to help families develop healthy habits:
‘High-Five’ Fruits and Veggies: Make sure kids get at least five servings a day, the minimum number nutritionists recommend to maintain healthy childhood development. And to keep kids’ taste buds evolving, have everyone in the family try at least one bite of a new fruit or vegetable once a month.
Foster an early passion for books: Read to and with your kids. Help children read at every age and every stage of their development.
Team up for athletic events: Set a family goal of great health by teaming up for community or charity events like races, walks, fun runs and bike rides.
Volunteer together: Find a cause that matters to the kids. Open their eyes to a world beyond themselves and the rich rewards that come from making a difference.
Make sleep a priority: Doctors recommend 10-12 hours of sleep a day for children ages 5-12 and 7-8 hours per night for adults. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining healthy immune systems, metabolism, mood, memory, learning and other vital functions.