You want your child to have the best possible start, and good nutrition and plenty of physical activity are an important part of that.
Many states require licensed child care providers to follow rules about nutrition, physical activity, and screen time. Contact your state licensing agency to find your state’s requirements. It is also important to ask potential providers about their policies and practices in these areas.
For young children, each meal is an opportunity to grow healthy and strong and develop good habits. Ask potential providers how they handle food and nutrition. Some provide meals and snacks, and others ask parents to pack food for their children. If meals and snacks are provided, confirm that healthy dietary guidelines are followed. Ask to see daily menus. You may want to check for evidence that healthy meals and snacks are being served. Look to see that the kitchen area is clean, well maintained, and stocked with food.
It is also important that your child have access to clean drinking water throughout the day. Ask how the provider makes sure that children have access to clean drinking water whenever they want it.
If you are breastfeeding, support from your child care provider is essential. Ask potential providers what steps they take to support breastfeeding. If your child takes a bottle, ask about how formula is prepared and stored. Make sure that all bottles are labeled with each child’s name and date and that there are procedures in place for making sure that each child gets the correct bottle. To learn more about ways your child care provider can support successful breastfeeding, see the following resources:
- Health Kids, Healthy Futures: Supporting Breastfeeding in Child Care Settings
- Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers and Infants in Child Care
- Supporting Breastfeeding in Family Child Care
Many providers participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This program offers financial assistance to providers to help them provide nutritious meals for the children they care for. The program tells providers which food groups must be served for each meal and snack, and limits the amount of sweets that can be served. Asking potential providers whether they participate in CACFP is one way to get information about their approach to nutrition.
Plenty of fun physical activity is also key to children’s development and well-being. Ask providers about the daily schedule: how much active playtime do children have each day? How much time outdoors? What kinds of activities are available indoors and outdoors? Do infants get regular “tummy time” (time that they are awake and playing on their stomachs while supervised)?
This text has been adapted from content originally created by Child Care Aware of America Grant #90LH002 for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Child Care (OCC).