Commercial Mania

For Upper Elementary Children

Objective:

Children will think about the commercials they see on TV, then categorize them and identify what they see the most.

Materials and Preparation:

  • Pieces of paper cut in half
  • Pencils or markers
  • Tape
  • Colorful paper with the following words written on individual pages: Healthy Drinks, Sugary Drinks, GO foods, SLOW foods, Fast Food or Pizza Restaurants, Toys or Video Games, and Sports Equipment

Instructions:

  1. Give each child 2-3 small pieces of paper. Instruct the children to list 1-3 of their favorite TV commercials, writing down one commercial per page.
  2. While they are writing, tape the commercial categories on the board or wall. Show the children the categories and see if they can name at least one product advertised in each category.
  3. Tell children that GO foods are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk or dairy foods, lean meats, and nuts or seeds (contain healthy fats). SLOW foods contain few vitamins, minerals and fiber but do contain a lot of sugar and/or unhealthy saturated or trans fats.
  4. Invite the children to tape their favorite ads under the appropriate category.
    • How many ads for snack foods, sugary beverages, fast food restaurants, or toys or video games did they list?
    • Did anyone name a healthy food or drink?
    • Can anyone recall seeing advertisements for healthy drinks such as milk, water, or 100% fruit juice?
    • Can anyone recall seeing advertisements for healthy foods such as fruit or whole grain cereal?
    • How many children listed toys or video games?
    • How many children listed ads for sporting equipment?
    • Were there other products that do not fall under the listed categories? Would the children describe these other products as things that are healthy for their bodies or not?
  5. Ask, "What do you think about these results?" Explain that SLOW food commercials want you to buy their products by showing images of happy, active kids, but if you really ate all of the foods and sugar drinks that are advertised then you would not be very healthy and it would become hard to get moving.
  6. Remind the group that it's best to fuel up with "super snacks".

Extension Activity:

Have children work individually or in teams to create "ads" for a super snack. Encourage teams to be creative and use ingredients they may have never tried before or from different cultures. Another option is to assign each group to a type of food: latin food, asian food, etc. The ad can be 'acted' out or in poster form.

Optional Home Extension Activity

Materials:

  • Print the Commercial Mania worksheets
  • Make a copy for each child

Instructions

  1. After doing the regular activity with the upper elementary group, distribute the Commercial Mania worksheet and parent letter and tell the class that they are going to assess the ads they see during a 30-minute television show.
    • Suggest that they do this over a weekend - do not encourage children to watch TV for the sake of this activity!
  2. The following week, review the results:
    • Add up the number of commercials circled (those for healthy drinks, go foods and sports equipment)
    • Add up the number of commercials not circled (those for sweet drinks, slow foods, fast food restaurants, and toys or videos)
  3. Discuss the results. Ask what the children think about the ads they saw.
  4. Optional: Calculate the percentage of unhealthy to healthy products viewed (divide the number of circled ads by the total number of ads to get the "healthy" product total, and divide the number of ads not circled by the total number of ads to get the "unhealthy" product total).
  5. Again, remind the children that most commercials advertise products that are not healthy for growing bodies. They show images of happy, active youth to entice you to buy their products, but the truth is that if you really eat all of the foods that are advertised and drink the sugary drinks then you would not be very healthy and it would become hard to get moving.