Barriers to Implementing a Healthy Habits Curriculum in Early Childhood Education: Perspectives from Childcare Providers and Teachers

Abstract

With increasing rates of childhood obesity in the United States, it is important to develop effective curricula that helps children learn and practice healthy habits. Given the large percentage of children who spend time in away-from-home care, childcare centers are opportune contexts to implement such curricula. We sought insight from 35 teachers and childcare providers to identify barriers to implementing an already established healthy habits curriculum (Sprouts: Growing Healthy Habits). Of the 35 participants, 9 identified as teachers (preschool, kindergarten, first grade) while the other 26 identified as childcare providers or working in childcare (i.e., program directors). Each participant completed a semi-structured phone interview after reviewing the curriculum to examine their perspective on: (a) curriculum appeal, (b) barriers to implementing the lessons, and (c) adaptations that would be needed. Interviews were recorded then transcribed verbatim. Three researchers developed a codebook and reached reliability coding (Cohen’s kappa > .70). Themes from initial codes were then used to interpret data. The results indicate that there is great appeal for implementing a healthy habits curriculum in childcare contexts. The barriers providers thought they might face were: behavioral management, parental connections, preparation time, and lack of resources. Additional recommendations suggested a need to incorporate more diversity into lessons. Differences in responses were also noted by participant demographics and childcare/school neighborhood demographics. Despite noted barriers, most providers expressed enthusiasm for using a healthy habits curriculum. This helpful feedback provided useful adaptions to the Sprouts curriculum for children 4–6 years old.

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Funding

Funding was provided by the Christopher Family Foundation Food and Family Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Grant. No. Hatch 793-328).

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Villegas.

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Villegas, E., Sutter, C., Koester, B. et al. Barriers to Implementing a Healthy Habits Curriculum in Early Childhood Education: Perspectives from Childcare Providers and Teachers. Early Childhood Educ J (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01099-5

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Keywords

  • Health promotion
  • Childcare
  • School
  • Early childhood