John Troxell, 9, and his cousin, Piper Choy, tagged each other around a tree in a grassy area of Rose Rudman Park Tuesday while also trying to generate enough heat to melt a large cube of ice. They were among a small group of children last week who competed to see who could make the ice disappear more quickly.

It was during their cool-down period, following a series of physical activities. They didn't know the purpose of the ice game, but they knew they were having fun.

The week's activities were part of East Texas Medical Center's annual Kids In Motion — a program that gets children active while also educating them about safety and nutrition. Walking the track, playing field games and structured activities highlighted the camp.

John, like many of the other campers, joined the group for the first time.

"It's really fun, and I think I've lost a few pounds already," he said.

Health experts note that children don't have to be on a sports team to get exercise. Free play outside can get them away from video games and television.

Cassie Ebert, a personal trainer at ETMC's Olympic Center, has taught the camp of 8- to 12-year-olds for eight years.

"Our mission is for kids to be active outside other than sports — learn how to play again," Ms. Ebert said. "We want them to learn that we can have fun with anything from a beach towel to some ice."

This is the first year the program has worked with ETMC pediatricians, who referred some children to the camp to learn about nutrition and fitness.

Michael Carraway, 11, masterfully won a rooster game, in which they hopped on one leg while trying to snatch a bandana off a playmate's pocket.

"I like how the teachers actually work with us, and they don't let us fall behind on anything that we do," he said.

During educational sessions, the kids get lessons about fruits and vegetables and reading food labels.

Allee St. Amant, 9, and Brooklyn Price, 8, both learned about the role of sugar in their health.

"I didn't know that some foods had sugar in them," Brooklyn said.

While the camp lasts only a week, the kids say they'll apply what they've learned there during the entire summer.

"I'm going to eat healthier and get out and play a lot more," John said.


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