Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center has been serving the community since 1971 by providing comprehensive early childhood education to children of working families. This includes promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for their students. The center believes that young children learn best by doing—through active involvement with their environment, children begin to enthusiastically learn about the world around them.
This philosophy led to their partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Eat. Move. Talk! program. In 2016, Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center hosted family and teacher listening sessions for DPH and partners to learn more about the challenges families and teachers face (and the strategies they use to promote healthy eating, physical activity, language development and literacy development) with young children. The stories that the Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care community shared helped inform Eat. Move. Talk! training.
The Eat. Move. Talk! training shares ways early childhood teachers can increase healthy eating, moving and talking with babies and children in the classroom. In other words, helping children learn by doing. The training also provides tools for families to increase these healthy habits in the home. These habits support healthy body and brain development, and school readiness, for the youngest Georgians. Since its inception, more than 200 early childhood education teachers have been trained in Eat. Move. Talk! including teachers from Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center.
The Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center incorporates Eat. Move. Talk! activities into their classrooms daily. The training helps the teachers to start thinking outside the box, especially with small and large motor activities in their classrooms. They are creating obstacle courses in the rooms for indoor exercise, using yoga as they read stories and using recycled materials to engage children in activities.
The children have many opportunities to learn and practice health behaviors throughout the day in and out of the classroom. Healthy eating habits are modeled daily during family style meal time. The children are offered a variety of healthy foods (whole-grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and meat or protein alternatives) to eat at breakfast, lunch and snack time. Providing a variety of foods allows the children to try foods they otherwise may not have tried.
The center provides a monthly Grab & Go program that comprises a healthy snack and book for each child and health resources for parents to take with them. Often the healthy snack, book and resources align thematically to reinforce healthy eating habits and literacy skills simultaneously.
Several opportunities to build language and vocabulary skills are offered to the children through “Cooking in the Classroom.” Cooking in the Classroom incorporates quality children’s literature with a follow-up cooking activity. The cooking activity helps to build language skills in other languages. Research indicates that children from bilingual homes have difficulty learning to read mainly because they are not proficient in either language. This program allows the children to have new experiences and to build skills in different languages while participating in fun yet challenging activities.
The Cooking in the Classroom experience also brings together healthy eating, physical activity and language and literacy development. Teachers encourage children to try new foods, and the children handle vegetables and fruits and become familiar with the foods as ingredients in their new culinary creation. When the children prepare their recipes, they develop small- and large-motor skills and learn kinesthetically from touch. When they are cutting, chopping and turning pages of the recipe books, they are developing small-motor skills. When they are mixing, folding and rolling out ingredients, they are developing large-motor skills. Language plays a large role in cooking, from learning how to read recipes from left to right, to following directions and procedures and gaining exposure to many new vocabulary words.
Classroom physical activity, healthy family style meals, and the Grab & Go and Cooking in the Classroom programs help the children build healthy habits that they will carry into adulthood. The parents of Whitfield Dalton Day Care Center have busy schedules, because they work or attend school or both. Like all busy parents, they are not always able to provide healthy choices to the children. Implementing healthy choices in the school supports families by giving them the information and skills to lead a healthier life. The center distributes monthly newsletters, booklets, and public service announcements containing health and safety information to share ways to maintain good health habits. The center also uses Facebook to engage families in conversations about health.
Julia Clayton, program manager at Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center, shares:
A focus on healthy habits has helped the children improve their lifestyle, and it has increased attendance. The children are excited about being at the center each day. They are growing and developing positive habits in their daily lives. Parents are very supportive of the nutrition programs. They love seeing their children eating healthy foods and making good food choices at home. The teachers are also excited about the new activities that have been incorporated in the classrooms. These activities have helped the children maintain focus and engage, especially on those cold winter days.
To learn more about Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center, click .
To learn more about Eat. Move. Talk!, click here.