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MoonDragon's Parenting Information
WHY STARTING A DAY CARE MAKES SENSE
TIPS ON CREATING A WEBSITE FOR YOUR DAY CARE
By Fiona Lohrenz




starting your own daycare


THINKING ABOUT A HOME-BASED BUSINESS?

SKILLS REQUIRED FOR WORKING IN THE CHILD-CARE BUSINESS

If you are searching for a cushy career then swerve steadily away from childcare because this is one career that involves a lot of work and responsibilities as well as the ability to nurture various relationships and roles. But what exactly is the role of the day care worker and what are the significant relationships that must be nurtured in order for a harmonious, safe and effective environment to exist?

The first major relationship that springs to mind is that of the worker/child. A worker should never be content to simply be a caregiver but should see their function as encompassing the enrichment of the child's experience through facilitating the creative, learning and play environment. A caring, warm and consistent personality is essential and should be cultivated.

The skills of the caregiver encompass a wide and varied range. Lots of patience tops the list followed by the ability to encourage independent learning, provision of a safe and hygienic environment, encouraging self confidence and individuality, supporting children to take part in the learning process, an awareness that developmentally all children are different and the cultivation of a caring ethos in the classroom.

Day care workers must be capable of working together harmoniously. The needs of the children are paramount and as such effective teamwork is essential. The major elements of the workers' relationships are understanding, respect and cooperation. Chaos and confusion can ensue should one person misunderstand or disrespect the objectives and focus of the day care service.

Planning and reviewing sessions will encourage positive interaction and communication between staff which will include positive criticism and ideas for improvement. A comment book coupled with frequent verbal updates can provide effective daily communication. Of course regular evaluation of staff by management is needed to monitor progress and ensure continuing standards.

Appropriate qualifications are a given in a childcare environment and management should have available, and encourage participation in ongoing training. This brings us to the incredibly important area of support and supervision of staff. In order to do their job effectively day care workers require this support which can take the form of supervision by a senior member of staff, an emotionally and physically healthy working environment, adequate pay and an easily accessible supervisor should the need arise.

Finally, a very important, yet often overlooked relationship is that of worker and parent. The best interests of the child depend upon successful and open communication between workers and parents. Both parties should be on the same page when it comes to the development of the child. Clear and concise day care policies and procedures should be readily available for parents so there are no gray areas. Encourage and welcome all parental involvement and input.

These are just some of the skills required to work with children successfully and meaningfully so if you are not ticking all the boxes you might want to consider another career. There is a lot to think about when considering a career in childcare however, for the right personality this can be a very rewarding and satisfying profession.





WHY STARTING A DAY CARE MAKES SENSE

So, you already know what you hate your thankless job, ungrateful, uncaring boss, the grinding commute for hours, not spending time with your kids and the breathtaking pain you feel leaving them crying at a day care every day. You feel so trapped and paralysed by financial constraints yet can't see a way out of the rat race. Worse still, you can't ever shake the guilt and sorrow you feel at not watching your kids grow and develop during those formative years, not knowing what's happening to them in their little, daily lives.

Despair no more because there is an escape route and it is a lot more tangible than you would believe. It is possible to stay home with your kids and replace your income whilst cutting your expenses by starting your own home day care. "Surely it's not possible to match my current wage" I hear you holler. "Basic math" is my response. Take a fairly average monthly salary of $2800 gross.
    Gross Income $2800
    Minus Taxes $ 800
    Minus Gas $ 150
    Minus Day Care Costs $ 550
    Minus General Expenses $ 300
    Net Income $1000

You would need to make $1000 per month to replace your existing wage with home day care income - bottomline. In order to achieve your goal you will need two full time children based on an average cost per month of $500 per child for day care. Not exactly formidable? You can also decrease your tax bill substantially by offsetting a lot of your necessary household expenses against your business profits. Considerable amounts of money can be saved through fastidious bookkeeping.

I have brought it down to the simplest terms so you can see exactly what being employed is costing you both spiritually and financially hence the above example. Our conditioning is such that employment is the norm and those who attempt to become entrepreneurs are either dreamers or risk takers. However, now you can see how the dream of self employment is easily within your grasp by starting a home day care.

The benefits are immense and immediate. You are active and having fun doing something worthwhile, you make the rules and control your days and quality family time becomes a given. Using my Start a Child Care Business DVD Guide www.startchildcare.com you have the benefit of my experience and knowledge to get you started now (I've done the research, made the mistakes, I know what works) plus you get the paperwork package FREE so you don't even have to deal with that. Do you even have to think about it anymore?





SHOULD I START A DAY CARE IN THIS ECONOMY?

We're blue in the face hearing about our recessionary times, heard about the continuing economic downturn and are already tired of listening to the doom and gloom emanating from the experts. Should you start a day care business in spite of all this you ponder? Honestly, this could be a great time to start your new child care business. Tough times for many can be a golden egg for some. Certain ventures will flourish in the toughest of financial times - because they research, identify a niche market and service the need of that market.

There will always be a demand for some form of childcare because people will always need to work to make ends meet despite all talk of downsizing and tough times. Their income levels and conditions of employment may change so they will in turn be looking to make changes in the day care department. Sadly, one of the first areas to get hit by cost cutting measures is the area of child care - and a recession is sure to see many people re-evaluating their cost of living. Expensive, fancy day cares will see clientele trickle out in search of more affordable options.

How can you make your day care one of these affordable, more recession friendly options…how can you service this niche market? Opening a big, state of the art day care center is essentially a money pit however; starting a home day care can be done with your savings. Equipment can be obtained from your kids old stuff, charity shops, recycling sites and persistent calling around to everyone you know who has kids and will be offloading toys and equipment, save on your taxes by offsetting your daily expenses, no more gas bills due to no more work commute and minimize wage costs by staffing it yourself with a friend or family member as an assistant. Your fees can therefore remain very affordable if you pass on these savings to your clients.

Doing your homework thoroughly on the local market is imperative. What are the needs of your local community and can you address those needs in your day care thus making it unique and in demand. A structured, quality educational curriculum in a home day care will make you stand out from the competition. People moving from larger day cares won't be expecting to find a quality learning environment in a home day care. You will most likely gain them as clients because you have pleasantly surprised them, you have an edge and you are addressing their needs.

Is there a lot of industry and factory work or hospitals where people are required to work shift work? There's a need you could fill. Is there a need for a daycare/language school for foreign nationals settling here? Overnight care can be a very lucrative area and in much demand. Could that be your golden egg? If you are located close to local schools your niche could be before and afterschool care - this can be a very challenging area for parents.

Recession or not, there is always a demand for certain types of child care. Your job is to figure out what the needs of your locality are, what gaps are in the market... and fill them. Clever research and due diligence are the keys to getting it right from the outset. If you really want to start a day care then you will start a day care - pure and simple!





TO FRANCHISE OR NOT TO FRANCHISE
Montessori Day Care Or Steiner, Daycare Franchises Or Go It Alone?


The realization that starting a day care is a pretty enormous task slams into you as you slide your resignation across the desk to your ex boss. Weighty questions must be tackled, decisions must be made e.g. Montessori day care or Steiner, daycare franchises or go it alone and the to do list continues to grow.

A DAY CARE FRANCHISE

A day care franchise can be a great, no fuss, instant business way to go. Customer loyalty is more easily acquired thanks to instant brand recognition. Generally there will be a development process in place to help with funding acquisition, unit selection, the construction process, getting licensed, training and launching your business.

Ongoing direction and support for staff may be included in the package along with a proprietary curriculum and building design templates. Operations manuals will make hitting the ground running a breeze and having the use of a recognized brand for advertising may well mean a busy opening day. Home office support can be part of come franchises also.

There is no doubting the appeal of all of the above. However, franchises are extremely pricey and require an upfront financial commitment plus proof of a healthy net worth (and that's before you even open your doors). Now, where did I leave that goose with the golden egg laying capabilities??

ONWARDS TO THE CURRICULUM

Onwards to the curriculum consideration. There are many, excellent programs to choose from so you really need to do some thorough research to establish which method might best suit your day care (or you could just draw straws :-)). Ever thoughtful, I've compiled a list of the better known programs with a short synopsis to help you on your way:
  • Play Based Program: Play is the educator with children learning through focused play.
  • Montessori: Development is observed by the teacher, who neither interfere nor get in the way but support the child.
  • Waldorf Method: Learning through imagination, imitation and play due to an in built love of play.
  • High/Scope: Teachers are facilitators as children have responsibility for their work and learn through doing.
  • Reggio Emilio: Focuses on the natural development of the child in relation to their environment.
  • Piaget: Interaction based.
  • Steiner: The changing needs of the children as they develop dictates how the education is designed.

If you do have a large cache of dosh but not a lot of spare time then daycare franchises will have definite appeal for you. Your curriculum definitely requires lots of thought and whilst I find my Montessori day care to be a wonderful learning environment, so to are many of the other excellent programs.





DAY CARE LICENSING TIPS

If you wish to start a day care you need to find out about day care licensing. Adequate preparation translates into a much smoother day care licensing application procedure and a better chance of success. Learning about the requirements for a day care license is a great way to discover exactly what is required and whether or not you are fully ready and able to embark on a business in child care.

International and state day care licensing requirements, application procedures and regulations vary and you'll need to do the research for your area.
Generally speaking, the day care licensing process is designed to protect the children and ensure that the day care environment is safe, children’s overall welfare is being served from the point of view of safety, hygiene, nutrition, activities and all aspects of their development. Taking into consideration all of the above a detailed evaluation of the proposed service is conducted before a day care license will be issued.

Completing the application form is the first step in applying for a day care license. Generally, the following information, at the very least, will be required:
  • Contact details, name etc.
  • Premises plan indicating kitchen, bathrooms, playrooms, play areas.
  • Number of children and hours of opening.
  • Staff information.
  • Educational program proposed.
  • Information on menus and meal times.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR START UP

An examination of the regulations, a review of your finances and a discussion regarding the need for a day care in your area will be covered during an initial consultation with day care licensing representatives. An assessment of the facility to determine if it will comply with the regulations shall be carried out by a licensing evaluator during an announced, preliminary visit. Be aware that the following criteria will need to be met:
  • Your telephone must work.
  • Adequate smoke detectors.
  • Adequate fire extinguishers.
  • Appropriate storage of all toxic and hazardous substances.
  • Adequate heating and ventilation.
  • There may be no hazards present and the premises should be completely safe.
  • The premises must be hygienic and clean.
  • All educational and play equipment should be age appropriate and safe.

You will be issued or denied a day care license following review of your entire application process. You must display your license in your facility and they are usually valid for a year. Get up to date and stay on top of regulations with the following resources:
  • Building Blocks – the latest guidelines are contained in this document in an easily accessed and understandable format.

  • Stepping Stones – ensure your health and safety practices are adequate thus minimizing the risk of disease, injury or death in your day care.

You have a better chance of succeeding in your application for day care licensing if you arm yourself with knowledge in advance, so, do the preparation and good luck starting your day care.





HOW DAYCARE REGULATIONS HELP YOU

Hate or fear them daycare regulations are a necessity. Many of us already feel swamped by our daily tasks, limitless red tape and view the rules as a threat and an inconvenience. Sinking in a sea of bureaucracy we tend to forget that this legislation serves a good end. It has been formulated specifically to protect those who are most at risk in our society.

Daycare regulations, however, really only ensure that the minimum standards of care are being met. There is much above and beyond the stated rules that can be done to improve the quality of care and early education children are receiving. I like to think of the regulations and my inspection reports as guidelines, tools for updating the service I provide.

Instead of perceiving them as a threat I embrace the knowledge contained within the daycare regulations and inspections reports to improve how I do things. If I were to hire an expensive consultancy firm to evaluate the effectiveness and quality of my business I don’t believe they would provide me with as much relevant, valuable information. My regulations booklet and local licensing team give me all the guidelines I need.

I keep a copy of the regulations for my region posted on the notice board in the entryway to my day care, one on my desk and one in the staff room. I make it a golden rule that, following my inspections, the report becomes my constant companion until I have addressed every point raised. Then, I post the report (you guessed it), in the entryway, on my desk and in the staff room with an 'Actioned' sticker beside each suggested improvement.

I use the term 'suggested improvement' deliberately because in most cases, the comments are not about a major issue, nor a violation of the daycare regulations but are merely suggestions on how we might do something better or more effectively. I take these comments on board because they are emanating from highly trained, seasoned experts who see it all on a daily basis – the daycare regulations experts.





DAYCARE REQUIREMENTS VERSUS DAYCARE REGULATIONS

Let's not confuse daycare requirements and day care regulations. One is the building block upon which the other is built. Day care regulations are in place in order to ensure that minimum standards of care are adhered to. Thereafter you are required to ensure they are applied in a relevant fashion within your day care.

The health, welfare, safety and wellbeing of the children are covered by the regulations which are the law and therefore a given in any day care. If you desire an exceptional, above average child care center to be your domain then you need build upon the legal requirements. You need to consider that you might be in the wrong business if you haven't already gone above and beyond that which is writ.

Running a day care requires you to be a business person but you must also care enough to make a difference by adding your personal touch. While you must always keep the practical, bottom line, business aspect in mind you must also be aware of the small additions and tweaks that can make your daycare that bit better and more personable than the others.

Little things make a difference for example, calling and reassuring a mom who is upset by a tantrum throwing child goes above and beyond the required parental communication directive. When starting a new child offer reassuring words to the emotional torn and distraught mother whilst still maintaining the calm and professional demeanour required on the front line.

Don’t just buy equipment that is regulation safety compliant, think also of the comfort and enjoyment of the children. Instead of waiting for your inspection report compile a checklist for regular assessments of any repairs or replacements required thus keeping one step ahead and being extremely thorough.

In my opinion, day care regulations are there to be exceeded in so many ways thus ensuring the ultimate in quality care for your clients. Your daycare requirements are that you go that extra nine yards to make your business the best business.





starting your own website


TIPS ON CREATING A WEBSITE FOR YOUR DAY CARE

Your day care business can benefit enormously from having a website and blog. I have connected with a lot of clients that otherwise might not have found me or might have overlooked my service in favor of one of the above. There are many bigger, faster, shinier, more centrally located day cares with bigger advertising budgets than mine.

People were impressed with my website; with the pictures, information and 'glimpse inside' that it offered. The Montessori curriculum, the beautiful, country setting and the fact that we are a family run business appealed to them. They felt like they knew us already thanks to the 'personal touch' effect of the website.

Having an online presence has many advantages in terms of marketing and simply communicating with current and potential clients. It is not difficult to maintain or create a website and a professional look can be easily achieved. A vibrant, regularly updated site and blog can sell your business better than anything else. Include lots of information about you and your day care and ensure your site is easily navigated.

Granted it took a few months of work submitting my site to online business directories and ensuring I had all my meta tags and keywords up to speed but ultimately it was worth it. Most google and other search engine queries for day care in my area will have my business listed in the first few results.

Pictures of your day care should abound, both interior and exterior - nice bright shots of your playrooms and playgrounds. Help parents understand what your day care offers by incorporating details of important policies, your educational curriculum and what you charge. You can include downloads of your day care contract and parent handbook - the more information you provide the less questions they're going to have.

Keep your existing and future clients up to speed and interested in your day care by adding a blog to your website. I am getting lots of positive comments and responses having recently begun my own blog - Wordpress makes it easy for even the most technically challenged to to this. Put pictures of you and your employees on a staff page and include a few details about each person. This way, you won't be such a stranger to your potential clients and they'll be much more inclined to consider your service.





START A DAY CARE - ULTIMATE MARKETING EVENT

When opening a day care you are constantly and desperately looking for ways to market your new business. One of the most effective marketing events you can organize is an Open Day. I held one when opening my day care and it proved to be my most successful marketing endeavor reaping rewards to this day.

This magical 'Open Day' can be organized just before or, shortly after, you open a day care. The purpose of the event is to allow prospective clients to come and view your facility, ask questions and generally discover your amazing day care service. I deliberately organized a fantabulous event so will detail exactly what my Open Day entailed thus giving you some ideas for when you start a day care.
  • Prior to the event, I contacted my local radio station and arranged to run some advertising for a couple of weeks. I arranged to have the ads run during drive time when I knew my potential clients would be traveling to and from work.

  • As part of the deal the station provided their fleet of novelty cars to attend the event with staff on hand to give out freebie promotional materials. That really provided the X factor!

  • I had promotional flyers printed and paid a few kids to distribute them locally.

An Open Day needs to be fun and family oriented thus encouraging people to attend so I arranged the following party like activities;
  • A bouncy castle.
  • A couple of drama students to be clowns.
  • Story telling.
  • A few art students to do face painting.
  • Snacks for everyone.
  • The official opening ceremony was performed by a local politician and the local rags followed him to take pictures and write a piece for free.

I opened my day care for tours so people could see first hand what I had to offer;
  • Polished presentation is very important when showcasing your day care. I carefully arranged the layout of all equipment in every room in order to show the day care to best effect.

  • Staff were positioned in all the rooms ready to talk, answer questions and hand out business cards.

  • As the day care owner you should be around to welcome people and answer questions.

  • We also arranged a raffle and asked people to provide their contact details (nice little database thank you) with the prize being a voucher for the day care.

The results of that wonderful day are still felt today as many of my enquiries remembered attending the event or hearing about it. Word of mouth advertising resulting from this event was also phenomenal. Word spread like wildfire as people who attended told friends and relatives. A well organized, properly planned open day will be fun and memorable and people will talk about it. Impressed people will return or will spread the word to those they know to be seeking childcare. So, when opening a day care put your events hat on and utilize the best day care marketing tool out there.





PROMOTING YOUR DAY CARE EQUALS MORE CUSTOMERS

You can make your day care stand out from the crowd, set it apart from the competition and as such, keep it full to capacity with children of happy parents. There are a number of relatively small, easy to do and cheap methods of achieving this end. Some take a little effort, others a little thought and some a little money but that investment in your business will supply you with unique selling points that will ensure the success of your day care.

You want parents to know that you provide excellent quality child care but how do you convey that to a nervous, cynical parent on a visit to your day care? Effective policies will indicate to parents the philosophy of your service and how your agreed and consistent methods of doing things will ensure the wellbeing of their children. They will clearly define what procedures occur in relation to certain events and should essentially; outline a step by step guide to how your day care is run.

Thorough, well developed policies show potential clients that there are definitive expectations, understandings and guidelines for all daily operations ensuring consistency and accountability at all times. It is vital that you meet all legislative requirements and your policies should reflect current best practice indicating that you are on top of your business and constantly striving for perfection.

Gaining a third party accreditation is a great way to differentiate your day care from the herd. Rubber stamping from a respected organization screams respectability and quality to potential parents. You will need to pay an annual joining fee and undergo an assessment by one of their inspectors (but you won't have anything to worry about because you're already doing everything right anyway!). Once accredited you can slap that recognition on every bit of promotional material you possess.

These organizations can also provide tremendous support to day care owners in the form of information, training, publications, workshops and conferences. Accreditation can be acquired from some of the following places:
Abuse and neglect of children in day cares occurs around the world and the stories are embedded in the fearful minds of every parent. Take every possible step to provide parents with evidence that yours is a legitimate, quality, caring day care. Have a criminal background check performed on yourself and post the results on your noticeboard. A small fee will procure this valuable service from a professional company. Make every parent aware of your open door policy and invite them to return at any time of the day. If you want to see pure relief wash over a parent’s face think about installing a CCTV in your service. You cannot put a price on that sort of peace of mind.

Taking some or all of the above mentioned steps will enhance your service exponentially in the eyes of new parents. Easing some of their apprehension and fear from the outset will begin the growth of the trust process so vital for people looking for day care. If you can put their minds at rest, even just a smidgeon, you will have the edge on your competition and could be looking at lots of new clients.







TIPS FOR GREAT DAYCARE MENUS

The mere thoughts of formulating daycare menus can send the most sane, intelligent day care operator into a tailspin as they contemplate food pyramids and daily nutritional requirements and all thoughts of common sense go out the window. There is no need for panic when the steps involved are as simple as ensuring that the food is nutritious, prepared hygienically and easy to cook in large quantities.

Healthy, easy to prepare, well rounded meals are the key. There are so many one pot dishes that are ideal for daycare menus - and your own family. Keep it simple and stop thinking that you need to transform yourself into Jamie Oliver. Think casseroles and stews, chunky soups, steamed vegetables, fish, pasta and lots of fresh fruits. Cheese, crackers, rice cakes, raisins, carrot sticks, sandwiches and yogurts make great snacks.

Personally, I don't provide food at my day care (in Ireland - this may not be an option in your region so check the regulations) and parents send in all snacks plus a meal which we reheat and serve to the kids. Another option to consider is ordering pre-prepared, frozen meals and heating on the premises. Some companies specialize in providing this service to day cares and deliver to your freezer. This will add to your costs but you could have parents pay for this service.

Food preparation necessitates having critical health and safety and hygiene procedures in place. These procedures serve to protect your business and the children in your care. In the unlikely event of a case of food poisoning you need to be able to prove that it was not your fault. You need to have a record of all the procedures in your food preparation process that ensure food safety and your food safety policy www.childcarepaperwork.com will detail this.

Surf the net for ideas from other day care websites as many post their menus online. Arrange visits to day cares locally and ask about their food options. Your day care licensing representative will doubtless have hints and information brochures to help get you started. The key thing to bear in mind is that daycare menus shouldn't be complicated, just simple, honest to goodness nourishing food.

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SAMPLE MENUS & NUTRITION FOR KIDS

This section has been added to Fiona's information by MoonDragon.org to help caregivers design a menu for kids. For more nutrition information, see our nutrition links and food guide.

MoonDragon's Nutrition Information, Food Guide, Menus, Therapy & Recipes


DAYCARE SAMPLE MENU - WEEK 1


MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Cheerio's
Banana
Milk
Whole Wheat Toast
Yogurt
Milk
Banana Pancakes
Apple Sauce
Milk
Scrambled Eggs
Toast
Peaches
Milk
Granola Cereal
Yogurt
Milk
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
Banana
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Goldfish Crackers
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Grapes
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Homemade Trail Mix
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Apple
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Meat Loaf
Mashed Potato
Peas
Fruit Cup
Bread & Butter
Milk
Tuna Fish Sandwich
Applesauce
Carrot Sticks
Milk
Lasagna
Cucumber Slices
Peaches
Milk
Turkey & Cheese Wrap
Cole Slaw
Applesauce
Milk
Chicken Nuggets
Baked Fries
Green & Red Bell Pepper Slices
Fruit Cup
Milk
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
Cheese Cubes
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Fruit Jelly & Crackers
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Apple Slices & Raisins
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Popcorn
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Carrots & Dip
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)


DAYCARE SAMPLE MENU - WEEK 2


MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Cheese Cubes
Whole Wheat Toast
Applesauce
Milk
Scrambled Eggs
Toast
Ham
Strawberries
Milk
Whole Wheat French Toast
Grapes
Milk
Oatmeal Muffin
Orange Slices
Milk
Waffles
Banana
Milk
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
AM - Snack
Banana
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Crackers & Cheese
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Strawberries
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Grapes
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Homemade Trail Mix
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Soft Tacos
(Lean Ground Beef, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoes)
Grapes
Milk
Fish & Chips
Cucumber Slices
Milk
Pita Pizza
Garden Salad
Banana
Milk
Egg Salad Sandwich
Strawberries
Carrot Sticks
Milk
Sloppy Joes
Mashed Potato
Peas
Milk
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
PM - Snack
Orange Slices
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Raisins
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Cream Cheese Filled Celery
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Crackers & Cheese
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)
Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies
100% Juice
(No Sugar Added)







THE FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID FOR KIDS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the pyramid in 2005 because they wanted to do a better job of telling Americans how to be healthy. The agency later released a special version for kids. Notice the girl climbing the staircase up the side of the pyramid? That's a way of showing kids how important it is to exercise and be active every day. In other words, play a lot! The steps are also a way of saying that you can make changes little by little to be healthier. One step at a time, get it?

The Food Guide Pyramid is one way for people to understand how to eat healthy. A rainbow of colored, vertical stripes represents the five food groups plus fats and oils. Here's what the colors stand for:
    Orange: Grains
    Green: Vegetables
    Red: Fruits
    Yellow: Fats & Oils
    Blue: Milk & Dairy Products
    Purple: Meat, Beans, Fish, & Nuts

THE PYRAMID'S MESSAGE

  • Eat a variety of foods. A balanced diet is one that includes all the food groups. In other words, have foods from every color, every day.

  • Eat less of some foods, and more of others. You can see that the bands for meat and protein (purple) and oils (yellow) are skinnier than the others. That's because you need less of those kinds of foods than you do of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy foods.

  • You also can see the bands start out wider and get thinner as they approach the top. That's designed to show you that not all foods are created equal, even within a healthy food group like fruit. For instance, apple pie would be in that thin part of the fruit band because it has a lot of added sugar and fat. A whole apple (crunch!) would be down in the wide part because you can eat more of those within a healthy diet.

  • Make it personal. Through the USDA's MyPyramid website, people can get personalized recommendations about the mix of foods they need to eat and how much they should be eating. There is a kids' version of the website available too.

  • Everyone wants to know how much they should eat to stay healthy. It's a tricky question, though. It depends on your age, whether you are a girl or a boy, and how active you are. Kids who are more active burn more calories, so they need more calories. But we can give you some estimates for how much you need of each food group.

  • Grains: Grains are measured out in ounce equivalents. Ounce equivalents are just another way of showing a serving size. Here are ounce equivalents for common grain foods. An ounce equivalent equals:
      1 slice of bread
      1/2 cup of cooked cereal, like oatmeal
      1/2 cup of rice or pasta
      1 cup of cold cereal
      * 4- to 8-year-olds need 4 tu 5 ounce equivalents each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-old girls need 5 ounce equivalents each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-old boys need 6 ounce equivalents each day.

    And one last thing about grains: Try make at least half of your grain servings whole grains, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.

    Vegetables: You need your vegetables, especially those dark green and orange ones. Vegetable servings are measured in cups.
      * 4- to 8-year-olds need 1-1/2 cups of veggies each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-old girls need 2 cups of veggies each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-old boys need 2-1/2 cups of veggies each day.

    Fruits: Sweet, juicy fruit is definitely part of a healthy diet. Fruit serving sizes:
      * 4- to 8-year-olds need 1 to 1-1/2 cups of fruit each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-olds need 1-1/2 cups of fruit each day.

    Milk & Other Calcium-Rich Foods: Calcium builds strong bones to last a lifetime, so you need these foods in your diet.
      * 4- to 8-year-olds need 2 cups of milk (or another calcium-rich food) each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-olds need 3 cups of milk (or another calcium-rich food) each day.

    If you want something other than milk, you can substitute yogurt, cheese, or calcium-fortified orange juice, just to name a few.

    Meats, Beans, Fish, & Nuts: These foods contain iron and lots of other important nutrients. Like grains, these foods are measured in ounce equivalents. An ounce equivalent of this group would be:
      1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish
      1/4 cup cooked dry beans
      1 egg
      1 tablespoon of peanut butter
      1/2 ounce (about a small handful) of nuts or seeds
      * 4- to 8-year-olds need 3 to 4 ounce equivalents each day.
      * 9- to 13-year-olds need 5 ounce equivalents each day.





    Fiona Lohrenz has 10 years experience running a day care and has launched a child care website directed at providers and parents. She has also produced a 'Start a ChildCare Business' DVD Guide: www.startchildcare.com.

    This article was submitted by Fiona Lohrenz for electronic reproduction on www.moondragon.org March 16, 2008. Additional information about starting your own website was added June 26, 2008. Information about Tips For Daycare Menus was added September 10, 2008. Information about regulations added September 22, 2008. Franchise information was added October 4, 2008. Starting A Daycare in This Economy was added December 18, 2008. Promoting Your Daycare information was added January 12, 2009. Thank you Fiona for your contributions.





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