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First lady's program scores at Skokie childcare center

(5.1.13) Skokie’s Tot Learning Center (TLC) has taken first lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ program very seriously – not only by meeting all of the initiative’s goals in a short six months – but also by changing some of the center's longstanding policies regarding how it serves its preschoolers.

TLC, the Skokie Park District’s nationally-accredited childcare facility for ages infant-5, jumped on board for the nationwide obesity prevention fight in August of 2012. After training staff and educating parents, the center began making significant changes in its program in order to meet Let’s Move’s goals.

“We have always been proud of the roles that physical activity and nutrition have played in our curriculum,” said Fouzia Khan, TLC’s childcare services manager, “but Let’s Move challenged us to take a harder look at our program.” 

The six Let’s Move goals for kids include moving every day, eating a new fruit or vegetable, drinking smart, decreasing screen time, eating healthy meals and planting a garden.

“TLC children now take more walks, some of them through The Talking Farm, an urban farm that shares our property,” said Khan. “We are also are looking at a potential partnership with the park district’s health club, Fitness First, that would bring a personal trainer to TLC to exercise with our staff.” 

In addition to increasing exercise, TLC staff have replaced whole milk with 1 or 2% milk (except for infants), are now diluting sugary juices with more water, and are encouraging parents to bring in fruit dishes to share, rather than birthday cakes. The center is also, when possible, now serving meals that include organic foods.

The partnership with The Talking Farm allows children, not only to see an urban farm, but to occasionally get their hands in the soil and to think about eating healthy produce. 

While the kids are now more active while at school, their parents are in charge of their electronic device screen time at home.

“By including a wide range of daily outdoor activities at school,” said Khan, “we hope that in the future our children become more reliant on spending time outdoors, away from some of the trappings of modern technology.”

For more information about Let’s Move, go to www.letsmove.gov. To check into all of the perks at Tot Learning Center, visit www.skokieparks.org/tot-learning-center or attend TLC’s May 11 Open House at 3701 Howard St., in Skokie.