Teaching children about healthy nutrition and exercise has become a family affair in some local preschools. The Color Me Healthy curriculum, introduced recently to all Lifelink Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms in DuPage County, aims to lower childhood obesity and diabetes in minority children by giving families the information they need to change their lifestyles.
Targeted at 3- to 5-year-olds, Color Me Healthy engages all five senses to teach children about proper nutrition and exercise, says Kim Perez, vice president of Child and Family Services at Lifelink, a nonprofit health and human services organization. Kids can see colorful pictures of healthy foods, learn songs about different fruits and vegetables, play active games and taste, smell and handle fresh foods in class.
"We believe that by starting very young, we will spark a lifetime of interest in healthy choices," Perez says. "We want this to be a fun and exciting opportunity for (kids) to learn how to make healthy choices and how it can become a natural part of their everyday decision making."
The program also offers information for parents, including a weekly newsletter in English or Spanish with family-friendly, healthy recipes and tips on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. At regular meetings, parents can share information on their childrens’ health and learn how to become healthy themselves, Perez says. Lifelink will also connect parents with other community resources and opportunities for health screenings.
Research shows that minority children are disproportionately affected by obesity and diabetes, Perez says, and nearly all of Lifelink’s minority clients are also living below the poverty level. Poor families often don’t have access to affordable healthy foods or safe places to exercise, she says.
Color Me Healthy hopes to have a forward-reaching impact in these communities. Children and parents will take the information back home and it will get passed on among their extended families and friends, Perez says.
Lifelink is located in Bensenville and is the only provider of Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms in DuPage County. For more information on Lifelink and its programs, visit www.lifelink.org.