CHOICE: A Toolkit to Help Implement Best Practices and Polices for A Healthy Child Care Environment

Did you have any New Year resolutions that had to do with health, activity and nutrition?  Was it for yourself or your child care program? 

If your healthy lifestyle resolution was for yourself why don’t you expand it to your child care environment?!

I learned about a tool that could help you evaluate what you are currently doing regarding nutrition and activity for the kids in your care and then it helps you write up a policy for physical activity and nutrition!  With all of the research and media coverage about childhood obesity, I bet the parents of the children in your care would LOVE to know you have a policy to help them help their kids be healthy.

A resource and referral agency in Contra Costa, California called Contra Costa Child Care Council has created a manual to help you assess your program and then create a policy according to that assessment.  Contra Costa Child Care Council is featured by the Lets Move Child Care website in the “Promising Policies” section for the state of California. 

The manual or toolkit, as I prefer, Creating Healthy Opportunities in Child Care Environments (CHOICE) was done in two main parts.

The first part of the CoCo Kids project was the, Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), which was then integrated with the CHOICE toolkit.  What is the SAQ?

It is a checklist with four main categories:

Nutrition: Feeding Practices
Nutrition: Food Served
Physical Activity
Staff and Parent Training

Each category listed above has several items.  For each item you checkmark what the “status” of that item is in your care.  
For example:  Nutrition: Feeding Practices there is the item “parents receive written nutrition policies upon enrollment.”  For that item you check mark one of the following: Already doing, Making Progress in Doing, Planning To Do or Not Planning To Do.  There are a total of 35 questions.  The CHOICE toolkit walks you through the SAQ process with step by step instructions.

Now comes the awesome part!  So you’ve done your assessment and you know what needs some work and where to begin but now what?  You aren’t quite sure how to write polices, nor do you know what the best practices are for these particular items in the SAQ.  Contra Costa Child Care Council created a book for you that takes you step by step through the policy making process.  To make it even better it matches your assessment.

CHOICE provides you with a box for each SAQ item that addresses: Best Practice, Rationale and Talking Points.  Talking Points are geared toward trainers assisting child care providers in writing the policies but equally useful for providers doing it on their own.  To top it off, they provide references for each item.  There is a big list of resources and websites for you to use to help you institute these best practices.

The next section helps you actually write the policies.  It provides sample policies and ideas to consider.  Also, find the additional section which helps track your progress too.

This tool is a complete step by step process to creating and maintaining the ultimate nutrition and physical activities best practices and policies for your family child care or center.  Use it for marketing in this world extremely concerned with childhood obesity and better yet, make your care the healthiest it can be for the little ones!

Resources:
Contra Costa Child Care Council
Develop Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies
Evaluate Your Child Care for Best Practices in Nutrition and Physical Activity

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Samantha Marshall, M.A.

Samantha is, just like you, excited to make a difference in our community and our world. With a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, you might ask how she found herself building and writing for a website focused on child care. From 1995 through 2001, Samantha started her career working for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors which introduced her to the importance of non-profits, community and quality child care. Her experience with Sponsors, State Officials, and Family Child Care Providers left a great and lasting impression. Later in her career and her most recent position at SAGE Publications, an academic publisher, was as a product manager for a new online resource! During this time many of Samantha's passions collided. A love for the written word, children and the proliferation of knowledge as well as a fascination with the resources the internet gives us, building a community for child care on ChildCareInfo.com is the perfect way to make the difference she wanted to. Needless to say, she is very excited to be an active part of creating and building ChildCareInfo.com.