Author Archives: Jenny Mathis

Preventing Childhood Obesity

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

As a parent in today’s hurry-up society, I recognize how easy it can be to succumb to unhealthy habits that are responsible for creating an overweight child.  For the sake of convenience and budget, we all have all been guilty of these habits. My vice? Swinging by the closest fast food joint when the evening hours fade away after extracurricular events or running errands. At some point in time, most of us have relied on a computer screen to keep a child occupied. It sure makes things easier to handle issues, cook dinner, or just sit down and take a deep breath.

If we take time to look at the potential long term effects, it can help families become empowered to make small changes that will make big impacts.


Statistics says that nearly 1 in 3, or over 30% of Hoosiers are overweight or obese*. Unfortunately, this trend is getting worse, and the numbers are increasing each year.  What can you do to make sure that your family is not among these statistics?


Childhood presents an opportunity to instill life- long healthy habits with regards to physical activity and healthy eating. I find these some ideas helpful:

  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids in between meals on busy days.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Set aside time for physical activity.

Staying active and eating healthy is the key to helping combat this ever growing problem.


Do your child and yourself a favor. Role model behaviors. Incorporate healthy behaviors as often as you can. Eat right. Keep moving. Little changes will render big gains.


For more tips, check out these resources:

Cover image by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, Creative Commons license.

*Harper, Jake. “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 Hoosiers Obese.” WFYI Public Media, 21 Sept. 2015, Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.


Closing the summer learning gap

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

In the blink of an eye, the school year is over and another summer is before you.  The majority of us out there are working parents, and we often have a hard balance to achieve in the summer: keeping kids safe, enriching their learning, and seeing that they have an enjoyable time.

If you’re like many parents, you secured a spot for your child at a local day camp or child care facility.   As a concerned and engaged parent, you may be wondering how your child will fare in the two months spent away from the formal education they received at school. Will they have an educational experience that will fill the gap of school?

Research shows all young people experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities over the summer, and most students lose almost two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills 1.

While these stats are startling, you can do your part to help your child lessen these kinds of summer losses. Knowing these gaps exist is your first line of defense when it comes to helping your child.  Instead of relying on the summer camps and child care to help fill the gaps, you can help fill the gap by doing your part at home.  Parents are in fact their child’s original teacher, right?

The thought of trying to facilitate your child’s learning is probably the last thing on your mind after a long day at work. However, it may involve less effort than you think.


Below are some simple strategies that you can use at home with your child:

  • Limit screen time. Set limits on how much television, computer, video game, and tablet time your child may spend, based on the amount appropriate for his or her age.  Encourage games and websites that are educational and interactive. The Minnesota Parent Center offers a page of links with websites that are parent-approved, safe, and educational.
  • Use practical applications to teach. Participate with your kids in everyday activities. Help your kids set up a lemonade stand. Let them help you cook dinner or bake a dessert.  Put them in charge of tasks while grocery shopping, such as keeping track of coupons or finding the lowest-priced item.
  • Encourage exploration and adventure (even if it’s only in your backyard)! Ask open-ended questions to spark your child’s curiosity.
  • Take your child places in your community. Local parks, museums, theaters, libraries, or zoos help children learn about the world around them.

As you can see, many of the strategies are things you are probably doing anyway. Why not capitalize on the experiences and turn them into teaching moments for your child? The benefits will be long lasting.

A wise man once said, ”Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

Here’s to a summer of experiences and learning that lasts a lifetime!


1 National Summer Learning Association:

Cover image by Flickr user Penn StateCreative Commons license.


Lights on Afterschool – Celebrate Your Program!


Did you know…220,573 students are on their own in the hours after school right here in Indiana? 308,914 students would participate in an afterschool program if one were available to them!  These numbers highlight the need for afterschool programming in our state. Research confirms that high quality afterschool programs are having great impacts on children’s lives.
On October 20, 2016 , there will be a  highlight of this need across the nation. Lights On Afterschool is a celebration of afterschool programs nationwide.  On this day, programs are encouraged to highlight their programs and the importance they make in the lives of children, families, and communities. The events send a powerful message across the United States that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs.
If you are an afterschool provider, you can register your event on the Afterschool Alliance’s website. This site also provides great ideas for how to promote your program and to simply celebrate!

You can also read more about Indiana statistics regarding the need for afterschool programs.

Helping your Child Prepare for Going Back to School

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist 

As a mom of a thirteen year old, I understand the struggle that can ensue after a long summer of staying up late, sleeping in late, and having little to no structure to the day. Like the rest of the parents out there, I recognize the potential stress that comes along with trying to get kids back on a school time schedule. One thing I have learned the hard way? Don’t wait until the weekend before school starts! You can’t expect a smooth transition without some lead time.  My best advice is to start early. By early, I mean at least one to two weeks before school starts.

Start the transition process by having a conversation with your child about the importance of settling back into a “school routine.” Like adults, kids need to understand the “why” behind change in order to embrace it and act on it. Let’s face it – if your kid is anything like mine, he will question it just because that’s his natural response to doing something that he doesn’t really want to do!  Once your child is aware of why the change is necessary, he can more easily accept it and take the steps needed to do so.

Start by gradually decreasing how long your child stays up at night. It can be a little challenging at first, because he might not feel sleepy and you may get the argument my son gives, “It’s still daylight out.” As the days the pass, the argument’s validity will fade along with the summer sun. Remember, research shows that school-age children need at least 10 hours a sleep a night.

Once you have a grasp on the bedtime, begin incorporating a wake-up time that is reasonable for your child when he returns to school. Initially, you may need to allow for more time in the morning until you can tweak the routine for what works best.

As you begin to help your child reestablish a morning routine, keep in mind your child’s habits regarding waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and personal hygiene. If you already know that your child will require a little more time, allow for it from the beginning. If, for example, your child struggles to pick out her outfit in the morning, start planning outfits the night before. Allow time for your child to eat a healthy breakfast and have some “wake up” time if your child isn’t able to get alert easily and quickly.  It can be stressful for a child, and a parent for that matter, to feel like they don’t have time to complete all the tasks that are required of them. The last thing you want for your child is to send them out the door to school already in a tiff from the morning!

So, start the process early, talk with your child about the transition, and be mindful of your child’s individual needs. Before long, you will be right back in the groove of things and have stress-free mornings and an eager learner to send off to school!

For more tips to help with the transition check out:

[1] Center for Disease Control

Cover image by Flickr user Ty HatchCreative Commons license.