“Family style dining is becoming part of the routine!” – one of the teachers reporting on her experience learning best practices around nutrition and physical activity in child care centers. When an activity becomes routine, it’s part of the every day activities, which means it will last. Sustainability is always Jump IN’s goal when integrating new best practices. And in our child care work, implementing the Taking Steps to Healthy Success program leads to long-lasting healthy changes.
Why is reaching very young children so important?
In central Indiana, 40% of young children are obese or overweight. With 60% of three to five year-olds receiving care in an early childhood education center at least once per week, early child care centers are an ideal place to directly influence what children eat and drink and how active they are (CDC, 2017). Evidence shows that the health of students is linked to their academic achievement, which includes academic performance, graduation rates, attendance, behavioral issues at schools, and cognitive skills (CDC). Jump IN for Healthy Kids has been partnering with Early Learning Indiana (ELI) for the last several years to successfully train child care providers in the Taking Steps to Healthy Success (TSHS) program, created by Nemours, to implement the best practices around nutrition and physical activity in child care setting throughout central Indiana. Thanks to support from the Anthem Foundation in 2018, Jump IN and ELI were able to continue the program, impacting the health of more than 2,000 children. Jump IN collaborated with Early Learning Indiana (ELI) to recruit two cohorts of 25 early childhood education (ECE) providers to participate in the Taking Steps to Healthy Success (TSHS) training program. ELI delivered the TSHS program to the first cohort in the traditional model consisting of 20 hours of classroom training and 20 hours of on-site assistance. The second cohort was comprised of child care providers who had participated in a previous TSHS cohort and are working to sustain their changes. This model consisted of 12 hours of on-side technical assistance. The technical assistance offered the providers additional time and opportunity to receive advice and guidance in overcoming challenges and barriers to adopting and sustaining best practices on healthy eating and physical activity. For both cohorts, the TSHS program taught child care providers to adopt best practices in the areas of breastfeeding/infant feeding, food/nutrition, physical activity, screen time, outdoor play and learning, and staff role modeling. The focus of this training approach is to change the policies, systems, and environments of the child care center and child care homes to create healthier places for the children in their care.
Last weekend, the final presentations from these Taking Steps cohorts wrapped up at Early Learning Indiana and Jump IN was able to sit in on them. The providers shared stories of their accomplishments and their challenges in implementing the best practices they learned. One teacher shared that she struggled to create an environment where water was always available to the kids. Her center had selected increasing water intake as one of their goals, and she told the group that at her center, drinking a lot of water was discouraged for the kids, as it can lead to extra diaper changes or accidents or additional potty breaks. One teacher shared that they had to try several different ways to make more water available. At first they served it in refillable cups, but those kept getting mixed up. After trial and error, now each kid has his or her own water bottle and it becomes a contest every day to see who can finish their water bottles the fastest. Several centers chose family style meals as a goal to achieve. If you are a regular reader of our blog posts, you know that family style dining involves the kids serving themselves, which can lead to more messes. Helping her colleagues try not to worry about messes was part of her process. One home child care provider started keeping her bike in her office to send a message to parents that she makes physical activity a priority for herself and her center.
Creating an environment that encourages breastfeeding was a goal for several centers. One home provider shared that they’d been in business 21 years and had never had a room set up for nursing mothers until this past fall. Now she says that she includes breastfeeding support in the contract she signs with new parents so they know she is committed supporting breastfeeding and her staff follows all the best practices around milk storage, heating, and serving to the babies.
Jump IN has partnered with Early Learning Indiana for several years to bring Taking Steps to Healthy Success to child care providers across central Indiana. To date, more than 8,000 children have directly benefited and that’s just counting the children who were attending the centers while they went through the TSHS program – it doesn’t take into account all the children who benefit from the integrated, ongoing changes the programs make as a result of of TSHS.
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