Parents, child care providers both play role in healthy habits, but there's a disconnect

· 2 min read

Parents, child care providers both play role in healthy habits, but there’s a disconnect

Pocket Science: Exploring the 'What,' 'So what' and 'Now what' of Husker research
A child takes a helping of pineapple in a child care setting
Craig Chandler | University Communication

Welcome to Pocket Science: a glimpse at recent research from Husker scientists and engineers. For those who want to quickly learn the “What,” “So what” and “Now what” of Husker research.


A majority of children in the United States are enrolled in child care before kindergarten, so both parents and child care providers play a large role in the development of healthy habits in children.

Communication between child care providers and parents about nutrition and physical exercise is critical to the development of these habits, but little research has been done to examine the communication and family engagement on these topics.

So what?

Dipti Dev, associate professor in Child, Youth and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, joined colleagues from the University of Nebraska Omaha and Creighton University to examine the perceptions of communication between families and child care providers about healthy eating and physical activity.

Dipti Dev

Through interviews with parents and providers, the researchers found similarities in responses about the importance of healthy eating; the influence of parents on children’s food choices; and identifying physical activity opportunities. But, there was a disconnect between parents and providers on the parents’ role in promoting healthy activity; challenges faced by parents in promoting healthy eating; and providers’ encouragement of physical activity.

Notably, few parents offered that providers were top influences on eating and physical activity, and a majority of providers felt that parents did not communicate with them enough, and some found it challenging to have difficult conversations.

Now what?

The results show the need for increased communication between parents and providers, and for parents to better understand the important role of their child care provider. The study’s authors also note that further research could identify better ways to discuss difficult topics, and how to promote more family engagement on healthy eating and physical activity.

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