Legal Substance Use and Healthier Alternatives | Ophea Teaching Tools

    Legal Substance Use and Healthier Alternatives

    Activity Card 2
    30 Minutes
    Topics: Caffeine, Critical Thinking, Energy Drinks, Legal Substances, Personal Responsibility
    Activity Overview

    Children will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of different types of legal substances as well as identify healthier alternatives.


    The educator observes children’s demonstrated knowledge of legal substances, as well as their knowledge of healthier alternatives.


    Chart paper, Markers

    Minds On

    Children walk around the activity space in a careful manner. On the educators' signal children freeze and act out a habit or behaviour that can be detrimental to their health, for example:

    • spending excessive time on screen or on playing video games
    • smoking
    • taking medications that don’t belong to them
    • drinking sugary drinks
    • eating unhealthy foods often

    Record observations of children’s responses on the board. Next, have the children explain how people can be encouraged to adopt healthier alternatives:

    • “What are some behaviours that can be harmful to your health?"
    • "What are some things you can do that protect your health and the health of other people?”

    The educator explains that sometimes when we are sick we might be required to take medication.

    In a large-group discussion, children identify prescription medicines that could be found in a home setting (e.g., cough syrup, pain medication, decongestant, asthma inhalers, and insulin injectors.) Consider recording in a graphic that is in the shape of a house/apartment appropriate to the children’s community. Children then share a fact or an idea about these medicines (e.g., you can buy them with or without a prescription [“over the counter”]; they help people who have certain health conditions such as asthma or diabetes).

    • Explain to the group that these medicines are called “legal substances” because we can buy them in a store with or without a prescription.
    • Write the word legal on the board.
    • Ask children if they can name any other legal substances that can be purchased in a store (e.g., cough syrup, throat lozenges, nose drops, eye drops, pain reliever, epinephrine autoinjector.)
    • Continue to draw students' attention back to the Minds On brainstorm.

    Share with the group that certain foods contain substances that are considered legal substances; for example, caffeine. Have children identify drinks that may contain caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some pop brands contain caffeine in different amounts. Coffee and tea contain caffeine naturally, but energy drinks and some types of pop have caffeine added to them.)

    Working in pairs, children identify how caffeine affects the body (e.g., Caffeine can make people feel awake and some people may feel jumpy.)

    Share with the group:

    “Caffeine is a substance that people should consume in small amounts because higher amounts of it can be harmful to people’s health. Energy drinks contain such high amounts of caffeine that although they are legal, they are not safe for children to drink. They are not safe for children because too much caffeine can make you feel nervous and can make it hard for you to sleep properly.”

    Continuing to work with the same pair, children identify strategies someone their age can use to make healthier decisions when it comes to legal substances (caffeine, medications).


    Children complete an Exit Card, answering the following questions:

    1. What can a person do to make sure he or she takes medicines safely?
    2. What are healthier drinks to have instead of energy drinks and pop?
    3. Why is it important for children to make healthy choices every day?