To Cook

Teaching children to cook helps them develop lifelong healthy eating habits, confidence and life skills:  

  • Helps them appreciate fresh foods
  • Provides opportunities to talk about nutrition
  • They’re more likely to eat what they make, try new things
  • Meals from scratch are more nutritious than pre-packed, processed
  • They learn reading (recipes), measuring (ingredients), math (fractions, weights), science, problem-solving and more

The Kids Cook Monday is a national campaign designed to get kids cooking. Its website has recipes appropriate for different age groups, games and other tips to teach kids to cook.

To Garden

Children love to get their hands dirty! When they grow their own foods, they are more interested in eating it, too. For Native communities, this offers a unique opportunity to also teach kids their own Native language and the traditional ways of their ancestors.

Tips for success:

  • Make it fun and interesting. Invite an elder to help and share stories while doing so about gardening and Native plants.
  • Start small. If you don’t have a lot of land, plant vegetables and other plants in a small raised bed or in containers. Even a bag of potting soil counts as a container!
  • Choose plants that are easy to grow. Kids like to see success. Sunflowers, squash, tomatoes, lettuces, peas and beans are simple. Consider planting a “three sisters” garden of corn, squash and beans.
  • Show children the basics of planting. Do the hard work of tilling, but let them bury the seeds or plant seedlings.
  • Talk to them about the importance of Native plants. Share stories about ancestors or your own gardening experiences, stress specific benefits of traditions plants and foods.
  • Keep gardening during the off season. Grow herbs indoors in small pots or a window box.

To Exercise

Recognizing that regular physical activity helps improve overall health and fitness and reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, many tribes are working to create more opportunities for exercise. Some are building trails or starting walking clubs. Others are maintaining playgrounds and participating in national programs to promote physical activity.

The sooner kids learn to move their bodies, the greater the chances that they’ll live healthy lives. In fact, research shows that if kids don’t learn to enjoy themselves on the playground or in other activities by the time they’re 10, they are less likely to choose physical activities as teenagers and adults. It’s recommended that children and adolescents do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

  • Set a positive example for your kids by leading an active lifestyle.
  • Make physical activity a family event: take walks together and invite elders to join. When your children are old enough to walk, take them on walks with you.
  • Take children to places where they can be active like public parks and playgrounds. Take them swimming and teach them to catch or shoot hoops.
  • Instead of watching TV after dinner, encourage children to be active with their friends or family by walking, playing chase, riding bikes, etc. Help organize games with other children nearby.
  • Encourage your children to play sports. Teach them traditional games like stickball.
  • Combine exercise with nutrition: plant a garden, plan an outing to harvest traditional foods growing nearby.
  • Encourage dancing at pow wows. Some tribes are promoting dance as a way of staying fit and healthy.