Using the Minibook
Give each child a copy of the coloring book, How Do We Know We're Growing?. Help each put it together as a story. Read the words and talk about the pictures. The story identifies typical ways that children recognize they are getting bigger and stronger, and then relates that growth to healthful foods. Invite children to color the pages and take the books home to share with their families. Encourage families to use a measuring chart to routinely check children's growth.

When I Was a Baby . . .
Ask each child to bring in a baby photo. Display where children can try to guess the baby in each picture. At group time, children can take turns identifying their own photos. Talk about how they have all changed in size and what they can do now that they couldn't do as babies.

Invite each child to make a book on the theme of growth to take home. Place the baby photo on the cover. (Secure the photo with tape so that it can be removed or make a photocopy to paste on the cover.) For the inside pages, children can draw pictures and dictate captions about ways they've grown since they were babies. Make the last page a photo taken at your program of each child today.

Using the Eat Play Grow! Poster
You can get triple duty from the Eat Play Grow! poster.

Use the poster for discussion, to spark movement activities, and to highlight the enjoyment of children eating together. To extend the life of the poster, make photocopies of the pages on the back, then laminate the front using clear self-stick paper.

Talk About It
Display the poster at children's eye level. Gather your group to talk about what they see. Begin by letting children describe whatever interests them.

Read aloud the poster title: "Eat Play Grow!" Confirm that the poster shows a photograph of children eating together, pictures of children doing different movements, and a picture of a child being measured. Invite children to look at the poster with you to see how those words go together.

Focus first on the photo of the children eating together. Relate it to children's own group meals at school. Read aloud the line: "What are these children eating for snack today?" Guide children in naming the foods with the line: "Do you see milk and cheese and yogurt and peanut butter? OK!" Ask volunteers to name their favorites from among the foods shown.

Explain to children that some foods we eat are especially important in helping our bodies to be strong, stay healthy, and grow. Point to the milk-group foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) and explain that milk and foods made from milk help their bones and teeth to be strong and to grow. Check briefly for what children understand about bones and teeth.

Talk about foods that are good sources of protein. Explain that foods such as chicken, burgers, fish, eggs, tofu, beans, and peanut butter help their muscles grow strong and keep their bodies well.

Check briefly for what children understand about their muscles and what happens when they get sick.

Read aloud the last line: "Hurrah for foods that help you grow strong, stay well, and have energy to play!" Confirm that "Eat Play Grow!" means that eating healthful foods gives children the healthy bodies they need to play and grow. Lead them in a cheer for milk- and meat-group foods that help build healthy bodies.

You Can Move!
Reinforce the connection between healthful foods and healthy bodies with this movement activity. Point to one of the poster pictures of a young child stretching, bending, and so on, or let a child choose one. Then recite this rhyme by preschool teacher and Penn State consultant Carol Lebold:

Your bones and muscles are growing strong.
Eat good foods and you can't go wrong!
Now move your body, count 1, 2, 3 . . .
Come along and _______ with me.

Repeat with different movements pictured on the poster and others that children suggest.

We Eat Together Too!
Use the group photo to talk about why it is enjoyable to eat together and what manners children use when they eat with others.

Sharing the Poster With Families
Display the poster (Eat Play Grow!) where families can take note of its important message about the relationship between healthful eating, physical activity, and growth. They can also get ideas for healthful foods that provide calcium and protein. Share the movement rhyme to encourage family exercise.

Sharing Nutrition Messages About Calcium and Protein Foods With Families
Nutrition experts agree that most young children in the United States get enough protein in their diets, but too many don't get enough calcium. The send-home materials and activities in this unit can help educate families about the importance of including calcium-rich dairy products in children's daily diets. They will also answer questions about topics such as how many servings from the meat group children need and food allergies to milk, eggs, and peanuts.

"Celebrate Healthy Eating!"
Family Send-Homes
The following are all designed as send-home materials:

Review this information to help support children in your program who have food allergies or lactose intolerance. Share it with families too.

  • Family Nutrition News and Tips. These quick-read items focus on information about milk and calcium and on helping families feel comfortable choosing meat alternatives as well as meat.

  • Kid Friendly Recipes. Send home these simple recipes to help families serve calcium- and protein-rich foods.

Components With Family Extensions
Here are tips on sharing other program materials or activity ideas:

  • Using the Eat * Play * Grow! Poster. Check for suggestions on introducing the poster to family members visiting at school.

  • Story Time. Recommend the books on this page for help in answering children's questions about digestion.

  • Down in the Dairy Barn, Over in the Henhouse. Share the recipe for homemade cottage cheese and recommend the book titles too.

  • Celebrate Healthy Eating and Exercise. Children will be proud to take home the Celebrate Healthy Eating Award and families will benefit from the healthful reminders on it. Suggest the Eric Carle book for truly active reading at home.

  • "How Do We Know We're Growing?" Once you've read and discussed as a group, invite children to take their copies home.

  • From MOO to YOU! Post the card to suggest dairy foods to include in family meals.

  • Catch a Snack With Tuna Boats. Display the recipe where families can take note of this simple idea for a healthful snack.