Engaging Kids in Healthy Activities and Eating | An Interview with Kerri Strug

Madilyn and Kerri Strug
Madilyn and Kerri Strug

I had the opportunity last week to attend the HERSHEY’S Family Play Day in Peoria.  While this was my first time ever hearing of this event, HERSHEY’S was celebrating their 36th year of engaging kids in healthy activities.  As an incentive for young families to become involved, HERSHEY’S has added the HERSHEY’S Family Play Day to their popular annual HERSHEY’S Track and Field Games event that partners with local elementary schools and High School Key Clubs to create a wonderful athletic opportunity for young kids.

During the event, I sat down with gymnast and gold medalist Kerri Strug to discuss some of the ways that you can engage a young family in living an active healthy lifestyle.

Question: How did you get connected with HERSHEY’S?  

Due to my background in athletics and now being a new mom, the importance of active play is something that is really critical for me.  I like to serve as a role model and spread that message so it was a really good fit.  They are promoting these Family Play Day’s across the country and I like to be affiliated with things I really believe in and have lived through.  With my son, who is now 13 months old, we are trying to just live a really healthy balanced life style so it just fit in perfectly.

Question: What are some of the things that you include in a balanced lifestyle?

Eating, of course, lots of fruits and vegetables and protein and moderation is the key.  I think indulging in things that you enjoy is important too it helps create memories.  Being a former athlete and doing everything 100%, for my youngster I’m hoping to have more of a balance so that he can have a lot of fun but also be on the straight and narrow.  He can pick certain activities and he doesn’t need to be the best at them, but he needs to be active and try them.  {With eating} Of course you can have that HERSHEY’S kiss if you want but first you need to have your broccoli and chicken.  We are trying to start young, I think that’s the time they are the most influential and if that’s all they know then it’s something they can mature into.

Question: If you could give a tip to a mom as to how to get involved actively, what would that be?

I think you can have active play anywhere.  Just take your child(ren) outside and use chalk on the sidewalk and do hopscotch or you can play simon says.  Inside you can pull the cushions off the couch and create an obstacle course for them.  My son loves us chasing him on the bed and we get good exercise because of course he doesn’t realize he can fall off so we are running around before he has the opprotunity to hurt himself.  There’s a lot of fun easy ways and you can look for great tips at TheModerationNation.com

I think it’s important to teach youth about boundaries and disciplines and it’s great for me to come out here.  Some of the games I remember as a child but I wouldn’t have thought to do them with my son today.  So I think what HERSHEY’S is doing with these family play days is just take a step back, I know we are all busy, but we have some good light-hearted fun and create amazing memories through active play with our youth.

Question: As far as eating a balanced lifestyle, what are some tips you can give moms about incorporating healthy eating for kids?

I think again, it’s easy to be judgmental until you’re in a certain place and my son is still young so he still eats what I provide him. I think you have to be creative from what I hear.  There’s books out there about how to incorporate vegetables into more yummy treats, you kind of have to hide them, but I encourage parents to do that because of course they need the nutrients to help them grow and be heathy.  On the same token, I think it’s important to teach our youth that you can’t just always have what you want and I don’t agree with bribery, but it’s a give and take.  If you eat some of your protein and carbohydrate then you can have your sweet and I think that they will learn that best through repetition and guidance from the parent.

HERSHEY’S is currently piloting these Family Play Day’s in 8 different cities across the country during their HERSHEY’s Track and Field Games events.  With a goal of creating a fun environment with simple activities that can be recreated easily in any home or yard, HERSHEY’s hopes to continue to promote a balanced lifestyle of moderation.


My daughter was able to participate in some of the activities at the event and here were her favorites:

  • Bean bag toss (or in AZ summer – water balloon toss).  Start close together and each successful catch merits a step backward (further apart).  Continue until one person misses and the bag (balloon) hits the ground.
  • HulaHoop.
  • Egg (or ping pong ball) and spoon races.  Each racer gets an egg (or ping pong ball) and has to race the other person to a finish line without dropping their egg (ball) off the spoon.  This can also be set up as a relay.
  • Random Item Bowling.  Set up empty bottles, water jugs, cardboard boxes, etc and have fun knocking them down with any kind of ball.

What are some simple fun activities that you like to play with your kids?  What are some ways you promote a balanced lifestyle in your home?


I was invited by HERSHEY’s to the HERSHEY’S Family Play Day in Phoenix and was provided with information by HERSHEY’s. All expressed opinions are my own.



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