Child care professionals play a key role in the healthy development of children, both as teachers and as role models. When staff members take an active role in promoting the health, nutrition and physical activity of the children in their care, they are encouraging the healthy development that is the foundation for exploration and learning across all domains. Encourage your staff to work together to make your program even better, but remember that change is hard! Try one or two small improvements at a time so staff can see that change can be fun and easy and that a few small steps can make a big difference. Stay positive and praise each victory along the way! Here are some ideas on staff engagement:
Create a collaborative environment. Ask questions. Seek suggestions. What's working? What isn't?
- Include regular time during staff meetings where staff can discuss successes, obstacles and potential solutions.
- Host a "Town Meeting" and invite all staff, families and administrators to discuss ideas or challenges and solutions.
- Provide a suggestion box for staff who may not be comfortable speaking up in a meeting. Require that comments are constructive and include a suggested solution if a problem is noted.
- Distribute a weekly update about center happenings to all staff.
Creativity, new opinions and new ideas are key!
- Have staff prepare and taste-test some recipes on the menu so they are more confident in offering new foods, will enjoy them along with the children during meal time and know how to prepare them at home.
- Host a potluck where staff can sample and exchange healthy recipes and share cultural favorites with healthy adjustments.
- Engage staff in planning and implementing workshops, events or dinners to share their expertise in healthy eating with families.
Interactive and educational activities are great for kids to bring home to their families.
- Tell staff about existing handouts, lesson plans and activities that promote health.
- Involve staff in researching articles and tip sheets on areas of concern or interest to themselves or families.
- Encourage staff to write articles for your newsletter to share healthy activities and ideas from the classroom with families.
Find opportunities for trainings on topics that will keep staff up-to-date.
- Make trainings fun! Host one outside on a nice evening, with child care and food provided.
- Ask staff what knowledge, resources and support they need to understand and get excited about healthy changes at your child care center or home. Hold trainings to respond to their needs or refer them to helpful resources.
- Have staff create workshops to share best practices with the rest of the staff.
Motivate your staff so they are their happiest and most productive at work.
- Provide healthy incentives such as food, child care, a half-day of vacation time, a preferred parking spot or a free gym trial for exceeding expectations.
- Show staff you appreciate their work by hosting a session of interest to them - make sure to ask what they want (e.g., stress management, cooking, dance, self-defense, group fitness).
- Say "Thank you!" Sometimes a simple "thanks" is all a person needs to feel appreciated. Private praise is great, and public praise is even better!
- Write notes of appreciation.
- Give staff the opportunity to recognize the good work of their colleagues. This increases the number of people being recognized and supports staff unity and appreciation of one another's efforts.
- Ask your staff what they need in order to be more effective. Then, follow through!
Encourage staff to take an active role in shaping the future of your child care center or home!
- Form a Staff Nutrition Advisory Council that reviews the menu two or three times a year, gives feedback and recommends new healthy recipes or modifications to old favorites. Do the same to promote physical activity at your center or home.
- Get staff involved in assessing your child care center's or home's policies and practices supporting child health using the Self-Assessment and Action Plan Template. Decide as a group what needs to be improved and where to start. Create a plan, make the change, come together to discuss how it went and make improvements as needed.
- Delegate creation or management of a resource center for families and staff to a group of interested staff members.
- Involve staff in strategic planning.