In my work with NE Iowa Food and Fitness people often ask me, “Why Does Early Childhood Matter?”
Aren’t our children the next generation to care for us and defend us in our military?
Aren’t our children the next working generation to help build and maintain our economy?
Aren’t our children the next generation of scientist, engineers, teachers, doctors, nurses, farmers, business owners, factory workers, mechanics, construction workers, consumers and parents?
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. (Please read this sentence again – it is so important to know.)
More than 11 million children younger than age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in some type of child care setting. Child care is an essential part of today’s economy. Parents cannot work without child care. While parents work, children need to be in safe settings that promotes their healthy development, good nutrition and opportunities for physical activity.
Left to right: Rachelle Driscoll, Angela Gibbs and Haleisa Johnson
at Community Groundwork’s Troy Garden in Madison, WI
Recently, I attended the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference with two RN, Health & Development Specialists from Head Start and Early Head Start that I have worked with over the past four years. We had the opportunity to visit community gardens (photo above) with early childhood play areas and garden plots. We also saw children doing interruptive dancing about foods and where they come from.
We can all encourage healthy eating habits for our youngest of children.
Serve a wide variety of good foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Provide children with a variety of local healthy foods to ensure they get all the nutrients they need for proper growth and development.
Know how much food kids need. Keep portion sizes in check to help children maintain their sense of self-regulation –and to know when they are hungry and when they are full.
Be a good role model for kids by eating together. Eating meals as a family has been shown to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and decrease the amount of junk foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Parents, caregivers, teachers, and community members can promote healthy nutrition and physical activity habits and a healthy weight among children by encouraging healthy eating habits and promoting physical active every day. Connecting children to where their food comes from and introducing healthy whole foods in their diets is so important.
Together we can grow healthy kids!