Parents Agree: Healthy Child Care is a Top Priority
4 Things to Look For in a Child Care Center
For 3-year-old Max, it was worth it. His mom, MC, checked out five child care centers before finding the right one. The first was a great location but didn’t live up to the hype. The home daycare option had a lovely atmosphere but didn’t offer nutritious meals. The search was intense. Finding the right program, especially as a new parent, proved trickier than she anticipated.
Rele had similar problems, if not twice the challenge. She ran into similar obstacles, when searching for her twin daughters. After listening to friends’ recommendations and researching the options available in their communities, both still found it hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a child care center “right.”
Based on a new survey released by the Partnership for a Healthier America, 91 percent of parents choose a child care center based on its commitment to creating a healthier environment. Parents ranked “access to free, safe drinking water” as their top health priority, followed by serving nutritious food and snacks, providing physical activity throughout the day and limiting screen time.
Five PHA partners –Bright Horizons, KinderCare, Learning Care Group, New Horizon Academy and the YMCA – have made commitments to healthier child care environments based on the Yale Wellness Child Care Assessment Tool (WellCCAT). This is especially important, because research shows developing eating and physical activity habits at a young age can put children on a path to a healthier life.
Here are a few tips from Rele and MC, two child care veterans, to help you find the perfect spot.
Stimulating Surfaces. For MC, ensuring that Max is spending his day in a creative atmosphere with plenty of stimulation is extremely important. Colors and shapes are oftentimes thought of as the building blocks of early childhood education and color is one of the first tools preschoolers use to make distinctions between different objects.
Plenty of Play. Free play encourages kids to interact with one another, gets them up and moving and helps even the youngest children begin to develop their motor skills. Over the past few months, Rele has witnessed the benefit free play has had on her two ten-month old daughters first hand, noting that from a skills-development perspective, “day care has really helped to push them.”
Fuel Up Family Style. Over the past few years, PHA has worked with several early childhood centers to encourage family style meals, which have been proven to help provide kids with a better understanding of nutrition and a healthier relationship with food. MC has found that with her son Max, family style meals have helped him become more comfortable trying new foods, explaining that “when he sees his friends eating things that he might not want to try, he’s more likely to give it a shot.”
Array of Activities. Both MC and Rele really value their child care center’s commitment to exposing their kids to a wide range of activities. Whether it’s listening and dancing to music, cooking easy snacks or even practicing yoga, child care can present a series of firsts and sometimes these firsts can even lead to lifelong interests.
For more information about the child care poll, click here.