Colorado recently passed new rules to ensure child care centers serve healthy meals and snacks, limit sugary drinks, provide adequate physical activity and limit screen time. This will impact more than 100,000 children served by child care facilities!
While the rules have passed and are a step in there right direction, the Colorado Department of Human Services and stakeholders agree there is still work to do. As advocates, we all know ‘the devil is in the details’ and this is certainly true when it comes to child care regulations. The struggle here is balancing the need to ensure children are getting the right level of physical activity and the department can easily assess that the rule is implemented in every child care center.
“Colorado has an opportunity to strengthen their physical activity standards to ensure kids get the much needed running, jumping and playing that keeps their hearts healthy, ” said Jill Birnbaum, Executive Director of Voices for Healthy Kids, in a statement on the Colorado success.
The following blog post comes from Healthier Colorado, one of the lead advocacy organizations for this policy change.
This fall, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Office of Early Childhood and the Colorado Board of Health adopted new rules governing licensed child care facilities. These rules address different aspects of child care centers, but they will both improve the health of Colorado’s kids at a time when we really need to focus on early childhood health. The rules adopted by CDHS include:
Healthier foods – Meals and snacks will now have to meet current USDA nutrition requirements
Healthier beverages- Centers are no longer allowed to serve sugary drinks and are limited to serving 100% juice to twice a week
More physical activity- Full day centers will be required to provide 60 minutes of physical activity a day and part time centers will be required to provide 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
Less screen time – TV will be limited to 30 minutes a week and computer and tablet time will be limited to 15 minute increments for no more than 30 minutes a day.
The Colorado Board of Health, on the other hand, focused on rolling back old, out of date regulations which prevented licensed child care facilities from serving fresh fruits and vegetables to kids if they didn’t have commercial grade kitchens – a rule that effectively banned home-based child care centers from serving fresh food to kids.
Recent data on childhood obesity in Colorado show us exactly why these rules are needed now, more than ever – our adults are the leanest in the nation, but our kids are right in the middle of the pack, “about 25th, 26th.” Nearly a quarter of our state’s children are overweight or obese, so if we don’t do something now to lower this rate, we won’t remain the nation’s leanest state for long. In the words of Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, “If Colorado wants to remain the leanest state in the nation and become the healthiest, we need to start with our youngest residents.”
These rule changes are a common-sense way to fight childhood obesity without unduly burdening child care facilities. They will hardly cost child care centers any money to implement, but they will have a substantial, measurable impact on the health of our youngest residents. Nearly a third of Colorado kids ages two to four are overweight or obese – but kids this age who are exposed to fresh produce, whole grains, lean meats, and beans, and who stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages, are significantly less likely to be overweight, and are more likely to grow up to eat a healthy diet as adults. Moreover, our young kids are spending far too much time staring at screens, and not enough time exercising and playing outdoors. Nationwide, kids only get four to seven minutes of unstructured outdoor play per day – but they spend a whopping seven to ten hours every day staring at a screen, watching TV or playing video games. These rule changes are a simple way to limit our kids’ exposure to unhealthy sugary drinks, increase their exposure to healthy fresh foods, and ensure that they develop healthy exercise habits. Shouldn’t we want that for the future of our state?
The first five years of a child’s life are critical for brain development, and set the foundation for a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing for the rest of his or her life. Kids who have access to proper nutrition and enough physical activity are at an advantage when they start school, and are more likely to succeed academically and socially. Even for kids who grow up in adverse circumstances such as poverty or physical abuse, exposure to proper nutrition can mitigate some of the most deleterious effects of these situations.
By rolling back old regulations preventing child care centers from serving fresh produce, which does not make sense in the modern age, and implementing new, sensible, evidence-based guidelines for nutrition and physical activity, we will help fight our high rate of childhood obesity and ensure that all of our state’s kids have the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond. If, as they say, children are the future of our culture, then this is an important step to ensure that our future is bright.