HEALTHY CHILD CARE: INVEST NOW AND REAP DIVIDENDS

Child Care Provider Explains The Importance of Healthy Environments in Early Child Care

By Ronneisha Davis-Lewis

 

In South Los Angeles, healthy food options are scarce and fast food is far more accessible than fresh fruits and vegetables. As a child care provider at South Los Angeles’ Moore’s Daycare Preparatory School, Inc., I have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of the children who are in my care. It’s important for me that they have an environment complete with healthy foods, opportunity for physical activity, and limited time in front of a screen. Parents, who often times work long hours, trust me to provide the healthiest environment available for their children.

And they are not alone.

In Los Angeles County, 50% of children 0-5 spend at least part of their day in child care. They will carry some of the habits they develop in child care throughout life. It is critical to invest in our children’s health via introducing and reinforcing healthy lifestyle choices when they are young. This will reverse some of the poor health trends current youth and adults are experiencing, such as higher obesity rates, increased incidence of diabetes and dental disease.

And meal time is a great opportunity to start.  Many childcare providers like to use meals and snacks to incorporate healthy eating habits, as well as introduce kids to new foods, learn new words, and discover how to share with others. By introducing kids to healthier options, they learn to eat nutritious meals and snacks at a young age, which provides a platform for healthier eating as they mature. Food can be a source to strengthen a community’s health and wellness. By providing and introducing healthier food options, I know it will increase the likelihood these kids will become healthier adults.

Yet, there is more to building a healthier lifestyle than healthier food.  We also need to provide opportunities and space for kids to be more active.

This investment will allow early childcare providers to purchase items such as tricycles and safe climbing equipment for age appropriate physical activities. We would also invest in resources that allow parents to know how much time their children spend engaged in these healthy habits. For example, a checklist board that shows how many vegetables the children ate that day, how much time they spent playing outside, and how much time they spent watching TV.  This is a tool that would allow the children to help track their engagement, while allowing the parents to see the improvements this investment helped create.

Our community has an opportunity to invest in our children’s future, which in the end is an investment back into our community.  Supporting an increase in funding for family child care homes would allow me and other providers to better incorporate nutrition standards and provide even healthier food options to the young children we look after. These resources would also allow those in low-income communities the opportunity to implement and provide even healthier standards and more access to fresher, healthy food.

Get involved in our campaign to increase state funding that will help child care providers such as me create even healthier environments for our children – yours and mine.  To participate in this campaign, go to http://www.heart.org/HealthyECE. You can also use the hashtags #EarlyCareHealthyHabits and #ECE on social media posts.