Illinois looking to legislate snack, play time at day care centers

Two-year-old Logan Shapiro takes a drink of milk during lunch at Caywood's Youth Center Thursday. The daycare places an emphasis on healthy nutrition, serving meals that offer plenty of fruits and vegetables. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Aug. 30, 2013 9:42 am Updated: Sep. 13, 2013 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Children who attend Walter Hammond Day Care in Quincy get a treat every Friday. Chocolate milk replaces white milk once a week for lunch.

If state leaders get their way, treat day will become a thing of the past at Walter Hammond and any other day care centers in Illinois.

State authorities are considering a series of proposals that would remove fatty and sugary snacks along with chocolate milk from day care centers in Illinois, while also banning the youngest children from watching television, officials said. A series of rule changes were first recommended by the Illinois Early Learning Council and are now being reviewed by a special legislative panel.

If they're approved, they could take effect in six to nine months.

Any legislation won't affect Quincy children too much, local day care center directors said.

"We don't do sugary snacks," April Almazan, director at Walter Hammond, 906 Lind, said. "We follow healthy eating habits. We drink white milk, 100 percent juice and water."

Another Quincy day care center also is ahead of the curve when it comes to providing heathy eating options to their children. Kelley Giesing, director of Caywood's Youth Center, said the facility changed its menu about four months ago to provide children more fresh fruits and vegetables at meal time.

"The kids dug right in," Giesing said. "We had a couple of picky eaters who we had to have try it two or three times before they liked it."

Giesing said Caywood's no longer serves items like chicken nuggets and tater tots at lunch. Almazan said hot dogs served at Walter Hammond are now made of turkey.

Other proposals also would mandate children go outside at least twice during the day -- weather permitting -- and forbid day care providers from rewarding children's good behavior with food.

"By reaching out to the day care centers, we're changing the way that kids are fed and cared for -- not just when they are at the center, but also when they are at home," Dave Clarkin, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said.

Specifically, the changes would ban children under the age of 2 from watching TV while they're at day care. Older children would be limited to a single hour a day, but they couldn't watch television while they eat. Snacks that are high in fat and sugar would be forbidden, while children also wouldn't be allowed to have bottles while they're in a crib.

Neither Walter Hammond, which cares for 45 children, nor Caywood's, which has an enrollment of 126, allow their children to watch TV during the day. Both facilities have normal recess time for their children.

The rules would only apply to day care centers, meaning that in-home day care providers are excluded. The changes could affect about 300,000 children statewide. Facilities that violate the rules would most likely have to file a corrective action plan, Clarkin said.

Giesing said she has seen a change in children since the menu changed.

"We don't see behaviors of getting hyper and lashing out like we would after they had some sugar," she said. "Our teachers also use that time to educate the children on eating healthy."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.