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Holiday Celebrations are “On the Menu”

With the winter holidays right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning healthy, active, and fun holiday celebrations. Let’s Move!Child Care (LMCC) is encouraging providers to change the way they think about how food is offered and emphasized in child care settings. Many cultures—including mainstream American—celebrate with food, and eating together can foster social bonds. Healthy food should be celebrated! In fact, with a little creativity, your next holiday party can incorporate the same healthy principles that you follow the other times of the year.

Think outside the box. Instead of snowflake cookies, teach the children how to make snowflakes out of flour tortillas. For a healthy snack, kids can decorate the snowflake with low-fat cream cheese and turkey. Consider also incorporating physical activity into your holiday celebration. For example, when kids make snowflakes, build in time for them to move like a snowflake blowing in the wind. Encourage the children to be creative in their movements, give a variety of prompts such as moving like a big snowflake in a small gust of wind or a little snowflake in a snow storm. Combine these activities to incorporate nutrition and physical activity into your holiday celebrations. Does your child care program have a garden? Reflect on how the plants change through the seasons and what might be sprouting right around the corner. Let kids taste healthy veggies grown in your garden or a local garden during your celebration. The options are endless, so be a little creative and enjoy yourself!

Parents can be included in the fun as well. Send a letter home informing parents of your center’s or program’s plan to create healthy holiday celebrations. If your wellness policy limits certain foods—like sugary drinks and treats—this is an ideal time to remind parents of those items. It may also be useful to include a brief discussion of your program’s overall goals to promote healthy lifestyle choices for children and reduce childhood obesity. Provide a list of acceptable holiday snacks such as fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, or other items that are both nutritious and age appropriate. Better yet, encourage parents and kids to prepare simple snacks together, like apple sauce, low-fat cheese, and veggies cut into fun holiday shapes. Visit the KidsHealth Web site and check their nutrition center for additional ideas on healthy snacks and recipes. By including parents, they become partners with you in growing healthy environments.

We recognize that it may be challenging to change traditions, but it can also be fun. As you celebrate the holiday season and incorporate healthy traditions into your program, take note of the changes—small and large—that you are making. Your story of progress or success can inspire others to make similar changes. Submit your holiday celebration success stories and pictures to LMCCStories@cdc.gov. Your child care program may be featured in a future blog or on the LMCC Web site created and hosted by Nemours.

LMCC is a nationwide call-to-action that empowers child care center and family child care providers to make positive health changes in children that could last a lifetime. Early care and education providers who choose to participate in LMCC are recognized when they meet a set of best practices related to the five LMCC Goals—physical activity, screen time, food, beverage, and infant feeding. To help providers reach their goals, a number of online interactive tools—including checklist quizzes and action planning guides—have been developed through a public-private partnership between the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Association for Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, Nemours, and the University of North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and other partners. Visit the LMCC Web site to register as a LMCC participant, access free online tools, or share your story of progress and success.