The formation of good eating habits and a desire to be physically active, when instilled at an early age, may have an impact on an individual’s behavior throughout childhood and adolescence. In addition to the primary influence that parents have in these developmental years, day care providers and providers of early childhood education can play a role in reinforcing the child’s exposure to healthy food options and active play environments. Staff and teacher awareness of the benefits that good nutrition and physical activity have on the over-all health of a child is critical to this effort. Adult recognition of the value of administrative policies leads to enforcement and advocacy for improvements to environments.
Because early child care is often the first contact for the child as an individual with his community, establishing the child’s perception of physical activity as fun and desirable and the consumption of nutritious foods as the behavior norm is essential. The long-term effects of early childhood physical activity and nutrition exposures may continue to be evident on behaviors measured in adolescence. Long-term objectives for this sub-population are therefore those of the older child and adolescent population.