If you are a parent of a child attending Fairbanks area elementary schools, you can help your child meet a physical activity challenge that’s free, fun and rewards children with prizes that will keep them moving.

It’s called the Healthy Futures Challenge. This spring, 13 elementary schools in the North Star Borough School District and one private Fairbanks school have signed up to participate: Anderson, Anne Wien, Badger Road, Barnette Magnet, Crawford, Hunter, Joy, Nordale, North Pole, Ticasuk Brown, Two Rivers, Weller, Woodriver, as well as the Northern Lights Academy.

The Healthy Futures Challenge runs twice per year in participating schools: three months in the fall and three months in the spring. Healthy Futures is a partner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The challenge is part of the department’s Play Every Day effort to reduce childhood obesity in Alaska. About three out of 10 children in Alaska are overweight or obese. The campaign raises awareness about the problem of obesity and motivates parents to be active with their children for good health and maintaining a healthy weight. The Healthy Futures Challenge helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.

The spring 2013 challenge runs February, March and April. That means there’s still time for you to help your child complete the challenge in April. It’s not too late to participate.

This is how the challenge works in schools all over Alaska: In some schools, the physical education teacher or the classroom teacher sends home a Healthy Futures Challenge log form at the beginning of the month. Other schools keep the log forms at school and teachers help the children fill them out during school hours. If the log form comes home to you, put it in a place you’ll remember (maybe under a magnet on the refrigerator).

Each time your children are physically active outside gym class, they can log the activity they completed. Many activities count, and they don’t have to be organized sports. Physical activity can be sledding outside, playing tag with friends, or walking the family dog on local trails. Need ideas? Visit the Play Every Day website at www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.

To successfully participate in the challenge each month, children need to log their activity for four weeks in a row. When they’ve done that, they bring the log form back to school and the teachers reward their successes with a free prize from Healthy Futures. This spring, the prizes include a blinking light your children can wear to play outside safely when it is dark, a pedometer to count steps each day and a water bottle as a reminder to drink water after a good day of play.

During the past two years, thousands of children across Alaska have started to participate in the Healthy Futures Challenge. In spring 2011, only 36 Alaska schools had signed up for the challenge. This spring, almost 150 schools have signed up to participate and challenge organizers believe they will top 10,000 students who complete at least one month of the challenge.

To learn more about Healthy Futures and to find a list of schools participating in the spring challenge, visit www.healthyfuturesak.org. For more information about the Play Every Day campaign, visit www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.

Let’s get out and play, every day.

Karol Fink, a registered dietitian, is the program manager for the State of Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. The program’s goal is to reduce childhood obesity by 5 percent in the next five years.