Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.7 Nutrition Learning Experiences for Children and Nutrition Education for Parents/Guardians

4.7.0 Nutrition Education for Parents/Guardians

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018.

Parents/guardians should be informed of the range of nutrition learning activities for children in care provided in the facility. Formal nutrition information and education programs for parents/guardians should be conducted at least twice a year under the guidance of the nutritionist/registered dietitian based on a needs assessment for nutrition information and education as perceived by families and staff. The importance of healthy sleep habits should be incorporated into obesity prevention programming. Informal programs should be implemented during teachable moments throughout the year.


One goal of a facility is to provide a positive environment for the entire family. Informing parents/guardians about nutrition, food, food preparation, and mealtime enhances nutrition and mealtime interactions in the home, which helps to mold a child’s food habits and eating behavior (1-3). Because of the current epidemic of childhood obesity, prevention of childhood obesity through nutrition and physical activity is an appropriate topic for parents/guardians. Periodically providing families records of the food eaten and progress in physical activities by their children will help families coordinate home food preparation, nutrition, and physical activity with what is provided at the early care and education facility. Nutrition education directed at parents/guardians complements and enhances the nutrition learning experiences provided to their children. Similarly, bedtime routines are an important facet of a child’s physical, social, and emotional health and development. Interestingly, sleep time has a bigger effect on children’s weight than awake time (4).


One method of nutrition education for parents/guardians is providing healthy recipes that are quick and inexpensive to prepare. Another is sharing information about access to local sources of healthy foods (eg, farmers’ markets, grocery stores, healthier prepared foods and restaurant options). Also, caregivers/teachers can provide parents/guardians ideas for healthy and inexpensive snacks, including foods available and served at parents’/guardians’ meetings. Education should be helpful and culturally relevant and incorporate the use of locally produced food. Educate parents/guardians that an early bedtime is defined as 8:00 pm or earlier and is associated with fewer parent/guardian- and teacher-reported incidences and attention-deficient issues (4,5). Decreased sleep duration with accompanying sleep-related issues is associated with impaired social-emotional and cognitive function that can increase risk of childhood/adolescent obesity (6). Nutrition education programs may be supplemented by periodic distribution of newsletters and sharing Web sites and/or materials.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Health and Safety Education Topics for Children Nutrition Learning Experiences for Children
  1. US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. Head Start policy & regulations. Subchapter B—the administration for children and families, Head Start program. Accessed November 14, 2017

  2. Hagan JF, Shaw JS, Duncan PM, eds. Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. 4th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2017

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Pediatric Nutrition. Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014

  4. Anderson SE, Andridge R, Whitaker RC. Bedtime in preschool-aged children and risk for adolescent obesity. J Pediatr. 2016;176:17–22

  5. Kobayashi K, Yorifuji T, Yamakawa M, et al. Poor toddler-age sleep schedules predict school-age behavioral disorders in a longitudinal survey. Brain Dev. 2015;37(6):572–578

  6. Bonuck KA, Schwartz B, Schechter C. Sleep health literacy in Head Start families and staff: exploratory study of knowledge, motivation, and competencies to promote healthy sleep. Sleep Health. 2016;2(1):19–24


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018.