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Gimme Five: Leah Kalish


Each week, our own Zach Brooks speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Zach’s profile and contact him.

The Partnership for a Healthier America recently recognized Move with Me Action Adventures as one of the most innovative ideas to end obesity. In the interview below, Move with Me CEO Leah Kalish explains what inspires her to work on childhood obesity, and shares a poem that expresses why she’s so passionate about her work.

Name: Leah Kalish, MA
Title: CEO
Organization: Move with Me Action Adventures

What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?

I get asked this question a lot so I wrote a poem — rhyming always makes everything more fun and memorable!

Kids need movement every day
90-120 minutes they say
But parents are busy and school budgets are done
So kids do a little but it's not very fun.
I can’t stand by and watch kids flounder
So, I launched Move with Me as its founder.
In schools, living rooms & centers each day,
To our video classes, kids move and play.
They act out the story, they learn to calm down.
They focus, build fitness, turn bad behavior around.
Seeing it brings a smile to my face.
Move with Me makes the world a healthier place.

I am a movement/yoga/social and emotional learning teacher and a trainer. I’ve taught thousands of teachers nationwide. I see the realities of their school and home life limitations and I want to help them give their kids what they know is good for them to lay a foundation of health. Parents and teachers want optimal health and development for their children. They know that movement, play, nature and SEL enrichment are ideal for their kids and yet they don’t have access to providing it due to lack of training, resources, time, equipment, safety, environment, etc. I felt compelled to do something about that.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?

Together with two other movement educators, Wendy Piret and Liz Bragdon, I created mindfulness (health & self-regulation) flash cards and follow-along video classes that combine stories with creative movement, yoga and [other] self-care skills to engage young children, ages 3 – 7, in the supervised active play and self-regulation practice they need to maintain a healthy weight and optimal physical, cognitive and social-emotional development regardless of funds, weather, facilities, etc.

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?

Earlier this year, Move with Me was selected out of thousands of groups by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which is chaired by First Lady Michelle Obama, as one of the top 10 best innovative ideas to end childhood obesity. 

Who is your role model in your work?

I actually have several. I admire Carla Hannaford, Eric Jensen, Rae Pica, Becky Bailey and John Medina. Their work is changing the way we nurture and educate our children for the better!

What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?

My father and mother loved nature and gardening.  As a family back in the ’60s, we were growing fresh vegetables, recycling and conserving water and energy way before environmental consciousness was mainstream. I remember being young, maybe 6, and eating dinner at a friend’s house for the first time.  I tried the weird colored green beans but quickly spit them out because they tasted “bad” — like metal and dirty salt water.  Everyone at the table looked at me shocked.  But I had never tasted a canned vegetable and thought they were rotten, and suddenly I understood why none of the other kids liked vegetables.

I was lucky;  I mostly had unprocessed, unsweetened fresh food.  Since my family was also very active, I played tennis, paddle tennis, squash and field hockey. I hiked, canoed, ice-skated and skied. I was also a ballet and then modern dancer in addition to being a yoga teacher. I’ve always enjoyed being in my body, moving and exploring physical challenges. And I still do. I finally conquered a handstand in the middle of the room.

Click here to connect with Leah Kalish.