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60 Minutes of Play, Every Day

Written by Catherine Holecko  Once a month, my daughter’s middle school has a half-day dismissal for teacher development. While this wreaks havoc on my work schedule, my daughter loves it—but not for the reasons you’d expect. Sure, she enjoys having the afternoon off from school. But she really enjoys the morning activities. Instead of having classes, she and her peers spend their entire shortened school day playing: dancing in the cafeteria, throwing footballs outside, playing basketball in the gym, and more. “We get to do cool stations and dance,” says my 11-year-old. “We get to hang out with our friends while doing fun activities, and no one yells at us for talking!” The photo shows a display of snaps of the kids during a Fuel Up activity—I love the action shots! This is all thanks to the school’s participation in Fuel Up to Play 60, a program sponsored by the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. Fuel Up, and its cousin Play60, can take many forms. (Last year, my kids’ elementary school had a one-day Fuel Up event with football-themed activities.) But the goal is always the same: to encourage kids, tweens and teens to play actively for at least 60 minutes a day, every day. At my daughter’s school, several teachers lead the effort to infuse more physical activity into kids’ school experience via these monthly events. Kids can also log in to the Fuel Up website anytime and track their daily activity minutes, keep a basic food diary, get ideas for school events and report on activities they’ve done. All this earns points and rewards for themselves and for their school. My sixth-grader is a Fuel Up leader, which means she helps plan and run activity stations on Fuel Up days. She hopes to incorporate lesser-known sports, such as lacrosse, into Fuel Up day events. So far, she has found that kids absolutely love a good dance party, but activities that require them to hold hands (like the Hula-Hoop pass) are a much tougher sell! I asked my daughter why she thinks this program is important. Here’s what she said: “If kids just sit in class all day, they might start to think that exercising isn’t important. In middle school you don’t get recess anymore. So it’s good to let kids know that they still need to play or exercise for at least 60 minutes a day.” I get that not everyone loves the NFL (or even the Dairy Council), and there are good reasons for that. But so far, this program is a touchdown for my daughter and her classmates, and I’m glad they can participate. If you, your child or your child’s teacher is interested in Fuel Up, visit Catherine Holecko is the Family Fitness Expert at She lives in Green Bay Packers territory with her tweens and husband.