Through the work of researchers and key stakeholders, Child Health BC recognized concern regarding children’s decreasing physical activity levels, decreasing fruit and vegetable intake and increasing screen time. So it launched Appetite to Play alongside provincial partners Sport for Life, YMCA of Greater Vancouver, Childhood Obesity Foundation and the Ministry of Health to support early years providers in promoting healthy eating and physical activity with children who are 0-6 years old.
The project team set out to teach early years providers about best practices and provided training to enhance their knowledge, skills and confidence in creating childcare settings that support healthy eating, physical activity, food literacy and physical literacy. After engaging stakeholders in order to understand the barriers to supporting healthy eating and physical activity, and how an absence of both can affect children later in life, it developed a handful of resources, including:
- Toolkits including an interactive website that hosts hundreds of healthy eating and physical activity ideas, recipes, games, self-assessment tools, planners, recommended practices and more
- Food and physical literacy training through online and in-person workshops and self-paced e-learning modules
- A set of recommended practices on healthy eating and physical activity
- Support and communication through social media, newsletters and webinars
- A community of practice which includes networking and learning opportunities
Equity was a key consideration in the design and implementation of Appetite to Play. Its resources are accessible to providers across the province at a low cost and through widely-used platforms like Pinterest and Facebook. In addition, targeted training was provided in rural and remote areas to support providers to create environments for children to develop a positive relationship with food by connecting their well-being to locally available, cultural and traditional foods.
In order to ensure the program’s sustainability, its team continues to update its website and resources as well as develop new training. Ongoing evaluation of the training shows improvements in early years providers’ knowledge and confidence in supporting children to eat healthily and engage in physical activity.
The Appetite to Play team continues to explore ways to provide relevant training, engage early years providers and improve sustainability from a cost perspective, and it is exploring adding a social and emotional development component to the initiative. So far, over 60 organizations have engaged in the training and more than 3,700 early years providers have participated, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and confidence on how to set the stage for children’s lifelong healthy behaviours.