We believe that Boise’s children are among its most valuable assets. To make sure that the City’s youngest residents are able to live healthy, vibrant lives, the Healthy Initiatives were created as a way to help children develop healthy eating and physical activity habits at an early age.
The City of Boise proudly offers a Healthy Child Care Provider designation for licensed child care facilities that meet all applicable Healthy Initiatives. Providers with this designation are indicated in our child care facility search.
In Idaho, one in three children is overweight or obese. Many children who are overweight do not get enough of the healthy foods they need to grow, and they are undernourished. Children also need to be healthy to be ready to learn, which is why it is so important to give them every chance to learn to like good foods and be active at an early age.
To address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and strengthen child care standards in the City of Boise, Council Member TJ Thomson worked with the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children and Central District Health Department to develop the Healthy Initiatives for children receiving care from licensed providers in Boise.
The Healthy Initiatives make sure that child care providers meet or exceed minimum standards for:
- Physical Activity: Time every day for children to be active and play both inside and outside;
- Screen Time: Limits on the amount of time each day children interact with screens. Including: TV, mobile devices, computers, video games, etc.;
- Nutrition: Meals and snacks served by child care providers;
- Infant Feeding: A private, designated location, other than a restroom for breastfeeding.
The Healthy Initiatives encourage child care providers to include opportunities for play and activity throughout the day. This includes indoor and, weather permitting, outdoor play. Specifically, children need to be physically active for at least 20 minutes every three (3) hours they are in care between 7am-7pm. In order to meet this standard, from the time scheduled physical activity ends until the time it begins again, no more than three hours can lapse.
Incorporating physical activity can be done easily throughout the day. While long play times are ideal, child care providers can also do short bursts of activity in between other tasks.
The average child in the US spends almost seven hours each day watching a screen or monitor. Too much screen time can lead to attention problems, trouble in school, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. A child's brain develops rapidly during their first years, and young children learn best by interacting with other people, not screens.
Screen time includes: Television, Computers, Tablets, Mobile Devices and Video Games
Children are often exposed to screen time in many different places. The Healthy Initiatives aim to limit screen time in the child care setting. Specifically, child care providers should allow no more than one (1) hour of non-educational, sedentary screen time per day, or no more than five (5) hours per week in their schedule. Exceptions are made for children utilizing screen time to work on homework assignments, or those who need electronic assistance devices.
Healthy meals and snacks are important for young children to build strong minds and strong bodies. Eating well at a young age starts children off on the right foot to live longer, healthier lives. Serving healthy foods in the child care setting can teach children to have healthy food preferences at an early age and can keep them at a healthy weight. Children who are well nourished are shown to have fewer behavioral problems and are better able to learn and play.
The Healthy Initiatives help children have healthy food choices in the child care setting by requiring the provider to make sure that any meals or snacks they serve meet the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) nutrition standards. For example, lunch served by a child care provider would need to have one serving of milk, two servings of fruit and/or vegetables, one serving of grains or bread, and one serving of meat or a meat alternative. These guidelines do not apply to food provided by parents and make allowances for children who may need different foods due to allergies, restrictions, or parental choices.
However a mother chooses or is able to feed her child should be supported in the child care setting. Idaho is proud to be ranked number one in the United States for mothers breastfeeding their children. Breastfeeding protects babies from illnesses and infections, gives babies the exact nutrients they need to grow and be healthy, and babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese or develop diabetes when older. (Source: The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding)
While a large number of mothers start breastfeeding with their new infants, it becomes much harder when they place their babies in a child care setting. To support mothers who would like to continue breastfeeding, the Healthy Initiatives requires child care providers who serve children under the age of 2 to provide a private space at their facility for a mother to breastfeed her child. The space should be comfortable, include nearby access to electricity and running water, and allow the mother to have time to nurse away from view from others. This can be done by using a separate room, a screen or curtain, or a private space in the classroom area. The designated breastfeeding area may not be located in a bathroom.