Out of School Time

Creating Healthier Playful Environments with the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative

This article is part of our Member Blog Series, which showcases Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative Members' efforts and commitment to ensure that play is a critical element in the lives of people of all ages. Each month, a different member organization will share their take on how play is a part of the work they do. The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative hopes that these stories of play from our diverse set of member organizations will encourage and inspire leaders in communities, businesses, schools and families to prioritize play every day.

After school programs across Pittsburgh are making play a priority by joining the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative (HOST) from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. HOST is one tool from the Alliance to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and create healthier environments for youth across the country. In January of 2016, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC partnered with fitUnited of the United Way of Southwestern PA to launch HOST in the Greater Pittsburgh region.

HOST provides a way for after school programs to assess how well their program promotes healthy eating and physical activity. One very important best practice after school programs analyze is how often they offer quality physical activity, or in other words--quality play time! Healthy Out-of-School Time sites strive to incorporate at least 30 minutes of play time each day to get kids moving and active.

HOST also recognizes that it’s not enough for after school programs to just offer play time but also to equip after school program staff with the knowledge and skills to promote the value of play and serve as healthy role models. HOST trains participating site staff on how to effectively communicate important health messages, lead activities and understand how they can impact the health of the children they interact with.

When children are not in school or at home, they are most likely participating in an after school program. While the school day is mostly governed by sitting still in class, after school time provides an opportunity for kids to release the energy they build up during the school day. When children expect play time in their after school program, playing and being physically active becomes a more natural health habit that they will continue to incorporate into their daily life as an adult.

Growing from just 12 programs in 2016 to 70 programs in 2017, more after school programs are joining the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative in an effort to make the Pittsburgh after school setting a healthier environment for children to grow up in. Is your child’s after school program making healthy eating, physical activity and play a priority?

To learn more about HOST, contact Justine Fuga at justine.fuga@unitedwayswpa.org.