Schools, Families, & Communities > Childcare & Preschool

So far, few research projects or obesity-prevention efforts have focused on preschools and child care centers. An article in Future of Children outlines the untapped role for these facilities in combating childhood obesity.

The Rudd Center's New Haven Preschool Nutrition Initiative was a collaborative, community-based research project with a community preschool in New Haven, Connecticut, in recognition of the important influence of the preschool environment on the health and nutritional status of children.

The Connecticut State Department of Education developed the Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies in June 2010. The action guide is intended to help local and community child care, early education, and afterschool programs establish and implement policies and practices that encourage healthy lifestyles in children.

The Rudd Center partnered with the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut and the UConn Health Center for Public Health and Health Policy to host an early childhood food policy forum at the Rudd Center in June 2016. More than 55 state officials, health professionals, researchers, advocates, and early care and education providers participated in the forum: Aligning Policy with Research: Promoting Sound Nutrition in Early Childhood.

Guidelines for Child Care Professionals:

  • Provide healthy meals and snacks, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, that meet the requirements of USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
  • Do not use food as punishment or reward.
  • Limit sugar consumption, and limit fat consumption as appropriate for the stage of development
  • Promote physical activity, especially through play, every day. Focus on having fun with age-appropriate equipment and activities. Toys like bouncy balls, hula-hoops, bubbles, and cardboard boxes stimulate imagination and enjoyment.
  • Encourage children to be active throughout the day, through activities such as music, dance, and make-believe.
  • Teach healthy eating habits through modeling sound diet and eating behavior. Taste new foods, participate in physical activity, and do not eat or drink items in front of the children that they are not permitted, such as soda, candy, or coffee.
  • Promote a healthy body image by supporting, accepting, and encouraging everyone equally. Do not treat children differently based on their body size or shape.

Recent Research:

Learning Care Group (LCG), a leading early childhood education and care provider, made a 3-year commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to implement several evidence-based nutrition and physical activity policies in more than 900 child care centers. As part of its pledge, LCG teamed with the Rudd Center to assess its Grow Fit Program. The goal was to ensure compliance with these objectives throughout its 900+ centers and to complete the first large-scale, mixed-methods study yielding findings to inform the implementation of other early education and care wellness policies. Read the full study here

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