Encouraging Active Play Every Day

Our Head Start students are little balls of energy, excitement, curiosity, and potential. Creating opportunities for them to express those qualities gives us a way to help them grow their minds and bodies while also building lifelong healthy habits. And there is no better way than through active play.

Health and Nutrition Director for the Council’s Head Start programs, Laura Sheffield, represented the Council at CACFP’s 37th National Child Nutrition Conference in San Diego this year, where she took to the stage to present to her colleagues from across the county the importance of playtime in a child’s life.

As participants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), we want to ensure that healthy food is fueling our Head Start children’s healthy lives. CACFP’s mission is to provide advocacy, education, resources, support and community for those who administer, operate and participate in the USDA’s child nutrition program, and Laura showed the audience how active play fits into building healthy futures.

Laura tackled the concerning rise in childhood obesity rates, noting that close to 30 percent of children ages two to five who are enrolled in WIC can be classified as overweight or obese, and that young children with obesity are 10 times more likely to become obese adults. Early life interventions help to curb future risks of cardiovascular troubles, diabetes, missed days of school, and shorter life expectancies.

Combating this crisis through playtime means ensuring that children have several opportunities every day to actively move, run, jump, hop, dance, and get their blood pumping. And the benefits extend beyond keeping a healthy weight. Brain development is enhanced, along with hand-eye coordination, perception, bone strength, and so much more.

“Young children learn better through experiencing an activity and observing behavior rather than through didactic methods,” says the Caring for Our Children National Resource Center. By teaching the audience how to encourage active play and integrate movement breaks in the Head Start classroom, Laura showed how applying childcare standards and best practices can be fun and healthy for everyone involved.

Learn more about Laura and the Healthy Meals on a Budget program on our YouTube page.
You can also do a quick, 10-minute workout with one of our Head Start families!

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