Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans

Healthy Child Care

Bright Futures Deserve a Healthy Start

High quality child care is essential to help young children develop healthy habits. In Idaho, more than 76,000 children birth-to-six attend child care while their parents work or attend school, 60% of which are enrolled full-time*. (NACCRRA, 2010). That's a lot of time spent away from home and a great opportunity to teach healthy habits - such as eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity and active play.

Every child deserves the best start in life and the child care setting presents a unique opportunity to inspire healthy changes in our young children. Teaching kids healthy habits from the start will help them learn to make healthy choices as they grow older. Unfortunately, the healthy choice isn't always easy where people live, learn, work, and play, and because of this, rates of childhood obesity are skyrocketing:

  • One in five children is overweight or obese by age 6.
  • Three times more children are obese today than just 30 years ago. 
  • Obesity rates among preschoolers 2 to 5 have doubled in the past four decades.
  • With the rise in childhood overweight and obesity, there has also been a rise in children diagnosed with conditions that were traditionally seen in adults, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and early signs of heart disease. 

Early Care and Education (ECE) providers can be a powerful influence on children, helping them learn habits that can keep them healthy for life. When the child care environment and its policies focus on health, families can be assured that their children's needs are met and their futures are healthier.

What is quality child care? 

All parents want their children to succeed in life. The people who care for children outside of the family play an important role in setting the stage for children's success on multiple levels - cognitive, physical, mental, social, and emotional.

Quality child care assures that children are safe, healthy, nurtured, and challenged to learn. It provides a developmentally appropriate environment for young children. "Studies show that children in high-quality child care enter school with better math, language, and social skills."

IdahoSTARS is Idaho's Child Care State Training And Registry System. It helps child care providers obtain the training they need to offer healthy, stimulating care for children, as well as provides information and referral resources to parents. IdahoSTARS Professional Development System provides resources, tools, and on-going training to strengthen providers professional growth and knowledge. 

“Early childhood settings, including both child care centers and informal care, present a tremendous opportunity to prevent obesity by making an impact at a pivotal phase in children’s lives.” 
-Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation:
a Report to the President from the Childhood Obesity Task Force. 

Let's Move! Child Care is the First Lady's effort to promote children's health by encouraging and supporting healthier physical activity and nutrition practices through 5 main goals.  With over 25% of 2-to-5-year-old children already overweight or obese, the early education and child care communities are essential allies in the effort to solve the childhood obesity problem, support children's healthy development, and prevent later chronic disease. 

Let's Move! Child Care Goals
  1. Physical Activity: Provide 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible.

  2. Screen Time: No screen time for children under 2 years. For children age 2 and older, strive to limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and work with parents and caregivers to ensure children have no more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time per day (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics).

  3. Food: Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eat meals family-style whenever possible, and don't serve fried foods.

  4. Beverages: Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day, and don't serve sugary drinks. For children age 2 and older, serve low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk, and no more than one 4- to 6-ounce serving of 100% juice per day.

  5. Infant Feeding: For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, provide their milk to their infants and welcome them to breastfeed during the child care day. Support all new parents' decisions about infant feeding.
Get Started
STEP 1: Sign Up and Receive a Participation Certificate
STEP 2: Take the Let's Move! Child Care Checklist Quiz
STEP 3: Build Your Action Plan
STEP 4: Access Free Resources and Ideas
STEP 5: Earn your Let's Move! Child Care Recognition Award
STEP 6: Celebrate Your Success!

As a result of Let's Move! Child Care, providers across the nation are recognizing the importance of child care settings as places to help our youngest of children get off to a healthy start. Changes are being made in both public and private child care centers, where new practices are being implemented to encourage healthy eating and physical activity, limit screen time, and promote breast feeding. 

Let's Move! Child Care Goal #1: Physical Activity

Aim to: 
  • Get 1-2 hours of activity every day
  • Include outside play whenever possible
    (don't forget water and sunscreen!)
  • Fit activity into daily routines

Why is physical activity (aka playtime) so important for kids? Because it's FUN! When kids move, they just feel good. 

Physical activity has many benefits, including:
  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduces stress and depression
  • Reduces the risk of obesity-related illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol 
  • Builds strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • Builds strong bones
  • Aids in better sleep
  • Increases self-confidence as kids grow
  • Potential to decrease behavioral and disciplinary problems
  • Potential to do better in school and increase attention span
There are lots of ways to help children be more active during the day. Some creative ideas included on the Let's Move! website include: 
  • Acting out stories as they are being read
  • Encouraging kids to move like different animals, colors, or weather during transition time
  • Set up an obstacle course, inside or outside, to help children practice large-motor skills, such as hopping, jumping, skipping, tossing, hula-hooping, or balancing on one foot. 
Don't forget "tummy time" and activity for the little ones. It's important for infants to be active, too! Kicking those little arms and legs helps babies develop strength and coordination, increase body awareness, and explore their environment. "Tummy-time" provides neck and shoulder strength, and helps babies roll over, sit up and crawl. 

For more ideas on helping babies and young children get and stay active, visit Let's Move! Child Care

Let's Move! Child Care Goal #2: Screen Time

Strive For:
  • No screen time for kids under age 2
  • 30 minutes or less weekly for ages 2 and up during child care
  • No more than 1-2 hours daily at home

Knowing how often and moderating when children participate in screen time activities (which includes TV, videos, DVD's, computers, video games, and handheld devices) is an important step in helping kids grow healthy and stay active. 

Babies and toddlers (age 0-2) should have no screen time at all. Kids 2 and older should get no more than 30 minutes per week in child care and no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. 

Why the restriction? 
  • "The first 2 years of life are a critical time for brain development. Spending time in front of a screen can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with grown-ups and their tiny peers - all of which encourage learning and healthy physical and social development."* 
  • "As children get older, too much screen time can interfere with being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family."*
  • Kids who consistently watch too much TV are more likely to be obese or overweight.*
Follow these guidelines and tips when kids do spend time in front of a screen:
  • Avoid eating snacks or meals while watching
  • Ensure it is "quality" programming that is developmentally appropriate for a child's age
    • "The Get Healthy Now Show," produced by Sesame Workshop, Nemours, and Nemours' teaches kids healthy habits using their favorite Sesame Street characters. 
  • Share information about screen time recommendations and examples of quality programming with parents. 
Source: Let's Move! Child Care - Screen Time
Let's Move! Child Care Goal #3: Food

Try To: 

  • Serve fruits and veggies at every meal
  • Eat meals family-style and let kids choose
  • Steer clear of all fried foods

Child care is a prime setting to expose kids to healthy, wholesome foods, especially as their food preferences are developing.

The following strategies can help encourage even the pickiest of eaters to try new things. 

  • ​Mix it up - serve a variety of nutritious choices
  • Opt for healthier alternatives, such as while grain crackers with apple butter or fruit instead of crackers, or yogurt and fruit parfait's instead of ice cream
  • Let children participate in preparing food, if possible
  • Have kids create their snacks
  • Do the dip - use yogurt, hummus, low-fat dressing, or low-fat melted cheese
  • Learn about how food grows
  • Don't use food as a reward or punishment
  • Talk about "sometime" vs. "anytime" foods
  • Reinforce nutrition messages with classroom activities. 
For more details, tools, and resources, such as:
  • Healthy Grocery Lists
  • Serving Meals
  • Beverages  - Giving the right drinks in the right amounts
- visit the Let's Move! Child Care website!

Let's Move! Child Care Goal #4: Offer Healthy Beverages

When You Can: 

  • Offer water all day and during meals

  • Don't serve sugary drinks

  • Allow one serving (4-6 ounces) of 100% fruit juice ​per day

  • Give low-fat or non-fat milk to kids 2 and up

Beverages can become a major source of calories in a child's diet and have an effect on how much calcium they get to build strong bones. Milk and water should be the "go-to" beverage served to toddlers and preschoolers. 

Tips for Making Water Easily Available: 

  • Have child size pitchers available in each classroom. 

  • Use a shower caddy to carry water and cups outside so it is easily accessible to where children are playing. 

Let's Move! Child Care Goal #5: Infant Feeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends: 
  • Breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months
  • After 12 months, breastfeeding may continue for as long as mom & baby wish
  • Breast milk for toddlers to build their immune systems
Ways Child Care Providers Can Help: 
  • Educate staff about breastfeeding & storing and handling expressed milk
  • Use expressed milk carefully - be sure none of it is wasted
  • Create an inviting, private space for moms to express milk or breastfeed

Champions for Breastfeeding Moms

A child care provider can be a mother's biggest supporter in her decision to continue breastfeeding when she returns to work. "Sixty percent of moms who stop breastfeeding say they wish they could have kept going longer." 

For more information on the benefits of breastfeeding to babies, moms, and infant care providers and for recommendations and tips for Handing and Storing Expressed Milk, please visit: Let's Move! Child Care: Infant Feeding

Introducing Solid Foods, Working with Parents

The AAP recommends babies be given only breast milk (or commercially prepared infant formula) for the first 6 months of life. 

Parents should be supported in their choice to begin solids with their babies around the sixth month, and child care providers should educate their staff and families about feeding solids to infants. For more resources on introducing solid foods, and safety tips to keep in mind, please visit:  Let's Move! Child Care: Infant Feeding
Partnering with Families

It is important for child care providers to engage with families in the child care setting. Working with families can be fun and helps to maintain positive relationships. It will also help parents feel comfortable discussing any concerns they might have with the provider and establish a trusting relationship. 

Child care providers can be resources for parents as they play such an important role in supporting a child's healthy growth and development. Giving parents and families the opportunity to participate in the decisions made within their child's day care site, whether it is helping to make curricular decisions or helping choose a monthly theme or special event, will create a healthy environment for children, families, and day care providers and establish an open line of communication and trust. 

Examples and tips to improve communication between the child care provider and parents/families: 
  • Provide information upon enrollment about the value of strong provider/family partnerships and ways for families to be involved.

  • Share information in a variety of formats to accommodate all families, such as: monthly newsletters via email or hard copy, weekly calendars, bulletin boards, and face-to-face conversations. 

  • Schedule parent/teacher conferences at least twice per year. 

  • Ask that families provide an update of their child's preferences, schedule or behavior changes after they have been away on holidays or vacation. 

  • Train and encourage staff to engage parents in conversations.

  • Inform parents about center events and invite/encourage them to participate. Better yet - invite parents to give ideas, recommendations, or suggestions for events and invite them to help plan!

  • Provide a suggestion box for families to add thoughts or ideas and voice concerns.
Family Event Ideas: 
  • Invite families to a cooking class or nutrition discussion with a chef or dietitian.

  • Invite families to help clean up the playground/yard, build raised beds and plant flowers or a vegetable garden, rake leaves, or work together to hold a multi-family rummage sale. 

  • Host family potluck nights. Create themes. Turn the recipes into a cookbook to share with the families. 

  • Hold a family fun night, whether at the child care center, local park, zoo or other special event location. Get families moving and interacting together.
Source: First Years in the First State.  Delaware Department of Education Community Nutrition Programs.

Let's Move! Child Care: Idaho Accomplishments


The Let’s Move! Child Care State Challenge provided states with the opportunity to be recognized in two categories:

Category 1: Highest percentage of licensed or legally operating early education and child care programs that sign-up as Let’s Move! Child Care participants

Category 2: Largest percentage of Let’s Move! Child Care participants who successfully complete the initiative’s checklist quiz

Idaho was selected as the winner of Category 2! 
Way to go, Idaho child care providers!

Representatives from the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC), along with Rhode Island, winner of Category 1, were honored for winning the state challenge at a Recognition Luncheon in Washington D.C., sponsored by Nemours. 

* The competition was launched by the Administration for Children & Families and the National Association for Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) to reach more early care and education providers and encourage state participation in Let's Move! Child Care.


·       LMCC's 3rd Anniversary​: To celebrate LMCC's 3rd Anniversary, early care and education providers across the country were encouraged to sign up for LMCC and complete the Checklist Quiz online for a chance to win some fun LMCC Physical Activity Classroom Toolkits. More than 12,500 providers have made commitments to work on the Initiative's 5 goals. Among the many winners, 4 Idaho early care and education providers won the Physical Activity Classroom Toolkits. 

·       Let's Move Boise National Highlight: Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties highlighted the city of Boise's Let's Move! Child Care Workshops as an example of achieving the Goal 1: Start Early, Start Smart Gold Medal Benchmark for Let's Move participating cities. 

"Working with the Central District Health Department, the IdahoSTARS project, the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC), and the High Five! Children's Health Collaborative, Let's Move! Boise has hosted multiple comprehensive professional development training's for child care providers focusing on how they can incorporate healthy nutrition and physical activity into their programs for young children. At the training's, providers complete a self-assessment based on the five goals of Let's Move! Child Care, and receive lesson plans, handouts, activity ideas and a certificate of completion.

Learn more about their efforts at Lets Move! Boise."