Archive for December, 2012

Fun Winter Break Activities to Stay Fit

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Despite our mammalian heritage, humans do not hibernate. Still, during winter break it’s difficult for you and your kids to resist the urge to hunker under the covers all day and escape the cold.
The weather might not permit an all-out workout routine, but if you think snow is a big downer, it’s time for an attitude change. There are still plenty of fun activities you and your kids can partake in to stay fit and work off those winter blues. Cold, snowy weather offers all new avenues of safe thrills and fun, so long as you and your kids bundle up for warmth.

winter trees
•    Sledding/snow tubing: Head to your local park or sledding hill with a sled or inner tube and ride on down the slope. Many cities have designated tubing hills. Climbing a hill with your sled in tow offers plenty of exercise and your kids won’t even know it. If you don’t have a sled, don’t fret. No high-end, fancy sleds needed (although those are fine too), a simple inner tube works great!

•    Skiing and snowboarding: Head to your nearest ski resort and strap on your skis or snowboard. Winding down slopes is a full-body exercise for your kids and works their balance, coordination, and core, arm, and leg muscles.

•    Snowshoeing: Dress warm and explore the local wilderness. Check your local nature centers and state or national parks for trails. For heavily snowed areas, you can rent a pair of snowshoes, which help distribute your weight over a larger surface area to prevent you from sinking into the snow. Many national parks offer snowshoe rentals during winter seasons.

•    Build a snowman: Or make a whole family of snowmen and women. Rolling up balls of snow is sure to work out your kids’ arms, legs, and imaginations. Top it all off with a carrot nose, scarf, and top hat.

•    Snowball fight: Choose sides, set up base, and let the snowballs fly. Dodge and maneuver your way to better positions. You can adjust this to a game of capture the flag. Just make sure the kids use soft balls of snow, free of rocks, ice, and debris—and faces are off limits.

•    Ice skating: Some cities’ parks and rec departments will actually flood parks in the winter to create outdoor rinks, but even non-freezing cities have indoor ice rinks. Your kids can exercise their balance, coordination, and leg muscles.

•    Hockey: Once your kids have their basic ice skating moves down, join in on a quick pick-up game of hockey. If your kids get into the sport, they can join a team and play all season.

•    Neighborhood stroll: During the holidays, your neighbors invest a great deal of time and money into all kinds of lights, inflatables, and décor. Take a night time stroll with the kids to see all those amazing holiday decorations and displays of imagination and creativity. You can get better acquainted with your neighborhood and enjoy some brisk exercise all at once.

•    Caroling: Memorize the family’s favorite holiday tunes and take the show on the road. This is a great way to meet the neighbors, exercise your lungs, and get your heart pumping. Include a charity can and donate the funds to your charity of choice.

•    Free play: If all else fails, let your kids have unbridled free play in the snow. They can create snow castles or forts, play their favorite summertime sports (with a twist), or imagine and act out grand, epic stories. As long as they’re having fun and not lazing about idly inside, your kids are doing enough to stay fit.

•    Shovel the driveway: At the end of all that snow play, you can incorporate even more physical activity by having your kids shovel the driveway and front walkway. Chores are chores. Treat them to some healthy snacks when they’ve finished.

•    Indoor fun: If the outsides are looking a little too harrowing, take the fun inside. There are a whole host of things you can do inside to stay active, or take the family over to the gym for indoor versions of your favorite sports, including swimming soccer, and rock climbing.


Photo Credit: Winter Trees by

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Thanksgiving is gone and past, which means the holiday season is creeping up. The holidays are a time for celebrating what you have with your friends, family, and other significant persons. Festivities usually center on giving gifts and, of course, eating a ton of delicious food—the latter of which can pose a big problem for those kids and adults looking to stay fit. Here are a few healthy holiday eating tips for you and your kids this holiday season.thanksgiving-dinner

  • Cook with healthier substitutes. Cooking a healthy holiday feast for the family doesn’t mean turning everything into boring, tasteless mush. With some simple substitutions, you can still enjoy your holiday favorites without as much of the bad stuff.

–   A little salt is fine, but too much sodium can lead to hypertension and a variety of other issues. Cut back on the salt and replace with some more creative flavorings. Use more herbs, spices, garlic, and lemon or other citrus juices to tickle the taste buds. Rosemary and sage are two particular herbs that go perfectly with holiday meals.

–   Whether you’re baking up some holiday treats or making your classic noodle casserole, opt for whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Refined carbohydrates like white flour aren’t sustaining and cause a drastic spike in blood sugar. Not the best combination.

–   Sugary sweets are a staple of the holiday season. Spice cake, cookies, pumpkin and pecan pies, and oh-so-much candy. Too much sugar can only cause trouble. If you’re mixing up any batter for baking, cut down on the sugar and replace with vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon. A great sweet substitute in cake recipes is apple sauce—it keeps cake moist as well!

  • Have a plan when holiday shopping. Long bouts of shopping inevitably lead to some hunger pangs. Instead of dashing for the food court or drive thru, have some snacks on hand or make sure your kids eat before the shopping trip. If you must eat out, choose a proper sit-down restaurant over anything in the food court. Sit-down eateries offer healthier choices and menu items that can be altered to fit a healthier diet.
  • Eat something before the party. You and the kids will no doubt be heading to a whole host of parties, soirees, and get-togethers throughout the holidays. Before you head out, enjoy a healthy meal or substantial snack at home. This may fill your kids up so they don’t eat as much at the party, but primarily, it will allay any stress or worries. You know your kids ate something healthy to balance out all the snacks and cookies they enjoy at the party.
  • Don’t single out the kids. You may primarily be concerned with your kids’ weight, but the whole family could use some healthy eats over the holidays. Singling your kids out while you enjoy all those rich holiday foods will only discourage and alienate them. Practice healthy eating with all the family members, regardless of size or fitness level. This will be easy if you…
  • Focus on the size of portions. Instead of restricting foods—difficult with such a diverse mix of delicious foods and ingredients—focus on portion sizes. Make sure each dish contains a balanced assortment of veggies, fruits, protein, and whole grains. Controlling portions also means avoiding overeating. Enjoy as much as you can to reach satisfaction; you should not feel morbidly full after every meal.carrots-and-snow-peas
  • Make each bit of food count. Teach your kids to make every bit of food count. Instead of piling food on their plates willy-nilly, your kids should choose their favorite treats and foods that are special and only available during the holiday season.
  • Incorporate plenty of physical activity. With the family around, take part in some fun physical activities. This doesn’t mean just heading to the gym. There are tons of ways to stay active without even realizing it. Instead of sitting idly around the house, take part in some classic snow activities, like ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, building snowmen, or partaking in snowball fights. Throw around the pigskin. Take a stroll through the neighborhood to check out all your neighbors’ Christmas lights and décor. Go on a short day-hike and come back in time for a delicious, healthy meal.
  • Enjoy the holidays. Take the focus off health and fitness during the holidays and concentrate on enjoying fun times with family and friends. Stress will only lead to overeating, poor choice of food, and grumpy spirits. It’s okay to let loose and indulge just a bit during the holidays.

Holiday Message from Paul Rosengard

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Hi everybody:

Happy holidays to you and yours from SPARK!

Hard to believe it’s nearly the end of 2012.  Whether you are a preschool teacher, an after school youth leader, a physical education specialist, classroom teacher, or administrator, we know how hard you worked every day this year for your students.

SPARK has been busy too – working for YOU.  Here are some of the new resources we created in 2012:

  • Launched our new High School Physical Education program.
  • Developed new e-only units for High School — FUNctional Fitness and Aqua-Fit — now in the HS section on (free to HS PE purchasers).
  • Posted e-versions of our printed manuals on in all programs.  This enabled everyone to download SPARK lesson plans to their iPads (or favorite tablet).  Free to current SPARKfamily members.
  • Developed Healthy Eating Goal Sheets to support PALA+ implementations – posted for members on
  • Added new alignment and supporting materials for the Presidential Youth Fitness Program and Fitnessgram to (free to members).
  • Built an e-text for secondary methods students, adding to the elementary version of SPARKuniversity already on
  • Created new assessment tools for elementary PE – located in the 3-6 program section on
  • Drafted new (free) state standards alignments (click here) for public access on
  • Developed a new (free) digital resource (click here) that helps CA elementary teachers plan their SPARK K-2 and 3-6 years leading with the CA PE Standards.

Our holiday gift to YOU is a promise to continue developing new, innovative tools that help your students learn and you to become the best teacher you can be.

On behalf of all of your friends at SPARK, have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Paul Rosengard

Executive Director


P.S.  Please note our offices will be closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1st.

Physical Education Grants for December

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Fuel Up to Play 60

National Dairy Council and the National Football League

Funding is available to K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60. The competitive, nationwide funding program can help your school jumpstart and sustain healthy nutrition and physical activity improvements. Funds can be used to conduct in-school promotions focused on creating a healthier school and to implement Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Plays. Funds can also be used for professional development, nutrition education materials, and physical education equipment & materials.

  • Award Amount: $4,000
  • Deadline: January 15, 2013
  • For More Information, Click Here

Big Help Grants


The Big Help Grant Program will support projects that inspire kids to take care of the environment; lead active, healthy lives; engage in community service; or improve their educational experience. Elementary schools and middle schools grades K-9 and after-school community-based organizations serving kids age 5-15 are eligible to apply. Two opportunities are available: (1) A $2,500 grant and (2) A $5,000 matching grant.

  • Award Amount: $2,500 or $5,000
  • Deadline: December 31, 2012
  • For More Information, Click Here

Learning & Leadership Grants

The National Education Association Foundation

Learning & Leadership grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education to fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research. All professional development must improve practice, curriculum, and student achievement. Apply for funding to attend the SPARK Institutes today!

  • Award Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: February 1, June 1, October 15
  • For More Information, Click Here

WellPoint Foundation Funding – Healthy Generations

WellPoint Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation invests in domestic initiatives that help improve the lives of people and the health of local communities. The Foundation promotes healthy behaviors, health-risk prevention, and healthy environments. Focus areas include childhood obesity prevention. The Foundation considers both local and national initiatives whose outcomes predominantly impact any of the 14 states in which WellPoint, Inc. does business. Eligible organizations include tax exempt organizations, schools, government units, and hospitals. Cycle One 2013 applications are due no later than Friday, April 19, 2013. Cycle Two 2013 applications are due no later than Friday, September 13, 2013.

  • Award Amount: Award amounts vary
  • Deadline: April 19, 2013
  • For More Information, Click Here

Top 3 fitness items on our holiday gift list for 2012…

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Looking for the perfect gift for that “active” person/people in your life? Ellen Ormsby, SPARK’s East Coast Program Representative, marathon runner and all-around fitness expert, shares the top 3 “fitness” items on her holiday gift list:

Polar Active Monitor Watch: Monitor instantly records movement and groups it into one of five activity zones. Provides instant feedback with animated figure, while target and achieved time are shown on the activity bar. Steps, calories, and time spent in activity zone are tracked in activity diary for two weeks. Users can store and share data, create individual and group reports, and track long-term progress on Click Here for more information and to purchase.

Aeromat Elite Mini Kettlebell Medicine Ball: Great for group exercise and personal training. The pliable material structure offers a user friendly alternative to traditional cast iron kettlebells. Versatile for core functions, abdominal strength and rotational movement training. Click Here for more information and to purchase.

Fit-Stik Bar: Fit-Stik Bar Adapts for use with Safety-Sleeve resistance bands. Compact, durable, strong workout bar works with a single resistance band in a free-standing exercise station, or it can be incorporated as part of the Wall Mount Gym III sold above. Full-body workouts with the resistance you choose. Foam covered bar, with secure attachment points for resistance band handles. Click Here for more information and to purchase.

Holiday 1-Minute Challenge Activities

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Here are three Holiday 1-Minute Challenges (think – Minute To Win It) for December to get your little elves moving with holiday cheer. Enjoy!

Holiday Star Popper 1-Minute Challenge (Grades K-6)

Snowball Hoop Blaster 1-Minute Challenge (Grades K-6)

Christmas Tree Farmer Fun 1-Minute Challenge (Grades K-6)

Holiday Present: 10% Off PE Equipment & Free Shipping!

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Use promo code “049HOLIDAY” to receive 10% off and free shipping for any physical education equipment available in SPARKstore… Click Here to start shopping!

Promo Code Details:

  • Promo Code is “049HOLIDAY”
  • Promo code can be used from: 12/09/12 – 12/31/2012
  • Promo code only valid on purchases made through SPARKstore
  • Free shipping does not apply to furniture, curriculum products, or other large ship items.  Items must ship parcel only to qualify for free shipping.  Available in continental U.S. only.  Online orders only

Healthy Holiday Recipe from HKC

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Our partners at Healthy Kids Challenge have shared one of their favorite healthy holiday recipes with us, so we’re sharing it with you! It may not seem like a traditional holiday dish, the red & green colors keep this dish festive… and it’s always good to mix things up a bit. Enjoy!

Chicken Milano

“Store-bought rotisserie chicken can be tossed into countless recipes from burritos to casseroles to pastas. Because the bird is already cooked, all you need to do is toss the chicken into your desired meal. [This] is a simple Ramen recipe where rotisserie chicken can be substituted in place of raw chicken breasts.”

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup chopped jarred sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 packages Ramen Noodles with 1 seasoning packet

Prep Time – 15 minutes   Cook Time – 30 minutes

Heat oil in a skillet; add chicken and garlic and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, basil and pepper. Simmer over low heat 5 minutes.

Cook noodles in water according to package directions; drain. Add 1 seasoning packet. Serve chicken mixture over warm noodles.

About Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC): HKC is a nonprofit, dedicated to helping schools, programs, and communities with solutions to support kids and families with making healthy eating and physical activity choices.