It is 9 a.m., and the 3-year-olds in the classroom are buzzing with excitement for the day to begin. Their teacher, Ms. Ramirez, walks to the CD player and before she can even remove the CD from its case, the children are rushing to claim their scarves and singing the words to the song “Make Me Feel Great,” on the Choosy Kids® CD they dance to each morning. Choosy stands for ‘Choose Healthy Options Often and Start Young’ and that’s exactly what The Family Conservancy’s Growing Healthy Kids program aims to accomplish.
The program uses the nationally recognized I Am Moving, I Am Learning curriculum, which is a proactive approach for addressing childhood obesity in the child care setting. The Family Conservancy (TFC) trains providers via onsite coaching and follow-up, as well as a peer-support element and ways to boost parent engagement. In June 2014, TFC teamed up with local urban agricultural nonprofit, Cultivate Kansas City, to assist child care providers in starting their own garden through education and hands-on planting assistance.
Nationally, 64 percent of children under age five spend the majority of their day in a child care setting where the promotion of healthy lifestyles is not commonly employed. Additionally, children from low-income homes are far more likely to be obese–one of seven low-income, preschool aged children is obese–and more likely to become an obese adult and face health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The project targets child care centers serving low-income children.
Early intervention is often the best prevention tool and will help reverse childhood obesity trends.
Growing Healthy Kids seeks to increase daily, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, improve the quality of movement activities intentionally planned and facilitated by adults, and promote healthy food choices every day–and it doesn’t stop at the classroom.
“What’s great about the project is we are not just reaching the child care centers, but the parents as well,” says TFC Professional Development Specialist, Heather Waterfield (left, training child care providers last September). “We help teachers increase parent involvement with parent engagement nights; bringing gardening, healthy menu choices, music and physical activity into their home, reinforcing the lessons and activities the children learn in school.”
Waterfield says many of the parents take advantage and check out the kits from their teacher so they will have the materials and guidelines right at their fingertips. Parents have noticed the difference in their children and have expressed gratitude for the programming.
Many of the programs involved have never had a garden onsite or had a playground assessment and are thirsty for the help and support. The curriculum helps teach ways to get moving with limited space and materials. One teacher, citing winter weather as a deterrent to physical activity, expressed her gratitude, saying, “thank you for sharing these new ideas to help get us up and moving when we have to stay inside.”