Central Wisconsin child care providers are joining the fight against childhood obesity by creating active learning environments that encourage children to move more throughout the day. Dolly’s Daycare in Merrill is one of 20 child care sites selected to participate in a new statewide project that aims to promote physical activity in 2- to 5-year-old children in regulated child care. Recognizing the vital role child care providers can fill in introducing physical activity into children’s lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded funding to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to implement a program called Active Early: Promoting Physical Activity in Early Care and Education. As part of Active Early, selected child care sites will pilot a new Child Wellness Resource Kit designed to provide low- or no-cost strategies and resources to providers to promote 120 minutes of physical activity throughout the child care day. “Our lifestyles have all changed in that we do not need to do as much physically as our parents and grandparents had to do. Technology, while important has made playing and learning different than even a generation ago,” said Darlene Tanck, owner of Dolly’s Daycare. “By participating in Active Early, I hope it will bring more activity into the daily lives of the children in my care.” DHS is partnering with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, Supporting Families Together Association, and regional Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to support the Active Early pilot sites. The agencies will work with providers to teach hands-on strategies to easily incorporate physical activity into routine child care activities. Each provider received a grant ranging from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on center size, to invest in equipment and other resources to create physically active child care environments. Micki Krueger, Executive Director, Child Care Connection explained that, “Daily active play encourages children to seek physical activity and helps them develop physically and socially as well as maintain healthy weights. Child care providers have a unique opportunity to intervene early in children’s lives to promote and model healthy behaviors that can last a lifetime.” More than 30 percent of Wisconsin’s low-income 2- to 4-year-olds are overweight or obese. Early childhood obesity dramatically increases a child’s chances of becoming an obese adult and increases risk for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Researchers have warned that if childhood obesity continues to rise, children today are likely to live shorter lives than their parents. “On average, children spend more than 30 hours per week in early childhood settings,” said Bridget Cullen, Childcare Wellness Coordinator for the Wisconsin DHS. “Child care providers have a rich opportunity to create active environments that will get the children they care for moving and learning.” To extend the positive impacts of the pilot program, non-participating providers will be invited to attend Active Early trainings in 2011 and will have access to the Child Wellness Resource Kit. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Family Medicine will evaluate program effectiveness and feasibility. Active Early coordinators hope to identify best practices for physical activity in child care. “Dolly’s Daycare is excited to be a part of the learning process of how to prevent childhood obesity and we will have fun at the same time, the funds will be great to purchase things for the children to promote activities that increase movement,” said Darlene Tanck.