New Rules Proposed For Day Care Centers

Aug 29, 2013

Credit flickr / espensorvik / Creative Commons

Illinois is considering rules to limit what kids at day care centers can eat, how much TV they can watch and how much exercise they must receive.  It's part of an effort to curb obesity in young children.

Estimates show one in five children under age five is considered obese.  With so many kids in day care, experts say it's a good place to start developing healthy habits. 

The plan would get rid of high fat and sugary snacks, limit access to juice, and ban chocolate milk.  

Kate Ritter is a Senior Policy Associate with Illinois Action for Children.  She says these guidelines are becoming more widely accepted. 

"These aren't new standards we're developing.  It's something that is shown to be effective and best practiced by national research," Ritter said. "So other states are looking to do this and Illinois is just a little bit ahead of the curve in starting to get these into our licensing standards."

The plan would prohibit kids under two from watching TV and limit older kids to only an hour a day.  Children also would be required to have outdoor play time twice a day, weather permitting. 

Tom Browning is Director of Nutrition and Wellness Programs at Illinois Action for Children.  He says it's the perfect time to teach kids.

"This is the formative stage where we can start to instill these healthy habits," he said.

Ritter says she expects day care centers to embrace the changes.  Many day care centers get federal reimbursement to serve healthy meals. Browning says the changes are becoming more popular, adding that many day care centers already have adopted similar guidelines.

A state legislative panel is considering the proposal.  In-home day care providers would be excluded from the requirements. 

Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford contributed to this report.