Anne is the Coordinator of the MA Children at Play at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Some people ask me if preschool is too early for teaching kids how to eat healthy and be active. My answer? It’s never too early! Kids learn habits when they’re very young. Teaching them to eat better and move more early on helps them live a healthy lifestyle now and later as adults.
There is a recent regulation requiring Massachusetts childcare programs to offer a nutrition program and 60 minutes of physical activity each day, which I am thrilled about. I’ve worked with child care providers for many years though, and if there is one thing I know about this profession, it’s that time and resources are not on a child care provider’s side. That’s where Massachusetts Children at Play comes into play.
MA Children at Play is a free program that teaches child care providers how to easily add active movement and healthy food options into child care settings. Children learn how to grow, make and eat healthy foods, including colorful fruits and vegetables. They’re also served healthy drinks, like water, low fat, and skim milk instead of whole milk or sugary drinks. Children read books, sing songs and have fun food experiences, like taste tests, that teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
MA Children at Play also helps children be active 60 minutes each day in a fun, age-appropriate way! They also learn fun songs, games and activities that focus on learning and active living.
Whether or not your child is enrolled in a center that uses MA Children at Play, there are things you can do at home to help your child eat better and move more:
• Serve healthy snacks and meals that include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
• Offer your children water, and limit sugary drinks like soda, juice and sports drinks
• Make sure your child is active for at least 60 minutes a day
• Limit TV and computer time to 1-2 hours each day
• Be a good role model – eat better and move more yourself!