What Role Do Child Care Providers Play in Obesity Prevention?

Early childhood efforts reach children at critical ages

Young children are not exempt from the nationwide childhood obesity epidemic. The prevalence of obesity among U.S. preschoolers has doubled in recent decades.

Baby being fed yogurt on a spoon

It may be tempting to dismiss the numbers and assume that very young children will outgrow their weight challenges, but research suggests otherwise. Preschoolers who struggle with overweight and obesity are five times more likely to become overweight or obese as adults.

Now is the time, child care the place

Ages 2-5 are a critical time for instilling healthy lifelong habits, and because an estimated 60% of 3-5 year-olds attend an early childhood education center at least one time per week, the most effective way to reach preschoolers and their families is through their child care providers.

Young children visit a greenhouse

What can child care providers do about obesity?

At Jump IN for Healthy Kids, we’re focused on helping early childcare programs model healthy behaviors for children. We provide health education and physical activity training to early childhood educators and embed best practices in existing streams of continuing education and teacher preparation programs.

Some of the research-proven strategies that we know make a positive difference include:

* Follow CACFP guidelines for meals and snacks
* Serve more water, limit juice
* Promote active play
* Limit non-instructional screen time
* Educate families and encourage healthy habits at home
* Use positive language to encourage healthy eating
* Serve meals and snacks “family style”

Progress is evident, more is needed

So far we’ve reached 15% of known child care providers in central Indiana and more than 20% of the preschoolers who are in child care settings through the Taking Steps to Healthy Success Program. We have much work left to do to reach everyone who cares for children at these critical ages.

Learn more about our early childhood efforts here.