By Lisa Wallenda Picard, Food Safety and Inspection Service Chief of Staff
“Stop! She has to eat some fruit! Don’t give her MORE chips! MOM – Cassie’s going to kill her daughter with all this junk food!” Ceci Picard, aged 11, while playing one of the Apps for Healthy Kids entries.
I admit the quote above isn’t the usual nightly exchange I hear between my two tween daughters. This week they have been happily trying all the new games in the Apps for Healthy Kids gallery. Since their mom works at the Department of Agriculture, they have been exposed to the idea of healthful, safe food frequently in their young lives. But as all parents finally admit, kids often choose to do the opposite of what we tell them to do. These apps have been great at reinforcing the points I’ve been making for several years now, but in a much cooler way!
While my daughters’ were playing one of their favorite apps, they got to see that if you feed your virtual child lots of unhealthy food it makes him or her weak and slow. My 10 year old was able to quickly grasp that eating too much of the wrong food would make her “child” not feel well. “So that’s why you make me eat lots of fruits and healthy stuff, Mom,” she said.
In another favorite app, they learned that carbo-loading with a huge bowl of pasta is fine before a swim meet, but not something you do before going to sit and watch movies. I heard lots of giggling over the app which features an alien, who while visiting planet earth, ends up eating so much junk food that he gets too fat to get back in his spaceship. Kids learn that you are what you eat, and the affect caloric intake has on your body, while laughing all the way through the lesson.
These games are a hit in my house and I love knowing that my daughters are learning about habits that will make them healthy for a lifetime. I encourage you to take some time with a young person in your life, log on and vote for your favorite games or apps until August 14 at: http://www.appsforhealthykids.com/