A child spends his day releasing energy – jumping, spinning, running, climbing, chasing – and absorbing lessons for a lifetime.

A new program, offered locally only at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit’s Sarah & Irving Pitt Child Development Center (CDC), gets to the heart of both.

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is a national initiative dedicated to helping children establish healthy habits. Discover: CATCH, developed by the Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA) and the University of Texas School of Public Health, incorporates Jewish values into the program.

Discover: CATCH keeps kids “involved, moving and inclusive,” says Pitt CDC Assistant Director Shannon Hall. It also teaches them how to make thoughtful choices and gives them tools they’ll need to maintain a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle long into adulthood.

Best of all, it’s done in a child-friendly way, with cool, hands-on activities.

Discover: CATCH works like this: Take a game like Duck, Duck Goose that’s usually sedentary for the majority of players. Instead, make everyone either a duck or a goose who is always either running or being chased, depending on which animal the teacher calls. Now a kid gets to move around a lot instead of just sit there, and that’s fun!


The concepts are so fresh there’s even a new word to describe it: “Catchify.” Take a game that involves mostly sitting around and make it active and it has been “catchified.”

Of course, it’s also important to relax, and that’s a skill to learn, too. Discover: CATCH includes activities that help children find ways to calm down, like imagining they are popsicles who are slowly begin to melt.

Discover: CATCH further teaches Jewish values by focusing on inclusion – there’s no picking teams, for example, with someone left as the poor kid no one wants – and it helps teach respect for the world. Since few children really understand where food comes from, and what it means to care for the earth where it is grown, the CDC plans to create a garden where children will be able to plant, cultivate and then eat their own food.

Through Discover: CATCH, the CDC helps kids learn that there are “whoa foods” and “go foods.” Before choosing a sugary treat, kids are asked to say “whoa” and consider whether it’s really good for them. Foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains are good to “go right ahead, and help yourself!”

Shannon Hall notes that Discover: CATCH does not require any specific place to be put into action. “You can do it in small spaces, you can do it in large spaces,” she says. “When it’s too cold to go outside, we go to our CATCH room where there’s a CATCH box filled with game ideas.”

Discover: CATCH started with children and has since expanded to JCC staff and CDC parents. Every month, CDC families receive a newsletter offering CATCH tips, like ways to sneak zucchini into a kid’s favorite food, along with information about one of the hundreds of available CATCH activities to try at home. Hall says that CDC teachers are working out more often, and other JCC programs including JCC Day Camps and Shalom Street are incorporating Discover: CATCH concepts into their curriculumas well.

It’s healthy, it’s fun and, yes, it’s catchy.