Children in Child Care Need Environments that Encourage Active Play

Active play— defined as physical activity with spontaneous bursts of energy—is a significant part of a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Photo: Mary Maes

I am proud to be a small business owner. I operate a small family child-care service from my home in South Los Angeles.

In order to provide the best environment for the children, I transformed my backyard into a small play area, with building blocks and a few push and ride toys. This investment allowed me to provide the children with a healthier environment for learning and growth.

Active play—defined as physical activity with spontaneous bursts of energy—is a significant part of a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Our children’s health is influenced by their environment, and environments that encourage active play are optimal.

Victoria Tapia

I encourage the children I care for to jump rope, ride tricycles and play “monkey in the middle.” In my off hours, I spend time researching active play and the best ways to provide active play opportunities.

It would be ideal if there was a place for providers like myself to obtain more ideas and approved models for creating a structured, playground environment. I’d like to see a state resource that helps us get answers to questions such as, how should we prioritize what activities to offer or what outdoor play equipment to invest in?

With 434,000 children in subsidized childcare and preschool in California, improving early-care environments across the state is crucial for our future.

It’s important to note that a healthy environment for children consists of more than just active play. To best support early childhood development, children should have limited screen time and access to healthy food and drinks, like water, milk and 100-percent juice with no added sugar.

This is my objective. I serve different food groups during meal times to provide a complete, nutrious meal. This has also allowed me to notice that the children prefer to try new fruits over vegetables, which I believe is because a majority of the kids aren’t offered vegetables at home. So, I also try to introduce the kids to new foods during our time together. There are so many things going on at home, that sometimes finding the right vegetable is not a priority for parents.

And while I feel I do a wonderful job of providing a warm, healthy, educational home away from home for my children, I know I could do more if I had additional resources. These resources would be an investment in California’s future. They would lead to even better outcomes for our kids and our communities, because quality early-care education can help shrink the achievement gap, improve health outcomes and increase lifetime earnings.

We need a public investment that creates state standards for early care and education, provides more opportunities for active play outdoors, and allows providers to further expose children to culturally appropriate, healthy foods. These healthy habits can be passed along to parents and the next generation, influencing California for years to come.

Victoria Tapia is a family child-care provider in South Los Angeles.

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