Kailani Clifford, 3, serves herself some fruit salad at Gil Family Child Care in Coachella

Kailani Clifford, 3, serves herself some fruit salad at Gil Family Child Care in Coachella

First 5 Riverside (Riverside County Children & Families Commission) has launched a program to help child care providers throughout the county improve nutrition, physical activity and family habits through free training and materials. 

Working with those who care for children throughout the day, the program aims to help create healthy habits for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Nationally, about one in eight preschoolers is  obese, a serious health condition that can lead to continued obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems as an adult. Children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are 5 times as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese as adults.

The good news is that obesity rates among children are declining slightly, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research. Encouraging and reinforcing healthy habits early helps reduce and prevent childhood obesity. 

Since the program launched last year, 44 sites have become certified in Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care with 34 of those located in the Coachella Valley. More than 100 more sites are in the process of becoming certified and have incorporated a variety of tactics to reach goals and make a significant difference in their homes and centers.

Child care providers are embracing the healthy changes. They have stopped serving as much juice, added more fruits and veggies, created water stations so kids can serve themselves, planted gardens, enhanced their physical activities, and encouraged parents to exercise with their children at home.

Maria Gil, owner of Gil Family Child Care in Coachella, has spent more than a decade helping children grow. When the program launched last year, she looked forward to helping her child care center grow as well. After several months of free assessments, training, coaching and implementing changes, she said it’s been refreshing to see parents and children responding positively.

“The kids don’t complain, they just want to eat,” said Gil, whose “no cakes” policy has been celebrated with fruit salads, cut vegetables and oatmeal cookies instead.

It’s the little things that can make a big difference from choosing water when thirsty to limiting 100 percent juice to 4 to 6 ounces per day, or serving low-fat or non-fat milk with meals.

First 5 Riverside is looking for additional child care facilities and homes to join the program which is managed by the Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Services and Health Promotion Branch. 

For more information call (951) 358.3833 or visit www.rivco-nutrition.org/nap-sacc/. Parents can visit www.PotterTheOtter.com for tips, games and the new First 5 book Potter, Potter, The Healthy Otter. Visit www.First5Riverside.org to learn more.

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