Foxes, Trees and Squirrels

Our School Age Child Care program is currently operating in 16 local communities, to more than 660 students, facilitated by more than 80 staff members. The program’s focus is on four core content areas: Art, Literacy, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and Health and Wellness, and consistently recognizes the YMCA’s 9 Dimensions of Well-being: Health, Character, Achievement, Giving, Meaning, Safety, Belonging, Inspiration, and Relationships.

One successful tool utilized by our SACC program is CATCH, which stands for Coordinated Approach to Child Health. CATCH Kids Club is a physical activity and nutrition education program designed for elementary aged children in an after-school setting – how perfect! For us, CATCH is an incredibly valuable resource base for nutrition education materials, snack activities, and physical activity ideas. Some of our students’ favorite CATCH games are Dragon Tails, Sherlock Holmes, Satellites, Up and Over, and Foxes, Trees and Squirrels. Have your children played these games? Which one is their favorite and why?

CATCH games have become so popular at our sites, that when non-CATCH games are played, the children “CATCHify” them – adjusting games so that everyone is included and can play the entire time. Dodge ball, a favorite, becomes dodge ball with re-entry. Knock Out, a basketball game that usually ends up with all but 2 players sitting on the sidelines, becomes a game of double Knock Out, where two games are played simultaneously, and when a child gets out of one game they switch to the other. “CATCHified” games have become a wonderful tool for teaching a few of the YMCA’s 9 Dimensions of Well-being. And best of all, everyone is having fun!


Real Results By HEPA Standards

Every day we serve fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy grains to children in communities across New Hampshire. And almost every day, in at least one community, we hear children say “I don’t like that”. We know it’s normal for a child to express disinterest in something they are unfamiliar with. We follow up with questions “Have you ever tried it?” and always encourage a “no thank you bite” – hopefully fostering a desire or willingness to try new things. Recently in Hampstead, a little boy would not try the vegetable offered at snack (red and orange peppers). He was insistent and only ate the grains; however, afterward he was still hungry. A staff member suggested he try the peppers because they taste good and he just might like them. He agreed, stiffened up, and braced himself for the taste of an orange pepper. After a big bite, his face changed and he said “Wow! This tastes like candy!” He said that because the peppers were red and orange, like the color of fire, he had thought they would be spicy and hot. Now, he is happily eating peppers!

We see similar examples endlessly, children exclaiming “Ew, beans!” at the start of a quesadilla cooking lesson, and by the end saying “yum, I love beans!”. We are proud to say we follow the HEPA (Healthy Eating, Physical Activity) Standards in each of our 16 afterschool programs.  We are encouraging nearly 700 children daily to try new fruits and vegetables, and we are providing them with 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

We have children in Raymond going home to their families and teaching them how to make “fruit salsa” and then reporting back to our YMCA staff with the results. There are children in Exeter (among other towns) who now continually add fruit to their water because one time a staff person role modeled by putting slices of grapefruit and lemon in their water. Children are watching staff and their peers try new things on a daily basis and they’re becoming more inclined to join them. Following HEPA Standards continues to have wonderful impact on our communities. We are passionate about this movement and are hopefully grooming children in our programs to be our futures spokespeople.