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Washington, D.C. – First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign today announced a new aspect of the healthy eating/active living initiative that focuses on early childhood. Let’s Move! Child Care is geared to the thousands of dedicated professionals who care for and educate young children in child care centers and family child care homes. These providers are in a position to influence the eating and physical activity habits of the 12 million children under the age of 6 who attend child care in this country. Let’s Move! Child Care has enlisted the help of Nemours, a children’s health system and a founding member of the Partnership for a Healthier America, to launch the initiative and interactive website.
Why child care? Unlike school-age children and adults, young kids have less control over their diet and physical activity, and the influence of their caregivers and environments are all the more important. Moreover, we know that one in three preschoolers is currently overweight or obese and that overweight preschoolers have a greater chance of becoming overweight children and adults.
“Everyone is going to see that small changes can make a big difference. If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life,” Mrs. Obama said. “That’s why I’m so excited about Let’s Move! Child Care – because I know that child care facilities and home-based providers can be a real building block for an entire generation of healthy kids.”
Nemours CEO and President David Bailey, MD, said, “By helping kids understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise, early childhood educators can impact the healthy development of tens of millions of young children. We are delighted to collaborate with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign to help make the greatest possible impact.”
Let’s Move! Child Care asks providers to voluntarily address these five goals in their centers or family child care homes:
- Physical Activity: Provide 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible.
- Screen Time: No screen time for children under 2 years. For children ages 2 and older, strive to limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and work with parents and caregivers to ensure children have no more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time per day, the amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Food: Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eat meals family-style when possible, and serve no fried foods.
- Beverages: Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day, and do not serve sugary drinks. For children age 2 and older, serve low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk, and no more than one 4-6 ounce serving of 100% juice per day.
- Infant feeding: For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, provide their milk to their infants and welcome them to breastfeed during the child care day; support all new parents in their decisions about infant feeding.
The Partnership for a Healthier America, of which Nemours is a founding member, advocates for private industry commitment to promoting health in child care. Another exciting announcement came today when Bright Horizons committed to continue advancing their nutritional, physical activity and long-standing screen time practices with the goal of having their nearly 600 U.S. child care centers and schools serve as an example for child care centers nationwide.
New Website Hosted by Nemours
The Let’s Move! Child Care website offers an abundance of free educational materials for providers. There are dozens of creative ideas for teaching young children about nutrition, preparing and serving food in child-friendly ways, and working physical activity into story time. Among the site’s features are the trusted resources of Nemours Health & Prevention Services (NHPS); KidsHealth.org, the world’s most-visited website for children’s health information; Healthy Habits for Life, a downloadable toolkit for child care providers developed by Sesame Street and Nemours; as well as resources provided by USDA and the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).
Nemours has been active in child health promotion and obesity prevention since 2004 and has taken a lead role in applying knowledge and research in the child care arena. Nemours and the CDC have led the Healthy Kids, Healthy Future partnership, convening state and national leaders in early care and education, child health and obesity prevention to share information, resources, best practices and lessons learned.
Many child care providers who have changed their nutrition and physical activity practices have found it well worth the effort. They include Maria Matos, executive director of the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Working with Nemours, Ms. Matos removed soda machines, stopped serving fruit juice and now serves only water and 1% or fat-free milk. The center serves no products that are fried or have added sugar, uses only whole grain bread and rice, and offers fruits and vegetables with every meal. In addition, the staff received education and Nemours guides to portion size, which Ms. Matos said was a big eye-opener. “When the staff realized how small an adequate portion for a child should be, they stopped giving heaping portions. The children have just enough, not too much, and they’re full,” she said.
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del) and Tom Carper (D-Del) and U.S. Congressman John Carney support the goals of Let’s Move! Child Care. “I applaud the First Lady and Nemours in their effort to educate our children on the importance of developing healthy lifestyles,” Senator Coons said. “This initiative to reach children early on will give them a head start on creating lifelong healthy habits.”
Senator Carper echoed the sentiment: “I am thrilled that Delaware’s own Nemours is working with First Lady Michelle Obama to launch Let’s Move! Child Care to improve childhood nutrition and wellness and combat childhood obesity. This important initiative will encourage child care providers to voluntarily adhere to five wellness standards that will help lay the foundation for a healthy future. The health of our children in the First State and across the country is key to the health of America today and for years to come. By joining the First Lady to reduce obesity among children, by providing extensive research and news on children’s nutrition and exercise, and by hosting the Let’s Move! Child Care website, Nemours is helping to ensure that child care providers in Delaware and throughout the country have the tools and information they need to make smart decisions when caring for our nation’s children. I commend Nemours and the First Lady for teaming up on this new aspect of the Let’s Move! initiative. This is a big step in the right direction not only for Delaware’s children but for all of our country’s children.”
Rep. Carney added, “The mission of the Let’s Move! Child Care campaign is vital to ensuring that our children are healthy and ready to learn. I am delighted that Nemours is lending its expertise to this effort, and I look forward to working with Nemours to continue to advance the cause of children’s health in Delaware and throughout the nation.”