Journal Issue: Childhood Obesity Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2006
The early years spent in child care are crucially important to a child's development. High-quality child care and early education help ensure that a child will develop skills and enter school ready to learn.108 For a young child, health and education are inseparable. Eating nutritious foods and engaging in physical activity on a daily basis are two essential elements for healthy well-being in the early years. Child care settings can and should provide an environment in which young children are offered nutritious foods and regular physical activity through structured and unstructured play so that they learn these healthful lifestyle behaviors at an early age. Child care homes and centers offer many opportunities to form and support healthful eating habits and physical activity patterns in young children. Thus they can play a critical role in laying a foundation for healthy weight. The number of children in the United States aged four and younger is expected to grow by 1.2 million over the next decade, for a 6 percent rise. The number of working parents who depend on child care services is also expected to grow.109 To help stem the childhood obesity epidemic, the nation must pay more attention to the food and physical activity offered in various child care settings.