Physical activity provides health and developmental benefits to young children. Findings of the Abt-led Study of Nutrition and Activity in Child Care Settings (SNACS) suggest ample room for improvement in provision of physical activity opportunities during child care. In the latest news covering the study—the first in 25 years of nutrition and wellness in federally-supported child care centers—the Hechinger Report quotes Abt co-author and senior health economist, Lauren Olsho: “Especially for these very young kids, teachers are the main gatekeepers to physical activity during child care. They are the ones who control when and how many times the children go outdoors to play each day. Just being outside with enough space and freedom to run around makes a huge difference,” she explains. Children in classrooms where staff did not actively engage in play got about 30 minutes less of active time per day, on average, than those in classrooms where the staff played actively with the children.
Abt Associates conducted the five-year study for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Congress commissioned the research in response to concerns about meal quality and physical activity in child care identified by the Institute of Medicine and other experts. The study included child-care centers, family day care homes, and after-school programs participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Since 60% of preschool-aged children in the U.S. attend formal child care, nutrition and physical activity practices in these settings can substantially influence child wellness.