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Obama initiative targets home child care providers

The Carroll County Health Department and the University of Maryland Carroll County Extension Office are teaming up to spread healthier child care practices to county providers.

A training called Building Blocks for Fun will be held at the University of Maryland Extension Office Aug. 19, and will focus on ways home-based child care providers — as well as larger child care businesses — can help children eat healthier and exercise more, according to Maggie Kunz, Health Department coordinator of special services. She said the training will help providers assess their current practices and provide tools and resources they can implement.

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"We are trying to reach as many providers as possible that are interested in adopting as many of the healthier practices as possible," Kunz said. "A lot of the smaller providers are probably our target audience as they are maybe less likely to be doing some of these sorts of things. They are smaller and they might have less resources."

The training is based on the Let's Move Childcare program, part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative that aims to solve "the problem of obesity within a generation," according to the website. The program focuses on five core components: healthier eating, healthier drinks, more physical activity, limiting screen time and breast feeding.

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"Since child care providers have children for more awake time than their parents do, [Obama] is trying to get them up and moving and to make better choices with food and beverages," said Terry Serio, an extension office educator and instructor for the training. "We gloss over the breast feeding part, but we ask [providers] to encourage parents to bring breast milk so they can feed the babies without using formula."

The training will emphasize serving food "family style," according to Kunz, where children can make their own portion decisions, as well as serving water or 100-percent juice beverages instead of soft drinks or other sugary drink options.

There will also be an emphasis on finding ways to get children moving and engaged in physical play, according to Kunz, and child care providers will be given a kit of activity materials they can use with their children as well as tips on how to utilize simple objects to create fun activities.

"We went to a training on the training together that talked about using pool noodles to do things," Kunz said. "It's a different way to engage kids with something cheap and safe to have around the house."

Child care providers will begin the training by taking a quiz on the Let's Move Childcare website, according to Serio, assessing their practices in each of the five key areas, and then learning about some of the recommended ways they can improve their practices. They will then formulate an action plan for implementing what they learn in the training back at their child care practice. After the training, they will put the plan into action, retake the quiz and those that earn a higher score will be eligible to pick up a larger kit of activity materials from the extension office.

"We will give them a kit with bean bags, jump ropes scarves and recipe books," Serio said. "The kit is worth anywhere from $35 to $50."

The training is also worth three credit hours of continuing education through the Maryland State Department of Education, which requires licensed child care providers to complete 12 hours of training each year in order to maintain their certification, according to Spokesman Bill Reinhard.

The extension office has offered the training before, according to Serio, but community response was tepid, possibly because the program previously cost $35. Now, thanks to a new grant, the cost of the training has been reduced to $15.

"We hope to do more of these classes, depending on the interest level," Serio said.

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go

What: Building Blocks for Fun

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When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Aug. 19

Where: The University of Maryland Carroll County Extension Office, 700 Agricultural Center Dr, Westminster

Cost: $15 per person

More information: Advanced registration is required; register by calling the extension office at 410-386-2760. Payment is accepted in the form of check or cash.

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