The first twelve years of a child’s life are pivotal when it comes to physical growth and mental development. Due to this rapid growth period, it is incredibly important to ensure that children receive the nutrients they need to establish healthy habits, and grow strong bones and muscles. With over 13.7 million children experiencing obesity in America, it has never been more important to emphasize the importance of a healthy diet to our children. But sometimes getting kids to eat healthy foods can be a major challenge, with roadblocks around each turn. At 4-C, we believe that teaching children healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be a losing battle. That’s why we have developed a few helpful tips to get your child excited about nutrition.

We encourage parents and guardians to include their children in meal preparations. Spending time in the kitchen and cooking new or old recipes allows children to develop a positive connection to a variety of foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. By creating a positive experience with healthy foods, you can enable your child to establish a foundation for good nutrition that will carry on to their adult life. In addition, cooking can provide your child with practical experience with many basic academic skills, like reading, following instructions, and measuring. This can even help them develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and early concepts of math and science.

Gardening has also been shown to help kids get more interested in eating fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that when children help grow fruits and vegetables, they are likely to consume more produce, and are more willing to try different varieties. Including children in the growing process can not only help improve their nutrition, but also help engage their curiosity and resourcefulness. Not to mention, this gives kids the opportunity to spend time outdoors and get physical exercise. If your home or apartment does not have a yard, or if you are unable to plant in the ground, pots and window-boxes are excellent alternatives!

In order to make nutrition affordable for child care providers, 4-C also recommends joining the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This program, aimed at reducing childhood obesity in the United States, is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provides providers with financial reimbursement for serving nutritious meals and snacks to children in care. Children between the ages of 0 and 12 enrolled in child care are eligible to participate in this program. This program also provides valuable nutrition education and consultation from CACFP staff.

If you are a child care provider and would like additional information on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or would like additional information about childhood nutrition, visit this link.