Tips on Teaching Sugar Awareness to Primary Pupils
One of the earliest targets in the government's fight against child obesity was sugar. Britain's controversial 'sugar tax' came into effect less than a year ago. Yet, it's been so widely discussed, so fervently chewed over that it feels like it's been with us much longer. In the end, despite initial concerns, the soft drinks tax really has had a positive impact on the prevalence of sugary drinks in lour communities and, in particular, their accessibility for younger children.
The vast majority of drinks manufacturers have risen to the challenge and cut the sugar content in their products as advised. It may only be one step, in the grand tale of our nation's sugar habits, but it's a positive change. It needs to be supported, however, by practical changes in our homes, local businesses and, most importantly, our schools.
Teaching sugar awareness to children can be tricky - many adults are unaware of the prevalence of added sugars in supermarket foods - but it's a necessary part of guiding young people to make healthier choices. It's easy to take away. And in some ways, it's effective. The problem is, it rarely produces sustainable change.
For long term health and wellbeing, the most powerful solution is teaching children how to manage their own sugar consumption and take ownership of their healthy choices. Here are some fun, effective ways to teach sugar awareness to primary pupils:
How Much Sugar Is It Safe for Children to Eat?
According to the latest medical advice, children between four and six should consume no more than 19g of added sugar (five cubes) per day.
Children aged seven to ten years should not exceed more than 24g (six cubes) per day.
1. Measure It!
What You Need: sugar cubes or loose sugar, weighing scales (optional), empty snack/food packets
Collect some empty snack packets. Ask pupils to bring one empty packet each to the lesson (even better if it's a favourite treat). They shouldn't choose packets based on how little or how much sugar they contain. It's best to have a varied mixture of sweet, savoury, healthy and unhealthy examples. Carefully weigh out 19g (or 24g, as appropriate) of sugar.
Carefully weigh out 19g (or 24g, as appropriate) of sugar. Is the daily allowance more or less than pupils expected?
Together or in small teams, investigate the sugar content of your snacks (accounting for serving size). Represent the content visually by weighing it out in loose sugar or figuring out the equivalent amount of sugar lumps. Discuss the results of your experiment. Which products contain an unhealthy amount of sugar? Do any contain less sugar than expected? What are some healthy alternatives to the sugariest snacks?
Bonus Activity: Use empty wrappers and packets to create a Sugar Awareness display. Stick your packets to a board and add illustrations to demonstrate the volume of sugar in each. Make it bright, vibrant and colourful!
2. Guess It!
What You Need: 1 large cup or beaker (750ml+), 100ml of sugar (20 tsps), 1 spoon
This is a simple exercise but it's a clever way to show pupils how easy it is to underestimate the sugar content of beverages. And it makes a clear comparison with water which is the healthiest drink for children. Fill a (preferably clear) beaker with 600ml of water. This will represent an average sized bottle of sugary pop.
It's easiest to perform this activity as a demonstration to pupils. However, you could also set teams up with beakers of their own. In any case, encourage the children to guess how many teaspoons of sugar (1-20) are needed to make the water as sugary as a sugary pop.
Most pupils will guess low, so the next step will be a surprise. The actual answer is 18 teaspoons (almost all of the sugar you have to hand). Have pupils count along with you as take a spoon and add this amount to the water.
Bonus Activity: Set up a fruit station and encourage pupils to liven up their water bottles. Add slices of lemon, apple, cucumber, strawberry or watermelon for a juicy sweetness that is healthy and full of body boosting vitamins.
3. Observe It!
What You Need: 4 hardboiled eggs, 4 large cups or beakers, 500ml of milk, 500ml of a fizzy drink, 500ml of water, 500ml of fruit juice
This activity is performed over the course of a week. You'll need a safe space to leave your beakers for this duration. The egg shell is a representation of tooth enamel. It has a similar structure and behaves in a similar way when exposed to sugar.
Split your pupils into four teams. Assign one of the beverages (water, milk, fizzy pop, fruit juice) to each team. Give each an egg. Ask children to fill their beaker and carefully add the egg. They should make written predictions about what they think might happen to the egg after a week.
Treat this activity like a science experiment. Ask pupils to check their eggs each morning before lessons. They should make notes and pay special attention to any changes. After a week, have teams record the results. Then, compare them with the earlier predictions. Finally, ask teams to compare results with one another and, if they differ, discuss why this might be.
Bonus Activity: Perform a concurrent hydration experiment. Fill a beaker with water. Add 3-4 drops of food colouring. Insert a celery stalk (keep the leaves but cut a quarter inch off the stalk to expose fresh cells). The celery leaves will change colour as the water is pushed and circulated throughout, as happens in our own bodies.
Amaven Healthy Schools: We've added a Rate the Plate activity to your portal. It encourages pupils to look at healthy ingredients in new ways and use all five senses to investigate their food.
Log in to your portal and click the Amaven Heroes tab to view and download.