Lifetime of Healthy Habits Cultivated in Child Care Centers

Children in local child care centers are getting a regular dose of wellness education right along with math, music, science and movement thanks to the Nemours Child Care Obesity Prevention Initiative.

They know an apple is an “Anytime” food and a plate is healthiest when its contents represent the colors of the rainbow.

Supported in part by grant funding from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), and thanks to a partnership between WPHF and Nemours, the program has already found its way into 27 child care centers in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville, and during the next school year, will be incorporated into 13 new sites.

Once in the new sites, the program will have saturated the centers primarily serving children and youth from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville. Children who attend kindergarten in Winter Park Consortium schools come from these centers.

The successful Nemours program builds on the school-based health and wellness services—the Coordinated Youth Initiative programs programs— already supported by WPHF in Winter Park Consortium schools from kindergarten through high school. Believing it is never too early to begin instilling healthy habits, the WPHF felt it important to reach children at an even younger age and in 2011 helped launch the Nemours initiative.

“We’re planting seeds we hope will yield a much healthier future for these students,” said Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President. “It will also mean a healthier future for the community.”

Under the program, Nemours trains child care directors and providers as well as volunteers on how to use the Healthy Habits for Life Child Care Resource Kit and on the 5-2-1 Almost None prescription for healthy eating. The program emphasizes the importance of healthy eating, physical activity and sleep to prevent childhood obesity and to help ready children for school. Volunteers provide technical assistance to the child care centers, such as leading healthy games with the children, and also help directors complete a self-assessment of written policies on healthy eating and physical activities.

This is used to help directors develop their own wellness policies and devise a way to implement them. The program is designed to enable centers to sustain healthy programs and policies in the future.

Nemours partnered with the Rollins College Anthropology department in fall 2012 to get students involved as volunteers. The successful partnership will continue this fall.