ECA Blog

Caregivers Teach Lifelong Habits

Obesity. Whole grains. Skim milk. Exercise. Consumers are bombarded with information regarding nutrition and exercise, However, it is critical that parents and child care providers know the basic guidelines. Child care providers are often responsible for providing as much as half of the food a child receives each day. Since the first few years of a child’s life are critical for brain development and growth, it is extremely important to help children form good, lifelong habits related to eating and exercise.

What can caregivers do to ensure healthy eating habits?

  • Serve a variety of foods that include all needed nutrients
  • Be sure fruits and vegetables make up about half of the meal
  • Serve skim or 1% milk for children over two years of age
  • Limit the amount of juice served
  • Make water available at all times
  • Use whole grain foods as much as possible
  • Vary protein choices to include some seafood
  • Check fat, sugar and salt content in all meals and snack foods

Involving children in meal preparation is a good time to talk about good food choices, not to mention teaching cognitive and motor skills through counting, measuring, reading, and following directions. And don’t forget to work with parents so that they can follow through at home.

Closely related to healthy eating habits is physical activity. Young children love to move, so use their energy in positive ways. They should be physically active inside and out at least two hours every day. If inside space is limited, plan reaching, swaying or bending activities along with marching or running in place. Incorporate soft materials for active play, including bean bags and under-inflated beach balls. Create age-appropriate manipulative equipment from household items: yarn balls, cardboard boxes, and sock puppets.  Use music for dancing and start-and-stop games or for cooling down after active play. For outdoor play, plan walks, field trips and yard games to encourage children to enjoy the many textures, colors and sounds of each season.

Throughout the day, parents and caregivers need to model the behaviors they seek to instill. Eat the same foods at the same time as the children. Sitting down with them is the best way for child care providers to show not only what and how much to eat, but also good table manners and positive ways to interact with others. Caregivers need to model physical activity as much as possible by demonstrating movements and games.  Throughout all play, encourage positive language, sharing and problem-solving. Also, incorporate different motor skills and cognitive learning, such as counting jumps and identifying colors of leaves. Above all, check all equipment and play spaces for safety hazards on a regular basis.

Children are developing a full range of skills from day one, so every experience is a  learning experience. Learning environments enriched with a variety of foods, manipulatives, and active play are key in laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices.

Have a Great Day!


(*Article reprinted from past Enrich Community newsletter.)

Tell Me A Story Tuesday – Growing Vegetable Soup

Fall is the time of year where we harvest food. Once the weather starts to cool down, it’s natural to grab a sweater and start up a pot of soup for warmth. Growing Vegetable Soup,by Lois Ehlert, presents the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that we naturally do at this time of year. Children benefit by learning from relevant events in their lives. Read this book with your child. There are SO MANY ways that you can extend this book into so much more than it is alone. You can develop vocabulary by talking about the names of vegetables, develop taste buds by sampling different kinds of vegetables, develop narrative skills and numeracy skills by making a pot of soup, and so on.

Here is an activity you can do with this book:


From the Garden to Soup 

  • Create vegetables using craft foam.
  • Place vegetables in some dirt you may have left over from your garden. You can also use a blanket to simulate earth.
  • Invite one child to be a “sounder” and another to be a “matcher.” Have the sounder secretly choose an item from the “dirt” and say the first sound of the item. For example, say “C-c-c” for carrot. Depending on your children’s ability level, you should be the sounder for the first few times that you model the game.
  • Once the sound has been heard, the matcher finds an item in the “dirt” that starts with the same sound. If that item is not the item the sounder has chosen, you can help the matcher by giving clues. Continue until the matcher holds up the correct item. When the matcher selects the correct item, he can put it into a soup pot. Play again using another set of children as a sounder and a matcher.
  • This activity can help younger children label things that grow in a garden. If you are working with younger children, you could ask them to find colors, “Can you please find me the white onion, orange carrot, red tomato….
  • You could also add some foam alphabet letters to the soup to work on letter recognition. Say, “Can anyone find a letter ‘A’ and or the letter that starts with the sound /a/ to add to our soup?”



Different Ways to “Tell the Story” with children.


Retell the Story, Create a Recipe

  • Recall the story with the children and write down the recipe for making vegetable soup
  • Attach pictures to each step in the recipe
  • With the children, follow the recipe and make vegetable soup


Flannel Board or Story Bag

  • Retell the story with a flannel board or Story Bag.
  • Place the object on the flannel board or in the bag and solicit vocabulary and story from children
  • Pass out pieces to children and as you retell the story, invite the children to place the pieces on the flannel board on the story bag
  • Place the flannel board or story bag in the reading area for children to recreate their own stories

Watch (or Make) a You Tube Video

  • Watch the video
  • Compare/Contrast the book to the video
    • pictures VS drawn pictures
  • Create your own video
    • Assign children jobs to create video
      • Cook
      • Narrator
      • Camera man
      • Props

What else would you do with this book?



Vegetable Finds

MATERIALS (Needed per child and adult):

  • paper plates
  • small paper cups
  • large bowl
  • safety knives
  • small cutting board
  • 2 whole vegetables  (don’t have to be the same for each child – have 6 types for variety)


Willie the Worm crawled into the vegetable bowl. Inch your forefinger along the table. “Which vegetable should I eat first?” he asked. Name the vegetables with the children. “His sharp teeth bit into the soft skin of a round, red tomato. He wondered what it was like inside of the tomato. Willie crawled in, and what do you think he found?” Cut the tomato, give each child a small piece and discuss their observations. Put extra pieces in the large bowl. “Willie ate ‘til he was so full he fell asleep. He didn’t try any other vegetables. But our stomachs are bigger so we can try them all and make a vegetable salad!”  Distribute materials, and say, “I wonder what we’ll discover about our vegetables.” Remind children to use their own cup and only put untasted pieces in the large bowl to share later.

Encourage children to use all five senses as they explore the vegetables. Describe and encourage them to describe visual characteristics, sound, texture, smell and taste. Ask what the attributes remind them of.  Encourage children to predict what a vegetable will look like or feel like inside and verify predictions when they cut open the vegetables.


Survey vegetables the children liked best and create a chart. Use information from survey to create a recipe. Send home the recipe with the children to re-create salad with their families. Encourage the children to represent the vegetable they cut up (draw or print). Create a book from their representations.



What’s For Snack?

MATERIALS (Needed per child):

  • Small paper bag (lunch bag) with
  • 1-2 vegetables per bag and stapled shut
  • Paper
  • Drawing materials (crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.)


Hand each child the paper bag. I made a snack for each of us last night that I thought we could enjoy today. I stapled the bags shut so the snack would not fall out as I brought them to school. But now I have forgotten what I put in the bags for our snack. Do you think you could figure out what is in your bag without looking?

Encourage the children to feel the bags. What is the shape of the item(s)? Encourage children to use descriptive words such as round, hard, soft, rough, smooth, oval, oblong, large and small. For those children who are struggling, open up the bags and invite the children to touch the object, without looking. What do they feel now?


Encourage the children to draw what they think the item(s) is in their bag. Open the bag. Were their predictions correct? Draw what was actually in the bag. Ask the children for suggestions as to what to do with the vegetables.



Where’s The Potato?


  • 10 cups or pots numbered 1-10
  • a potato


Hank was making vegetable soup in the kitchen, and he had a mess. He had pots, spoons, bowls and vegetables all over the kitchen. He needed the potato, but could not find it. There were 10 pots in the kitchen upside down and he thought the potato might be under one of the pots. Do you think you can help me find the potato for Hank so he can finish his soup? Invite the children, one at a time, to guess a number.

If a child chooses 3, emphasize that the child chose the third cup and that the 3 is in between 2 and 4. If the potato is not under that pot, offer a clue. For example, if the potato is under the 7, provide the clue: the potato is not under the 3.  The potato is under a pot after the 3 but before the 8. Continue to use these clues, emphasizing before, after and between; what number the potato is not under; and using ordinal numbers to restate the child’s choice.


Place the game on a table for the children to play on their own at choice time. You could use colors, shapes, letters, symbols, or vocabulary pictures on the pots to reinforce concepts.


Weigh In


  • Scale
  • Corn seeds, beans seeds, pea seeds, sunflower seeds
  • 2×2 inch cards with pictures of seeds
  • Large bar graph
  • 1 cup measuring cups


Introduce the scale to the group. Ask if anyone knows what the scale is and what they would do with the scale. Take a measuring cup and scoop one cup of corn seeds on one side of the scale. Ask the children, What do you think will happen when I put this cup of  bean seeds into the other side of the scale? Take one cup of bean seeds in the other side. Ask, “What happened? Why is one side lower than the other?”   As children respond, restate their responses, emphasizing vocabulary that pertains to weight and measurement.   “I have 4 different kinds of seeds – corn seeds, bean seeds, pea seeds and sunflower seeds. I wonder which seed is heavier?” Ask the children to guess which seed they think is heaviest. Ask the children to place a picture of the seed that they think is heaviest on the chart.

“How do you think we can do that? What would we do first to find out which seed weighs the most?” Write down the process for answering the question, “Which seed is heaviest?” Carry out the procedure with the children.


Invite the children to draw the steps they took to find out which seed was heaviest.  Compare their prediction to their results. Discuss if and why their predictions did not match their results.  Place other materials in the science area for the children to experiment with weight.



How to Make Vegetable Soup


  • Broccoli, onion, carrots, potato, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, green pepper, zucchini, ear of corn, pot, spoons, safety knives, cutting boards, water, peas, seasonings (parsley, marjoram, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf)
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • stove
  • hot pads
  • bowls
  • spoons
  • napkins


Ask the children to recall how vegetable soup was made in the book. “What happened first? What ingredients do we need? What kitchen utensils do we need? What do we need to do to prepare the vegetables for the soup? What do we need to do to be safe in the kitchen?”  Use the information to create a recipe with the children. Draw/Add pictures to the different steps in the recipe to help children “read” the recipe. Using the recipe, make vegetable soup.

While following the recipe, invite children to take turns reading the recipe and directing the class/group as to what to do next. Encourage children to talk about what they are doing, using vocabulary from the story.


Take pictures of process and create a book, documenting how children made vegetable soup. Solicit pictures from children of their favorite part of the process and include in the book. Include children’s comments in book. Send copies of the book home to parents or invite parents to come in and make vegetable soup with their children. Take a survey of the class – Did you like the vegetable soup? Yes or no? Graph their responses.



Veggie People


  • Whole carrot
  • Various vegetables cut into different sizes and shapes
  • toothpicks


Lay out a whole carrot (with leaves, stem and roots still intact). Discuss with the children the different parts of the carrot, naming the parts of the plant. Now, take the carrot and cut the carrot and clean the carrot. Lay out other various vegetables cut into various sizes. Invite the children to use the pieces to create a veggie person.

As they create their veggie people, encourage the children to describe their creations and how they are attaching pieces and what size, vegetable and shape they are using. Ask questions such as “who has a veggie person that has a round head?” or “does anyone have a person with a body made from a triangle shaped root?”


Display or take pictures of their creations. Invite children to dictate how they created their person – what pieces did they use, what shapes are the pieces, what parts of the plant were used?


Close-up mid section of woman holding seedling --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Close-up mid section of woman holding seedling — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


Growing Plants


  • Recording of calming music


Ask the children, “Where does a plant come from?” As the children come up with seed, invite the children to pretend to be a seed. “What would that look like?” (put your hand into a fist or your body into a ball) “What happens next? The seed sends out root into ground below. Can you show me how a seed sends out its roots?” (put fingers out or stretch out legs) “Then the sprouts begin to push their way through the ground” (move your fingers or arms upward). “What does the plant need to grow?”  (sun, water) Then the warm sun hits the plant, the rain sprinkles down, and it begins to stretch upward.”  (reach your hands and arms up) “Then the breeze comes along and the branches of the plant are blown gently” (sway your hands and arms above your head)  “Now we are ripe and ready to be picked.”


Encourage the children to make their own drawings of a plant growing from a seed to a plant. Place sequencing cards of a plant’s life cycle in the science area and invite the children to place the cards in sequential order.


I created an Activity Handout with a printable version of the listed activities

Want more ideas? I also created a handout with Other_Fruits_and_Vegetable_Activities.
Have a Great Week!


Kacey Deverell is the Mentor Supervisor at Early Childhood Alliance. She coordinates the mentoring team as well as provides mentoring and technical assistance for Paths to QUALITY programs. She has a Master’s degree in education from Ball State University. You can email or contact her at 800-423-1498 extension 2483.

Where Do You Eat Dinner?

When is the last time your family sat down to the table to share a meal?  If you are like my family, we have gotten in the habit of eating in front of the television, which I said I was never going to do as a mother.  This is not how I was raised.  My mom did everything in her power to make sure that we had dinner as a family.  I remember times when we packed up the entire meal and went to the field just so that we could eat with Dad.  It was a very rare occasion in our household if we ate like my family has grown accustomed to on a regular basis.

Well, that is going to stop right now.  Starting this week, I am going to reclaim the dining room table for what it was intended for and establish our Family Dinner Time.  This means everyone at the table together, no distractions (cell phones, video machines, television, computers, etc.), enjoying a meal together.

Research is beginning to show that eating as a family 4-5 times a week has great benefits for children.  Benefits can include improved communication skills, better manners, more nutritious meals, a broader pallet, higher academic performance, increased self-sufficiency, and more.

I know it is going to be challenge.  I am lucky that my children are young enough that they are not involved in all of the extra-curricular activities that steal time away from the family like baseball, dance class, piano lessons, homework, and on and on.  I hope if I start now and make this a “most of the time” experience that later on it will be routine and hopefully will not be as hard to initiate into our hectic lives.  However, I know that challenges will arise and we will have to face them head on.  There will be times when it will not be possible and that the family will not be able to eat together.  However, it is my pledge to my children that if it is possible and if I can make it happen, I will.  I also pledge to get my act together and plan out our menu so that we can be more conscientious of the nutrition that we are getting in our diet.  This will be a priority for my family and for the well-being of my children, my husband, and for myself.

Here are a couple of resources that I am using to help establish our Family Dinner Time:

  • The Family Table – Family meals strengthen and connect families.  We are your source for resources and support to help you eat more meals with your family so the children in your life reap the benefits.  The Family Table – make it a habit!  *From
  • The Family Dinner Project –   Most American families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day when we can reconnect, leaving behind our individual pursuits like playing video games, emailing and doing homework.  Dinner is a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs, while developing a sense of who we are as a family.   *From

Won’t you join me in this journey by establishing or maintaining your own Family Dinner Time?

Have a Great Week!


Healthy Snacks for School Age Children

As a parent, nutrition is a major concern for me.  I’ll be honest; I am overweight and have struggled with it since I was in elementary school.  My doctor said that exercise is great, but nutrition has the most to do with a healthy lifestyle.  So far, my children are very healthy and active, and I would like them to stay that way.  To help me stay on track, I need to provide my family healthy nutritional options, which includes healthy snack options.  Now that kids are back in school, I thought this would be a good time to explore healthy snack options.  Some amazing colleagues of mine in our Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) compiled the following to share with you.

The CACFP is designed to address the nutritional needs of children in child care. Federally funded and state-administered, CACFP provides reimbursements for several types of child care settings that serve nutritional meals. As a sponsor of CACFP, Early Childhood Alliance serves providers of licensed child care homes and centers, registered ministries and certified legally licensed exempt child care homes throughout northern Indiana.  For more information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program, contact Lisa Bradley by email or 800-423-1498.

I found the following list and recipe resources very helpful.  I hope you do as well.

Have a Great Week!



Assorted fruit on white background

Assorted fruit on white background

Many children are very hungry at the end of the school day.  So before children begin their homework, make sure they have a healthy snack.  This will help their bodies re-charge and fuel their brains for homework.

Most children do not eat enough servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  After- school snack time is a great time to sneak in some fruits and veggies!


Snack Ideas

  • String cheese, whole-grain crackers, fresh fruit
  • Whole grain pitas with hummus or bean dip
  • Cheesy quesadilla with tomato slices
  • Whole grain English muffin pizza – add veggies
  • Chopped papaya sprinkled with lime juice and nuts
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt and berries
  • Whole grain mini muffins and grapes
  • Edamame & whole grain brown rice (add chopsticks for fun!)
  • A boiled egg and carrot sticks
  • Veggies with dip and milk
  • Oatmeal with blueberries
  • Zucchini muffins (recipe below) and milk
  • Granola (2 recipes below) and bananas
  • Fun Fall Snacks (see below)



Zucchini Muffins

Recipe Courtesy of Simple Recipes



  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins or cranberries if using.
  2. Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin let cool another 20 minutes.
  3. Note, if you are including walnuts and dried fruit, you will likely have more batter than is needed for 12 muffins. I had about 14 muffins from this batch, and that included filling the muffin cups up as far as possible (above the surface of the muffin tin).



Granola: Only 5 Ingredients!

Recipe Courtesy of Super Healthy Kids



  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (grapeseed, coconut or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla


  • 1 cup wide cut coconut
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins or craisins
  • 1/2 cup dried mango
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


  1. Mix rolled oats and brown sugar together.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, honey and vanilla.
  3. Pour over dry mixture and stir to coat thoroughly. Add in chopped nuts and desired seeds at this point.
  4. Spread on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir frequently (every 5 minutes) to ensure even baking. It should be golden brown when it is done.
  6. Add dried fruit and coconut after it is finished baking.
  7. Let it cool on the baking sheet and then break up any large pieces. Store in an airtight container.
  8. Makes 8 cups. Can store for 3 weeks.



Homemade Granola

Recipe Courtesy of A Child Grows



  • ⅓ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup raw almonds*
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ⅔-1 cup dried cherries, unsweetened*
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus a couple pinches for the nuts
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • ¼ cup organic apple juice, unsweetened *

*One piece of advice: chop the nuts and fruit fairly small if the little foodie in your house will be eating it, too.



  1. Roast the seeds and nuts. Heat the oven to 350°. On a large baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, spread the sunflower seeds and the pumpkin seeds in an even layer leaving about ⅓ of the sheet empty. (You’ll use it for the nuts). Bake the seeds for 3 minutes and remove the baking sheet. Spread the nuts onto the last third of the baking sheet and bake for 7 more minutes. Set aside to cool. Chop them well after they have cooled. Lower the oven to 325°.
  2. Heat the liquids. In a small saucepan, heat the syrup, apple juice and cinnamon over medium heat. Let simmer for around 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally with a small whisk or fork.
  3. Prepare the oat mixture. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oats, sea salt, chopped nuts and seeds and mix through. Pour the heated liquids over the mixture and stir so it is all combined.
  4. Cook the oat mixture. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or lined with parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Spread the mixture out into an even layer and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the fruit. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and stir in the fruit. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Cool and enjoy.



Fun Fall Snacks

Fall festivities mean fall treats and snacks.  Think outside the box to ensure children are still receiving healthy snacks and not cakes and cookies.  Banana ghosts made with chocolate chips and orange pumpkins with celery stems are a fun way to ensure that children receive healthy fall snacks!

Gardening with Kids

Every year my family plants a small garden – a couple of tomato plants, pepper plants, lots of sunflowers, and whatever else catches our eyes.  Each year the kids have been getting more and more involved in the entire process.  They enjoy planting the seeds or plants, digging out weeds, and especially watering each and every plant.  They also enjoy picking the tomatoes from the vine, pulling peppers to eat for dinner, and seeing the sunflowers bloom and tower over us all.

Not only does our garden produce wonderful food that we can enjoy, but is also a valuable teaching tool. Along with the fun of getting dirty and playing in the water, children learn valuable lessons with the help of gardening. They learn about patience as they wait for vegetables to grow, responsibility as they see how we have to care for the garden, and even loss when the plants die at the end of a season and we have to cut them down.

Gardening is a tool that not only families can use, but child care programs and schools as well.  In fact, at the Fall Conference of the Fort Wayne Association for the Education of Young Children, ECA’s Lisa Bradley, CACFP Food Monitor, and Marc Goeglein, Learning Center Co-Director, presented a workshop about this called, Magic Beans and Growing Things.  I asked Lisa and Marc if we could share some of the insights that they presented that day.

Whether you start a small window sill garden in your home, plant a garden in your yard, start a garden at school, or help with a community garden, I hope you share the experience with your children.

Have a Great Week!




Gardening – A small investment…with a huge return!

Why do we feel that it is important and beneficial to garden with children?

  • Gardening with children helps teach many of the Indiana Foundations (English and Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education and Health, Visual Arts).
  • It also introduces new and different foods.

What Can Preschoolers Grow?

  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Squash & Gourds
  • Corn
  • Radishes
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honey Dew
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Sunflowers
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Pumpkins

What can you do once the garden starts to produce?

Kids can:

  • Weed the garden.
  • Water the garden.
  • Make charts.
  • Make predictions and observations.
  • Draw pictures of what is happening in the garden.
  • Harvest the produce.

Can they do anything else?

  • Paint with the Harvest (corn, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, sunflowers, carrots, etc.)  Getting messy is OKAY!!!
  • Cut Cabbage
  • Clean Potatoes
  • Cook with the Harvest
  • Enjoy the “vegetables” of their labor


Lisa Bradley is a Food Monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). She works across ECA’s 10-county service area, providing nutrition information and training while monitoring Program compliance. Lisa, who has a degree in culinary arts, has also worked as the Food Quality Controller at ECA’s Learning Center-Beacon Street.


Marc Goeglein is Center Co-Director at ECA’s Learning Center on Beacon Street. Prior to that, he was a classroom teacher there.  Marc, who has a degree in early childhood education, was instrumental in starting the gardening activities at Beacon Street. Since its inception, gardening at the Center has provided both learning experiences and real produce for the children at the Center.





Tips for Gardening with Children from NAEYC

Let’s Move – Kids In Motion

It is so important to get kids moving. Obesity in children in our country is a serious issue, but you can help fight that by getting your kids moving. You can help by getting yourself moving as well. If your kids exercise with you, chances are they are going to be more active.

Included here are 12 links (of the many available) to some fun and engaging ways to incorporate movement into your day.  Turn off the TV, put everything else aside, and make time to move with your kids.  For my family I developed a “Kids in Motion” basket with our favorite activities to have on hand, ready to go.

What is your favorite way to incorporate movement into your day?

Have a Great Week!





30 Days of Moving with Kids

26 Ways to Exercise through the ABC’s

Physical Activity Cube

The Card Deck Workout

Gross Motor Activities Using Blocks

From Head to Toe Activity Cards

Exercise Eggs

Yoga Obstacle Course

Getting Kids Moving – Fun Exercise Games

Kids Yoga Poses

Gross Motor Activities from A to Z

40 activities to get your kids MOVING!ties to get your kids MOVING!

Afterschool Snacks

Let’s face it. When our kids get home from school, they are hungry.   But snacking isn’t a bad thing if you provide healthy options that will help satisfy a snack-attack, and at the same time not ruin the appetite for dinner.

To help explore some healthy snack guidelines and options available, I have asked Lisa Bradley, our Child and Adult Care Food Program Coordinator, to share some resources.

Have a Great Week!




It is hard to believe that the school buses are already running, and our school-agers have begun a new year. We hope that they all have a great start to the year and are excited about their new adventures. One thing that we can be sure of is that they will be ready for an afterschool snack when they get home.

When we plan afternoon snacks, we are providing the children with a chance to refuel between lunch and supper. Our serving choices are important.  We have the chance to rethink the afternoon snack.  Don’t get me wrong — I did like, do like and will always like cookies and milk after a hard day in class, but I do know that I can make better choices. One of those choices is water. Our bodies need water to maintain good health. If we start by knowing we are making water the snack beverage, then we can look at the food choices that we make.  Looking at snacks as mini meals is a great way to make nutritious balanced choices. We can consciously avoid dessert-type foods and serve in their places fruits or vegetables and lean proteins. Summer and early fall make local produce easy to find and affordable to purchase. Occasionally adding a whole grain in the place of the fruit/veggie or protein gives you many options. Some great, kid friendly ideas include green, red and yellow bell pepper strips and string cheese; whole wheat pita bread and peanut butter; romaine or iceberg lettuce wraps with chicken; and hummus with whole grain corn chips. All of these snacks will fill them up just enough to keep going but still have room for a great supper, and all of them can be served with water to drink. Making snack time fun and a time to relax and share how their days went can let children “shift gears.”

Letting our school agers help plan our menus gives them a bit of independence and get them thinking about what foods may taste good together. It also is a teachable moment when we can give them some guidance on healthy choices, serving sizes and seasonal fruits and veggies.

Snack time should be fun. After deciding what you are serving, look at how to serve it.  People eat with their eyes first. Making snacks that are not only tasty, but look fun adds to the experience we are trying to create and can start great conversations and healthy lifelong habits.





Lisa Bradley is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator for ECA. She works across ECA’s 10-county service area, providing nutrition information and training while monitoring Program compliance. Lisa, who has a degree in culinary arts, has also worked as the Food Quality Controller at ECA’s Learning Center-Beacon Street.



For more tips about After School Snacks, visit:


What’s For Lunch?

Along with getting all of your child’s school supplies, back-to-school prep should include planning for healthy lunches.

A healthy school lunch provides sound nutrition to establish a lifetime of healthy habits and the energy your child needs for the rest of his busy day.  My son participated in “Lunch Bunch” for the past year through his preschool.  In doing so, he is convinced that Mommy needs to pack his lunch for him to take to school this year as well.  So like a lot of other parents, I am the one responsible for ensuring that he gets the nutrition he needs to get through the day.

To help explore some healthy lunch guidelines and options, I have asked Lisa Bradley, CACFP Coordinator, to share some resources.

Have a Great Week!




One of the biggest memories I have about elementary school is sitting with my class in the lunch room and opening my Little House on the Prairie lunch box to see what wonders I would find inside. I did not think about whether coming up with fun, nutritious lunches each day was a tough thing for my mom to do. All I knew was that I could count on my lunch being the best one at the table. Looking back, I realize that a lot of time was involved to pack four lunches, five days a week, and to keep it interesting and healthy. I asked my mom her secret, and she said that the biggest one was….planning.

It sounds easy, but planning has its challenges. First of all, there is making a nutritious lunch that will be eaten. Whether you are a parent packing a lunch box, a day care provider feeding 10 children, or a school cafeteria worker, you know that food is only going to give them the nutrients they need if they actually eat it. I look at the My Plate material (see link below) and base my lunches on providing a lean protein, a fruit, a vegetable and a grain product. Milk is my go-to beverage for the vitamins and minerals it provides. Letting children help plan is a good way to teach them about wise food choices as well as giving them a say in what they eat. Listening to our children’s input will also help us provide a variety of different foods so they will keep interested in what we are presenting to them. Shop together and explore the seasonal fruits and vegetables available at the grocery or at the farmer’s market.

It is also important while planning to take into account how much time the child has to eat. School settings have shorter lunch times than homes. We need to be careful to consider that for every item they may need help opening, they lose for eating. Having pre-cut, pre-peeled fruits and veggies, and sandwiches that are cut for easy handling is a handy way to add more minutes to their eating. Making sure we send a spoon or fork if needed also assists in time management. Another consideration is making sure that the foods we pack or prepare are not going to spoil if they sit in a locker or classroom. Fortunately, many new lunch boxes have small freezer packs that will keep things cool, or you can try freezing grapes as a fruit. When you child is ready for lunch, the grapes will be thawed, but anything perishable will still be fresh and safe to eat.

Keep it fun. Try using different cookie cutters to cut everything from sandwiches to fruit. Look for seasonal foods or try tying into things going on in their classes or at home. For example, on classroom yellow day, add a yellow food to the lunch. Speaking on adding foods, if you wish to try new foods, make sure that they are served with a mix of the familiar. It can take up to 10 tries when presenting new foods for a child to try it. If we present all new and unfamiliar foods, a lunch may not get eaten, and the rest of the day may be more challenging.

Lunch time is a great time to refuel and relax. These simple tips may make it easier for everyone involved!



Lisa Bradley is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator for ECA. She works across ECA’s 10-county service area, providing nutrition information and training while monitoring Program compliance. Lisa, who has a degree in culinary arts, has also worked as the Food Quality Controller at ECA’s Learning Center-Beacon Street.



For more tips about Packing Healthy School Lunches, visit: