Child Time teacher Sarah Taylor leads four year-olds Sydney Lamb, left, Liam Riethmeier, center and Landen DeBoe on Thursday in yoga exercises at the learning center in Plymouth. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Plymouth— It was play time for the 4-year-olds at Childtime Learning Centers in Plymouth, and one precocious child held up a plastic Oreo to school director Christina DeBoe.
“Look!” the preschooler shouted excitedly while standing in the middle of a toddler-sized version of a kitchen. “Cookies!”
“Yes, but is that a healthy food or a special snack?” DeBoe asked.
Without hesitation, the youngster replied, “A special snack.”
Even the center’s youngest students know the nutritional value of the foods they eat and the importance of regular exercise. Since October 2012, the school has been transitioning into a program they call “Grow Fit,” modeled after first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative for youth fitness and nutrition.
“It’s almost second nature to us here now,” DeBoe said. “As they get older and are able to start making their own decisions, hopefully the things we taught them will stick.”
On Thursday, Obama touted the center’s parent company, Novi-based Learning Care Group, for its efforts in promoting her initiative. As part of it, the company’s facilities are offering children at least an hour of daily exercise, limiting computer and TV time, eliminating fried foods and sugared drinks, and serving fruits and/or vegetables at all meals.
Learning Care centers also will allow mothers to provide breast milk for their children and accommodate mothers who want to breast feed.
“Healthier eating and regular physical activity are becoming the new norm for children across the country,” Obama said in a statement issued Thursday by the White House. “I am thrilled about Learning Care Group’s new commitment to implement best practices in schools across our country to instill healthy habits in our children from a young age.”
The Learning Care Group is the nation’s second-largest for-profit child care provider, serving more than 100,000 students in 940 schools across the country. The business operates under five names: Childtime Learning Centers, Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers, the Children’s Courtyard, Montessori Unlimited and La Petite Academy.
On Thursday, Obama visited a LaPetite Academy center in the Washington suburb of Bowie, Md., to applaud the company’s decision.
As part of the festivities, Obama danced with a group of life-size vegetables to entertain the children and joined them afterward for a healthy snack of carrot sticks and hummus.
“It’s just completely the right thing to do,” said Chief Marketing Officer John Lichtenberg, “and it’s every bit as important as teaching the children reading and math.”
“We’re very pleased and honored to be a part of this,” said Novi Mayor Bob Gatt, praising the company’s work. “Many people in Novi have benefited from it and we’re looking forward to continue working with them in the future.”
Associated Press contributed