If meals and bedtime start getting a little easier, you may have public schools to thank. The National Institutes of Health partnered with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan tolaunch a new early childhood health curriculum last week with a strong focus on nutrition and sleep. The new curriculum, EatPlayGrow, is a series of interactive lessons aimed at children ages 2 through 5.
Teaching healthy habits and curbing obesity has long been a big initiative for public schools, but what makes this curriculum different from ones schools have tried in the past is that it incorporates teaching healthy habits through the arts and creativity more strongly than ever before.
“Early childhood is the critical time to instill good habits for a lifetime and to avoid costly and less effective interventions at older ages,” National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. says.
To emphasize the importance EatPlayGrow places on art, the new health curriculum was revealed at a press conference at the CMOM, NIH's partner in the curriculum. “We are delighted to announce national partnerships that bring together diverse ways to reach families and children,” says Andrew Ackerman, the executive director of CMOM. Ackerman went on to explain that community plays a huge part in teaching young kids healthy habits.
Besides teaching through art, another way EatPlayGrow is different from past early childhood health curriculums is that for the first time, teachers will be telling kids how important it is to get enough sleep.
Before being rolled out, the curriculum was tested in New Orleans and the South Bronx and evaluations of all the test sites found that young children knew more about correct portion size, ate more fruits and vegetables, understood how to make physical activity apart of their daily routine and knew more about good sleeping habits. “Clearly, the program is already helping to move the needle in small but significant ways,” says Michael Cohen, who conducted the studies.
Sam Kass, the executive director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and the senior policy advisor for nutrition is another champion of EatPlayGrow. “It is an example of what the First Lady has called on all of us to do – use collaboration, creativity and hard work to give all our children the skills they need to grow up healthy and able to pursue their dreams.”