Early Sprouts: Growing Great Gardeners


By Kristie Thorson

There is much more ‘being planted’ in this backyard then simple seeds and seedlings.  These Minnesota children, along with their family child care provider, are also developing a perennial love of gardening, and with that, a desire to always eat their veggies!

Taking turns watering the garden is a favorite activity.

It’s all part of Think Small’s Early Sprouts program – a hands-on curriculum which teaches children about healthy eating and guides family child care providers through planting, gathering and serving nutritious foods in their programs.

“Early Sprouts is focused on giving providers experience and knowledge around adding a garden to their program,” said Rochelle Mateffy, an early childhood coach at Think Small.

Thanks to the generous support of the Cargill, Think Small is able to offer the Early Sprouts program to providers in the Twin Cities area at no cost.  Family child care providers attend training classes and then they work with an Early Childhood Coach from Think Small to incorporate a garden into their family child care setting.  This past planting season, twelve child care providers participated in the program.  There were four from St. Paul, four from Minneapolis, one from Brooklyn Center and one from Brooklyn Park.

The children participate in the full garden experience from planting to harvesting.

“For the kids, the focus of this program is to give them the garden to table experience,” said Mateffy. “To teach them where their food comes from and also give them an opportunity to try these vegetables.”

Family child care provider, Wendy Prokosch, harvests green beans with one of the kids.

Family child care provider, Wendy Prokosch, owns and operates Lil’ Pro Family Child Care, a four-star Parent Aware rated program in Brooklyn Park.

“I have a lot of picky eaters and I was hoping Early Sprouts would give them more exposure and because of the ownership in the process that they’d actually experiment a little bit more,” said Prokosch.  “And it worked!  They are trying things that they normally would not even try.”

To see the Early Sprouts program in action, check out this video from Lil’ Pro Family Child Care.

Register for a free child care providers training on healthy food choices

Think Small, Adults’ & Children’s Alliance, and the Cargill Foundation have partnered to provide free training for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) participants.

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Three Tips for Eating Healthy with Kids

Preschool age children develop eating habits they will practice for the rest of their lives, so they are at an ideal age to experience and learn about healthy eating.

At the early preschool age, children are able to self-regulate and stop eating, even a favorite food, when they are full.  As children grow they become more aware of external cues and social messages around food and their ability to self-regulate decreases.  At this point children are more likely to want a food because a friend or family member is eating it or because of media exposure to the food.  It is much easier and effective to teach healthy eating habits than to attempt to change unhealthy ones! Here are some tools for helping children form healthy habits.

Continue reading Three Tips for Eating Healthy with Kids

Register for Free Healthy Eating Training for Child Care Providers

harvest kids 2Healthy eating habits are important, especially for young children in the U.S. Unfortunately; childhood obesity has skyrocketed in recent years, setting many children on an unhealthy path. That’s just one reason Early Sprouts is such an important program.

Continue reading Register for Free Healthy Eating Training for Child Care Providers