EatPlayGrow™

EatPlayGrow™ is a program aimed at preschoolers and their parents that shares information about developing healthy habits along with early literacy and art activities. The program is supported by the Idaho Commission for Libraries and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation.  

Healthy habits start at home and families play a critical role in forming healthy habits in their children from the early years and beyond. When families eat and play together they can replicate the healthy activities found in the curriculum. One in three Idaho children is overweight or obese. Families use and trust their public libraries in Idaho, and librarians are excited to offer ways to reinforce healthy messages with the families they serve and increase the number of children who begin school with healthy habits in place. 

EatPlayGrow™ was developed by Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The free curriculum breaks down healthy habits into a format that librarians are comfortable presenting, and parents and young children find engaging.  Extensive research showed the curriculum and activities they developed are effective in changing parent and family behavior, as well as increasing awareness and motivation about strategies that help individuals and families make healthy choices.

EatPlayGrow™ consists of a series of 11 healthy lifestyle lessons that are geared toward children under the age of six. It incorporates hands-on educational lessons along with storytelling, music, art-making and movement to teach young children and their families the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. The program focuses on nutrition, physical activity, and the importance of sleep to healthy development. It provides follow-up tools for parents to help them discuss the lessons and assist them in adapting that information into their home settings. The curriculum (available in English and Spanish) includes:

  • • My Five Senses: Teaches families how to use their five senses to understand how to listen to their body’s needs when it comes to nutrition and physical activities.
    • GO, SLOW, WHOA: Teaches families about food categories and how to recognize foods that are better choices for a healthy body.
    • Fabulous Fruits: Teaches families the importance of including a variety of fruits into their diets. It also teaches them how to categorize, count and sort fruit.
    • Move to the Beat: Families learn the importance of physical activity and are introduced to heart health through music, rhythm, and physical activity.
    • Energy Balance: In this lesson families learn how to attain a healthy weight by learning how energy in (foods eaten) must balance with energy out (physical activity).
     I Love my Veggies: Families are taught the importance of eating vegetables on a daily basis as they explore textures, color, and patterns.  
    • Perfect Portion: Teaches families the important connection between portion control and healthy meals. 
    • Dem Bones: Introduces families to the skeletal system and the importance that calcium plays in building strong bones.
    • Healthy Beverages: Focuses on the benefits of drinking water, fat-free or low-fat milk instead of sweetened beverages.
    • Smart Sleep: Teaches families that developing a healthy sleep routine is as important as proper nutrition and physical activity. 
    • Family Meal: This is a chef-led class that provides strategies for creating an easy, well-balanced, affordable meal, and a positive meal time environment. 

Idaho libraries can select up to 11 topics to cover, but must present at least five to officially participate and receive materials for families to take home. Idaho libraries are required to partner with a community organization, business, or agency to help garner more support for the program on the local level. Libraries are also encouraged to share information with families from the High Five Idaho Children’s Health Collaborative, http://highfiveidaho.org/.  ICfL will supply books and handouts for parents to take home so they can immediately put into practice the lessons learned, and ensure that consistent evaluations are completed in a timely manner. 

While funding lasts, participating libraries can use up to $100 to cover healthy snacks, art supplies, Spanish-speaking presenters, promotional materials, manipulatives, and/or hardcover books that are needed to implement the lessons. ICfL will use Blue Cross Foundation funds to purchase a paperback or board book for each family to keep at the end of the weekly sessions to reinforce the lesson. This is a model that was successful for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan as well as Idaho libraries using the Every Child Ready to Read program. 

Idaho public libraries can apply to participate at www.jotformpro.com/icfl/EatPlayGrow. The form asks for the name of your community partner (not Friends of the Library groups, please) and what their role will be, when you plan to start, how many families you hope to reach, and what sessions you plan on hosting (needs to be the “sleep” session + at least four others to qualify for the free books and program support). 

The www.eatplaygrow.org website is a great resource. It has video clips of activities and demonstrations for each of the 11 lessons, plus much more. You need to create your own password to access the site. Anyone can use the free curriculum and resources without officially participating in the ICfL-sponsored program.