For the Love of Movement

Love of Movement Photo


“I am very proud of my teachers. Being active has become a way of life in the classroom.”

 — Liz Snyder, Director

Mary Linsmeier Schools, Milwaukee


When Liz Snyder became the Director of Mary Linsmeier Schools in Milwaukee, they were halfway into their participation in Active Early 2.0. Liz admits she was initially concerned about the additional equipment and time needed to continue incorporating Active Early 2.0  requirements into her program. But she was determined, with her teachers, to make it happen.

Guided by her Technical Consultant, Karen Narlow, and SFTA Early Childhood Program Specialist Abbe Braun, Liz worked with her staff to “revamp” the way they used their classroom and transition times to make them more active. With the $5,000 Active Early 2.0 grant they received the program purchased tools, materials, and equipment to make staying active more fun.

“Children love the movement areas,” emphasizes Liz, “They are some of our most popular spaces.”

They have yoga mats and posters illustrating poses children can try, multi-colored “stepping stones” for children to move, sort, and jump along, and a kid-sized bean bag toss. But staff goes beyond providing these tools for children to keep moving. Staff are now an active part of—well, staying active!

“I have seen a change in my teachers,” says Liz “They are more involved in being up and moving with the kiddos. They are being excellent role models.”

One of the program’s quality improvement goals for family engagement focused on a Halloween Health Fair Costume Party. Children and their families were invited for a healthy candy-alternative celebration of Halloween. Children “trick-or-treated” to each classroom to brush a giant set of teeth and win a toothbrush and toothpaste, complete an obstacle course, or learn to make hummus and homemade tortilla chips. Each activity promoted a healthy, active lifestyle.

“It was a great opportunity to show the parents how Active Early works,” says Liz. “And we had great participation with over 20 families that came.”

While earning her Early Childhood Administrator Credential, Liz even created a website about her program’s implementation of Active Early 2.0 and the Health Fair, for parents to explore. Liz plans to make the Health Fair an annual event as a way to sustain their efforts to stay active.

“We want to continue being good role models,” says Liz. “And it’s fun!”

Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

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Unplug! Limiting Screen Time


Did you know?

  •  As the amount of screen time increases, the amount of hands-on creative play decreases.
  • Children consume 167 more calories for each hour of television watched.
  • One 30-second food commercial can influence the food preferences of children as young as age 2.
  • 40% of 3-month old infants view screen media regularly.
  • Screen time for children under 3 is linked to irregular sleep patterns and delayed language acquisition.
  • On average, preschool children spend 32 hours a week with screen media.

 Why less screen time is better

  • Less screen time early on leads to positive outcomes later in childhood, such as doing better in school, eating a healthier diet and being more physically active.
  • Less screen time leads families to spend their time in other ways, like reading or talking. These activities promote early literacy and early learning.
  • Less screen time for children means they have more time for active play, creative play and hands-on play. All of these are important for early learning, critical thinking, building problem-solving skills and gaining a self-confidence and self-control.
  • Less screen time means children are exposed to fewer ads and commercials for foods and beverages that are high in fat and sugar. This can make it easier for you to encourage healthy choices because children are focused on the foods offered to them instead of what they saw in an ad. It can also make shopping trips a more enjoyable experience!

Screen Time Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  •  Zero hours of screen-time for children under 2
  • Less than 2 hours per day for older children (Remember the less the better!)
  • A screen-free environment in children’s bedrooms

What counts as screen time?

Television: This includes time spent watching, as well as those times when the TV is on in the background.

Movies: This includes both movies watched at home and in theaters.

Computers: All kinds fit into this category, whether it’s a laptop, desktop and even tablets.

Videogames: All videogames count as screen time, even those that get you moving more.

Smart Phones: Yep, whether surfing the web, watching videos or playing games, these count!

E-Books: While reading is great, e-books provide a different experience to young children. Time reading with technology can shift the focus to how to use the device rather than literacy.

Screen Time

Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

What can replace screen time?

  1. Read through the 101 Screen-Free Activities.
  2. Star the activities that you and your family already do.
  3. Circle the activities that you would be interested in doing.
  4. Pick three activities that you are willing to do in the next week. Draw an arrow next to these.
  5. Make a pledge to unplug! Choose which options you will commit to and fill in the blanks! Don’t forget to sign and date it. Put your pledge card in a prominent place where it will be a reminder. Think about making a pledge with family friends! You can check in each week to see how your screen-free activities are going!  

Materials for the Unplug! learning center


Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Screen-Free Week Organizer’s Kit. Retrieved from

Council for Communications and Media. (2011). Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. Pediatrics, 128(5), pages 1-6.

Active Early & Healthy Bites: Home Edition, Part V

Part V of Active Early & Healthy Bites: Home Edition focus on Establishing and Maintaining Healthy Habits for Young Children Across Environments. 

Review Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV


Sue, an early care and education provider in De Pere says, “We are fortunate to have families choose us to help them raise and care for their children, what we teach them now will be with them for the rest of their lives.” So why is early care and education so important to childhood obesity prevention?

  • There are over 170,000 slots open to children in Wisconsin’s regulated child care programs. Children who are in care, average of 31+ hours each week. This means that early care and education professionals have a huge influence on a child’s life.
  • Families trust early care and education professionals.
  • Early care and education professionals understand children and their development! Early care and education professionals are prepared to create healthy environments and help even the youngest child make healthy choices (i.e. knowing a child’s schedule, identifying great opportunities for impromptu and planned lessons).
  • Young children look up to early care and education professionals, and thus they are critical role models. An effective early care and education professional takes this to heart and uses their influence to positively impact outcomes for kids.
  • Early care and education professional have been successful: View a Success Story Video.


To gain a better understanding of how parents perceive health and physical activity to be incorporated into early care and education settings, KW2 held a number of focus groups in Wisconsin. UW Department of Family Medicine and WI Department of Health Services analyzed the data from the focus groups, finding that:

  • Nutrition and physical activity are not necessarily top priorities in choosing child care.
  • Parents are somewhat more concerned about nutrition than physical activity in child care.
  • Parents are generally not aware of nutrition and physical activity recommendations. They trust child care programs are meeting governmental and professional guidelines.
  • Parents do recognize the importance of the relationship between nutrition and physical activity practices at home and in child care.
  • Parents want more information and open communication with providers about nutrition and physical activity and less reliance on posted menus and schedules.

From these findings, we think its important for families to have a good understanding of what Wisconsin’s state child licensing rules actually require.

Family Child Care providers who are licensed are required to:

  • Plan activities so that each child may use large and small muscles.
  • Plan daily activities that are age and developmentally appropriate for each child to include daily indoor and outdoor activities when child is in care for more than 3 hours, except for inclement weather and/or health reasons and that involve both active and quiet play.
  • Television, including videotapes and DVDs, may be used only to supplement daily plan for children. No child may be required to watch television.
  • For infants and Toddlers, non-mobile awake children shall be placed on their stomach occasionally throughout the day and non-walking children who can creep or crawl shall be given opportunities each day to move freely in a safe, clean, open, warm and uncluttered area.

Licensing group child care group child care programs must:

  • Have written program activities which are suitable for the developmental level of each child and each group of children that include large and small muscle development.
  • Plan daily activities that are flexible and balanced, including active and quiet activities and indoor and outdoor activities if more than 3 hours a day, unless inclement weather or health reasons. 
  • Television may only be used to supplement the daily plan for children. No child may be required to watch television.
  • For infants and Toddlers, non-mobile awake children shall be placed on their stomach occasionally throughout the day and non-walking children who can creep or crawl shall be given opportunities each day to move freely in a safe, clean, open, warm and uncluttered area.

What’s considered inclement weather? 

  • Heavy Rain
  • Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Wind chills of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for children 2 and older
  • Wind chills of 20 degree Fahrenheit or below for children under the age of 2

Other licensing rules related to nutrition and physical activity cover topics like staff development for those who prepare food, outdoor space availability, child guidance practices, available equipment for large muscle development and rest periods.

Licensing rules cover several important facets of nutrition and physical activity, such as ensuring developmentally appropriate practice and defining inclement weather. However, there are also areas of the licensing rules that are vague and could be strengthened, such as including specific amounts of time for opportunities for physical activity or specific nutrition guidelines that go beyond the basic meal pattern. Its important the families know what licensing requires and what their expectations might be beyond licensing rules.


YoungStar is Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System. YoungStar builds upon licensing, with more evidence-based indicators of quality being met with each incremental star level. The four general categories of quality indicators are Provider Training & Education, Learning Environment & Curriculum, Business & Professional Practices, and Health & Wellness.

Two out of the four Health & Wellness points focus on physical activity and nutrition. One point focuses on nutrition and requires programs to follow the guidelines set by the Child and Adult Care Food Program and that programs have policies to address food allergies and special dietary restrictions. One point focuses on physical activity and requires 60 minutes of physical activity each day through active transitions, teacher-led physical activity, outdoor time, tummy time for infants, limited use of restrictive and music and movement. 

Making an informed choice about who will care for our children while we are working is one of the most difficult and important decisions a family can make. YoungStar’s five-star quality rating and improvement system supports families in making this decision. The rating scale recognizes practices that early learning settings have in place that are proven to be good for kids. YoungStar gives families a snapshot of a program’s quality to compare with their own views on quality child care. Families can use star ratings and points earned as a tool to engage providers in discussions about their quality improvement efforts and to align what’s most important to their family with the elements a program has to offer.

For more information, view Reading the Stars: Understanding the 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Additionally, families can receive referrals to child care programs in their area through their local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (CCR&Rs). Community-based Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies serve all 72 counties and 11 Tribes. As members of Supporting Families Together Association, they serve the entire state of Wisconsin by:

  • Connecting parents with child care services and consumer education to make informed choices when selecting child care.
  • Using a strengthening families philosophy to appropriately support families
  • Providing guidance to parents on child development, early learning, child abuse and neglect prevention, health and wellness and early care and education and school readiness

Contact your CCR&R Map & Roster today.


When looking for child care or checking in with the program that children are attending, families can ask a variety of questions to start good conversations about nutrition and physical activity needs. Here are just a few examples:

  • What is your approach to physical activity and nutrition?
  • How do you or your staff integrate physical activity and nutrition education into early learning?
  • Do you have a physical activity policy and a nutrition policy? If yes, what do they include?
  • How do your lesson plans integrate physical activity and nutrition?
  • How does your schedule promote physical activity and nutrition?
  • How do you use your behaviors and/or staff behaviors to promote healthy habits?
  • How are meals and snacks planned?
  • How do you engage and support families in promoting healthy habits early on?


There are many ways in which families can support physical activity and nutrition in early care and education settings. For physical activity and nutrition to be maximized for young children it truly takes a partnership that bridges home and care. Here are just a few ways in which families can support their provider or program:

  • Pack warm clothes for outdoor play in the winter. Consider sending extras to make sure kids can go out twice a day and stay warm!
  • Make sure solid shoes for active play make it to care every day!
  • Think about bringing non-food treats for birthdays and other celebrations!
  • Ask what you can do to help make the program more active and encourage healthy eating.
  • Volunteer to help start and maintain a garden or organize a walk or ride to care.
  • Engage providers and teachers in conversation about gross motor development, physical activity and nutrition.

Resources for Families


While early care and education is a critical setting beyond the home that influence young children’s nutrition and activity habits, we know that its not the only other influential setting. Numerous other environments have an impact, including the business sector, health care settings, faith-based organizations, schools, government and other community-based organizations, like nonprofits.  Here are just a few ideas for ways in which communities can get actively involved in supporting the development and maintenance of healthy habits:

  • Plant community gardens
  • Make joint use agreements (to use playgrounds and space)
  • Provide healthy community meals
  • Support staff wellness programs
  • Support breastfeeding
  • Eliminate food deserts
  • Organize community physical activities (i.e. runs, bike rides, walks, etc.)
  • Create parent advisory committees
  • Improve the built environment (bike paths, safe streets, etc.)
  • Disseminate accurate and timely information

Remember that many of these strategies can occur across sectors, including churches, mosques, temples, workplaces, businesses, schools, early care and education programs,  family resource centers, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries, service organizations, city government and county government. Here are resources specific to the various sectors:

Early Care and Education


Faith-Based Communities

Business Sector

City or County Government

Community-Based and Nonprofit Organizations

Health Care Providers

Physical Activity on a Dime!

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Why are homemade materials just as good if not better?

  • Homemade physical activity equipment is easy on the budget. With a young child’s interests and needs changing quickly, making equipment at home with little to no cost makes it easier to keep equipment new and novel.
  • Creativity and imagination become a big part of play. Because homemade equipment may not look exactly like what’s available in stores, children don’t have an automatic idea of how the equipment should be used. They can create their own games and uses!
  • Families can make physical activity equipment from items they already have on-hand, making equipment easily accessible. This is great when friends and family come to play because more equipment can be made in an instant.
  • Homemade equipment encourages both indoor and outdoor play so that children have opportunities to get active rain or shine.
  • Just like purchased equipment, equipment that is homemade supports the development and practice of a variety of gross motor skills. The various textures, sizes and shapes of equipment also offer great opportunities for sensory exploration.

More Simple Ideas

Fabric Squares = Dancing Scarves (just hem the edges!)

Yarn = Ball

Socks = Ball

Crumpled Wrapping or Newspaper = Ball

Laundry Basket on Side = Soccer Goal

Laundry Basket Upright = Basketball Goal

Paper Plates = Skates (great on various surfaces!)

Plastic Bottles = Throwing Target

A Combination of Items = Obstacle Course

An Open Space = Dance Floor

Bubble Wrap = A Fun Jumping Surface!


Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

Create a yarn ball to take home, so that the fun in physical activity can start right away! Yarn balls are soft enough that they can be great for play indoors and outdoors. The texture also makes it easy to catch and great for sensory exploration.

  1. Create a template by cutting a rectangle out of cardboard.  The rectangle can be larger or smaller, depending on the size yarn ball you want. Then cut a smaller rectangle out of the middle.
  2. Begin to wind the yarn around the rectangle near the center of the shape across the longer sides of the template.
  3. When yarn has been thickly wrapped around the rectangle in just the one direction, cut the string of yarn from the remaining spool.
  4. Take a separate piece of yarn and fold it in half. Then, loop it through the sides of the internal hole of the rectangle and tightly tie it around all of the wound yarn, like a belt.
  5. Once tightly tied, cut the yarn at the two edges of the rectangle.
  6. Slide the yarn out from the middle of the rectangle. Tie a second string around the yarn ball, repeating step 4.
  7. Trim and fluff the yarn ball into a round shape!

Yarn Ball

Materials for the Physical Activity on a Dime! Learning Center:


Coe, J. & Allsbrook, L. (1978). See How They Run: A Lesson Guide to Preschool Movement Education.

Craft, D. & Smith, C. (2008). Dr. Craft’s Active Play! Fun Physical Activities for Young Children.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Department of Health Services & Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. (2011). Active Early: A Wisconsin Guide to Improving Childhood Physical Activity.

Figuring out Food Labels

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It goes without saying that eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is important.  Food labels tell you what’s inside the food you’re eating, which allows you to make smart choices for keeping you and your family feeling healthy and great.  Food labels can seem confusing with all the numbers and percentages. Some key parts of a food label you should look out for are highlighted here.

 Parts of a Food Label

Serving Size:  This tells the amount of food in one serving/portion. The package might contain many servings, so be sure to look at this number to help control portions.

Servings Per Container or Package: This is how many servings there are in the package.  Some foods are low in calories and fat if you have only one serving. But if you eat more than one serving, the calories, fat and/or sugar can really add up!

Calories: This tells you how much energy you get in one serving of that food.

Total Fat: This is the total amount of all the different fats. While your body does need some fat, avoid foods with high saturated and/or trans fats which aren’t good for your heart.

Cholesterol and Sodium: This tells you how much of each are in one serving. Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and sodium.

Dietary Fiber: This tells you how much fiber is in one serving. Fiber helps your food move through your body easily. Look for foods high in fiber (4 grams or more per serving).

Sugars: This is the total amount of sugar (natural and added sugar) there is in one serving.  Our bodies don’t need too much sugar. It can add extra calories that we don’t need.

Protein: This is the amount of protein per serving. Protein helps keep muscles strong. Read carefully- high protein foods can also be high in fat.

Vitamins: Vitamins help your body stay healthy—foods high in vitamins will have 20% or more of daily values.

Quick Tips for Food Labels

Nutrition Facts

  • Portion Control
    Remember the serving size and servings per container are on the top of the label.  If the serving size is 5 crackers and you eat 10 crackers, then you have eaten 2 servings of crackers.
  • Low Level Nutrients
    Low level nutrients are nutrients listed on the food label that you want to limit in your diet. This includes total fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Select foods that are LOW in these areas because you don’t want too much of these in your diet.
  • High Level Nutrients
    High level nutrients are nutrients that you want more of in your diet. This includes protein, fiber, vitamins (folate, vitamin c, etc.) and minerals (iron, etc.). Look for foods that are HIGH in these 
  • 5/20 Rule
    The percentages in the “percent daily values” column come in handy to quickly check if there is a high or low amount of a particular nutrient.
    Rule of thumb: 5% is low and 20% is high for any of these nutrients. Look for higher percentages of the high level nutrients, and lower for the low level nutrients.
  • Ingredients List
    The ingredients list on the food label is very important because it tells you specifically what is in a food and can help you figure out how healthy the food really is. Ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight. This means that there is the most of the first ingredient in your food, and the least of the last ingredient.  Look for grains with whole grains listed as the first ingredient. Try not to buy foods that have sugar (or a sugary ingredient) listed as one of the top 5 ingredients.

 Don’t Be Fooled by the name!

The ingredient list can also help you identify “hidden” ingredients, like added sugars (bad) and whole grains (good). Here are some other names they might be disguised as:

Added Sugars
Added sugar has lots of names. Here are some names to watch out for in the ingredient list:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • White sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Syrup

Whole grains

Whole grains are healthier than refined grains because the bran and the germ of the grain/kernel are not lost during milling. Whole grain foods should have one of the following whole grain ingredients listed as their first ingredient:

  • Whole wheat
  • Whole oats/oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Whole grain barley
  • Popcorn
  • Bulgar (cracked wheat)
  • Whole grain corn/cornmeal
  • Whole rye
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet

Beware! Labels like multi-grain, 100% wheat, seven-grain, stone-ground, bran, or cracked wheat do not mean that a food is made with whole grains. Be sure to read ingredient lists!

Food Label Quick Guide

Food Label

4 Easy Steps to Using Food Labels

Flow Chart

Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

Try out your nutrition label reading skills! There are several pairs of foods set out in front of you. Using the food label tools you have learned about, decide which of the two foods is the better option. Be sure to:

  1. Check the serving size of each item and think about the actual amount you would likely eat.
  2. Compare amounts of fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol. Remember, you want less of these.
  3. Compare amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Remember, you want more of these.
  4. Lastly, compare lists of ingredients. Remember, you want whole grain ingredients listed first and sugar ingredients listed later or not at all.

Check your answers by looking at the colored sticker on the bottom of or inside the food package. Green is the healthier, preferred option. Pink is the less desirable option of the two.

Remember in general, foods that are low in sugar, fat and sodium and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals are foods to eat more frequently. Foods high in fat, sugar and sodium and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber are foods to eat less frequently or avoid altogether. Foods that fall somewhere in the middle are “sometimes” foods.

Materials for the Figuring out Food Labels learning center:

The following examples would work (the bolded item is the healthier option and should be labeled with the green sticker):

  • Cereal Low in Sugar or Oatmeal versus cereal high in sugar (10+ grams)
  • Frozen Fruit versus Fruit Canned in Heavy Syrup
  • Whole wheat cracker versus Ritz or Cheez-It type crackers
  • Plain Yogurt versus Flavored Yogurt
  • Popcorn versus Cookies
  • Skim or 1% Milk versus Chocolate or Strawberry-flavored Milk
  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread versus White Bread
  • Hummus versus Ranch Dressing or Dip
  • Frozen Vegetables versus Canned Vegetables (regular salt)


Nemours. Kids Health. Retrieved from

Nourish Interactive. (2008-2012). Nourish Interactive. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from

Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for developing this learning center. 

Family Meals

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Did you know?

Eating meals together as a family…

  • Can help build stronger and closer relationships with your children.
  • Encourages healthier and more structured eating habits in children.
  • Is connected to eating more nutritious foods (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains), eating less overall fat, and drinking less soda.
  • Helps children explore and try new foods. If they see you trying a new dish or vegetable, they are more likely to give it a try as well.
  • Can help enhance your children’s language development. Having conversations at the table increases their vocabulary.
  • Can build positive self-esteem in your children.

Making Family Meal Time Happen!

Chit Chat

Include your kids in conversation. Talk about ideas, stories, and feelings. Ask them “What made you laugh today?” or “What is your favorite vegetable? What do you like about it?” Asking questions that start with “what” and “how” or “tell me about” will encourage children to talk more.

Get Involved

Prepare a meal together. Let the little ones help set the table, rip lettuce for a salad or help with dishes. Cooking together is a great way to bond and make memories.

Refocus on Family

This is a time to focus on spending time with your family. Avoid distractions by turning off the TV and video games, and letting the answering machine take phone calls.

Fresh Air

Who says family mealtime has to be inside? Pack up the food, spread out an old blanket, and bring the meal outside for a fun picnic.


Family meals help kids explore and try new foods. If they see you trying something new, they are more likely to give it a try as well.

Learning to Love Veggies

Encourage your kids to try a new vegetable. Let them pick a vegetable they would like to try and ask them why they chose it. Then, showcase it in the main dish or a side dish in your meal.

Stick Together

Even if you only have time for a simple meal, take the time to sit down and enjoy it with your family. Make family mealtime a lasting tradition.

Do It Yourself Activity Instructions:

Setting up mealtimes for success is key! Eating environments can often foster or hinder this. Using the graph paper provided, take a moment to draw a diagram of whatever spaces your family eats and cooks in, whether it is in your home, a family member or friend’s home or in the community. Be sure to include things like:

  • Where food is prepared
  • Where food is eaten
  • Arrangement of any furniture, including high chairs
  • Location of any nearby televisions
  • Location of any nearby telephones (be sure to include cell phones)

As you look at your diagram, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is there enough space for your family to eat together?
  2. Is dining furniture or space easily accessible? Is dining furniture or space used for other purposes?
  3. Are there clear pathways for family to get to the dining furniture and space?
  4. Are the cooking and dining spaces accessible to one another? Are they separate or joined? What is your preference?
  5. Is there a television in the dining space? If yes, what would happen if it were removed?
  6. Is there a telephone in the dining space? Are cell phones allowed in the dining space? If yes, what would happen if this changed?

Use your answers to see if there are things you want to change to encourage family meals. Jot down the changes you plan to make on your diagram.  Lastly, pledge to eat a certain number of meals together as a family! Take your pledge card with you and hang it somewhere easily seen to remind you.

More Resources:

  • → Parents Site → Nutrition and Fitness

Materials for Family Meals Learning Center:


Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. (2012). Together Counts. Retrieved from

Meals Matter. (2012). Meals Matter: Meal Planning Made Simple. Retrieved from

The J.M. Smucker Company. The Power of Family Meals. Retrieved from

Nemours. Kids Health. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Enjoying the Family Meal”. Nibbles for Health.

Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for creating this learning center

Mapping Out MyPlate: Navigating Nutritional Needs

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MyPyramid to MyPlate

Say “goodbye” to MyPyramid, and “hello” to the colorful plate! The picture may look different, but the messages are similar:

  • Eat a variety of foods – the more colorful, the better.
  • Eat more of some foods, like fruits and vegetables, and less of others.

However, compared to MyPyramid, MyPlate is easier to follow to help you choose what and how much food to eat.


The Breakdown

MyPlate has 4 sections:

  • Vegetables,
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Protein
  • a “side order” of Dairy.


Grains include bread, cereal, rice, tortillas, and pasta. Whole-grain products, like brown rice, 100% whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal, are recommended because they have more fiber and help you feel full. Aim for half of grains to be whole grain.


Healthy protein options include lean beef, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, and tofu. Protein helps build and keep muscles and tissue in your body strong.


Milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy milk. MyPlate includes dairy, which could be a cup of milk, or a serving of cheese or yogurt. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy items most of the time.


Choose a variety of fruits especially those that are dark green, red and orange, like apples, kiwi, mangos, strawberries and oranges. Fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals and are high in fiber. Choose fresh or frozen fruits whenever possible. If using canned fruits, look for those in water or their natural juices.


Choose a variety of veggies especially those that are dark green, red and orange, like green peas, spinach, beets and butternut squash. Veggies are naturally low in calories and are high in fiber. Choose fresh or frozen veggies whenever possible. If using canned veggies, look for those with “no-salt added”.

So What’s Different?

MyPlate’s Big Messages:

  • MyPlate has 4 sections-Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, and Protein-and a “side order” of Dairy.
  • Vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate, with a bigger portion of vegetables than fruit.
  • Grains and protein foods should take up the other half of the plate, with a bigger portion of grains, and preferably whole grains, than protein.
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats (butter, animal fat, etc.), added sugars, and salt.
  • MyPlate shows you how to balance food groups and encourages you to include all the food groups in each meal.
  • Remember: Having a colorful plate means your meal has a variety of foods and nutrients!

 Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

To get a little perspective of food groups and serving sizes, take a moment to map our MyPlate:

  1. Using the blank MyPlate placemat, label and color in each food section. Use the graphic in the informational materials as a guide.
  2. Take a moment to flip through Healthy Bites: A Wisconsin Guide to Improving Childhood Nutrition. Use the information about the different food groups to write down 2 or 3 strategies for increasing nutrition within each food group:
    • Fruits (pages 12 and 13)
    • Vegetables (pages 12 and 13)
    • Grains (pages 14 and 15)
    • Protein (pages 16 and 17)
    • Dairy (pages 16 through 19
  3. Write your strategies down next to each section of the plate or if you need more space, on the back of your sheet.
  4. Take your MyPlate placemat back to share with your family. Hang it somewhere in plain sight to serve as a reminder. You can take a blank copy home for your children to color in, too!

Materials for the Mapping Out MyPlate learning center:


Nemours. Kids Health. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Department of Health Services & Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. (2011). Healthy Bites: A Wisconsin Guide to Improving Childhood Nutrition.

Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for developing this learning center 

Cooking with Young Children

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You may ask, “Aren’t they too young?”

While they are still too young to be around and handle hot appliances, sharp cooking utensils, and fast-moving cooking equipment, there are plenty of snacks and meals you can make with your young chef that do not need heat. Having your young child help in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods and learn healthy eating habits.

Benefits of cooking with young children

  • Cooking is a good way to get your child to try new foods. Children are much less likely to reject foods that they helped to make. 
  • Cooking can help develop children’s small or fine motor skills by using cooking tools and utensils (like a measuring cup to scoop or a spoon to stir).
  • Cooking encourages creativity.  Allow children to make decisions, add extra features, and do as much as possible. For example, they could make a salad a colorful masterpiece with different vegetables and fruit.
  • Cooking builds their self-esteem and confidence. Children feel good about themselves for getting small tasks done in a “grown-up” activity. 
  • Cooking is a nutritious and delicious way to bring the family together. It can be a fun activity for the whole family to take part in and make memories.

Child-Friendly Recipes

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Confetti Bean Salsa Dried Fruit Pemmican English Muffin Veggie Pizza

Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

What can they do in the kitchen?

As children grow, they develop new skills and are able to help out with different tasks in the kitchen.  They just might be handier in the kitchen than you expect!

  1. Review the stack of cards that list various cooking tasks that young children can help with.
  2. Use the laminated chart to match the cooking tasks with the age at which it is developmentally appropriate for young children. Remember, no matter what age a child is, always take safety precautions with heated (like pans), sharp (like knives) and fast-moving objects (like blenders or mixers) while cooking.
  3. Once you have sorted the cards, use the developmentally appropriate cooking tasks chart to check your answers. Remember, although children all develop at different rates, these categories represent general trends in development.
  4. Examine how cooking skills build upon one another and think about these questions:
    • Which tasks in the recipes included in the informational materials could your child help with?
    • Which of your current recipes could your child help you to cook? What tasks could they do?
    • How might cooking skills develop differently from child to child?
    • Does the space you cook in support your child? Is there a place for them to sit where they can still reach surfaces?
    • How might your child feel after helping? Did cooking together help boost self-esteem or a sense of belonging?

Materials for the Cooking with Young Children learning center:


New York State Department of Health. (2008). “Let’s Cook Together”. Eat Well Play Hard in Child Care Settings Curriculum. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program, Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network. Website Recipes. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Let’s Cook Together”. Nibbles for Health.

USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) (2000). Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. Retrieved from

United States Department of the Interior. Let’s Move! In Indian Country. Retrieved from

USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Food and Drug Administration, DHHS. The Power of Choice. Retrieved from

Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for creating this learning center.

Active Play Translates into Learning

Shining Stars

“Kids who play, who are physically active, are healthier and smarter. We are doing children an injustice by not providing enough time for that kind of play.”

— Laura Shallow, Director
Shining Stars, Suamico

For a child learning to read, opening a book involves risk. Without the opportunity to take risks outside, as in climbing a tree or catching crayfish in a creek, a child won’t be as inclined to take that first risk in learning to read. Laura Shallow, owner of Shining Stars Preschool and Child Care Center in Suamico, WI has long-believed that the “body wires the brain.” She devoted a year to piloting the Active Early program because she recognizes physical activity as an essential part of child development and education.

Shining Stars, a group child care center, is located 10 minutes outside Green Bay, WI. The rurally-located center boasts a prairie, woods, gardens, a creek, outdoor play equipment, indoor climbing equipment, tumbling mats, and no shortage of balls of all sizes, shapes, and textures. Nature play has always been a critical component of Shallow’s program, but with the Active Early pilot, what they had already been “just doing” became a part of written policy, marketing brochures, and daily lesson plans. The 120 minutes of physical activity is divided into 60 minute blocks in the morning and afternoon. At least 15 minutes of each hour is dedicated to teacher-led instruction, in which the children are taught new games.

Why does Shallow feel so strongly about keeping kids active for 120 minutes per day at Shining Stars? “Kids who play, who are physically active, are healthier and smarter. We are doing children an injustice by not providing enough time for that kind of play. There’s all kinds of challenges [to implementing the Active Early program], but this [program] is worthwhile, because it makes a difference. Bottom line, that’s why we’re here— to make a difference.”

Nature play has always been a critical component of Shallow’s program, but with the implementation of the Active Early pilot program, they were able to further build on this philosophy. Building is something with which these kids are well-acquainted. A corner of the room dedicated to building with wooden blocks became a whole room taken over by elaborate block structures, which translated to a similar “city” in the sandboxes outside. Laura says this experience promoted not only physical activity, but also literacy, math, collaboration, and spatial awareness. The kids weren’t just playing, they were learning.

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