Program for preschool children and their parents to boost healthy eating, literacy, parent-child interaction and school readiness
For many children, academic difficulties begin before they start school. In a national survey, teachers reported that 35 percent of kindergarten children were not ready for school. Poor academic skills in the early years place children at risk, often leading to grade retention, school failure and dropout, delinquency and running away, as well as unemployment and underemployment in adulthood. Children gain critical school readiness skills by engaging in real-life, meaningful activities. Cooking with parents is one educational activity that can help to increase children’s abilities in math, science, reading, language, motor development and social skills in a meaningful and appealing way.
Response/What’s Been Done
Extension’s Little Books and Little Cooks Program, which began in 2012, offers Nevada’s Clark, Washoe and Lincoln County preschool children and their parents the chance to cook and read stories together. Extension provides the books, recipes and cooking instructions.
In 2017, six new books and recipes were added, and the curriculum was also used in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania communities. In addition, a seven-week series was delivered 61 times statewide totaling 424 two-hour workshops, reaching families at at-risk elementary schools, libraries and Head Start sites. Participants included 477 families in Clark and Lincoln Counties, and 165 parents and 172 children in Washoe County.
Also in 2017, the program offered community activities at 58 events throughout the state to promote children’s healthy eating and physical activity. Program faculty delivered information sheets, handouts, promotional displays, posters and newsletters in English and Spanish, reaching at least 3,912 people.
Results/Impact and Partners
Since 2012, the program has reached 2,628 parents and 2,202 children through 193 program series. In 2017, 367 participants completed pre- and post- tests:
- 327 felt more confident interacting with their child at home.
- 360 planned to continue using what they learned in the future.
- 341 said their children help prepare food more often.
- 327 said their children try new and unfamiliar foods at home more often.
- 349 said their children feel more confident about using cooking equipment during cooking.
In Clark County, of 60 parents completing a follow-up survey three months after the seven-week series:
- 37 ate fruits and vegetables two to four times a day.
- 58 felt confident interacting with their child during mealtime.
- 58 felt confident interacting with their child when playing or during other routines.
- 57 knew all the food groups.
- 35 ate all food groups each day.
- 59 thought their child was ready for school.
- 37 said their children help prepare food at home several times a week.
- 41 said their children eat fruits and vegetables two to four times a day.
- 46 said their children are more willing to try new and unfamiliar foods at home.
- 25 said their children eat food from other cultures several times a week.
- 32 said their children eat all food groups each day.
Public Value Statement
In 2016, Lincoln County developed a farmers market coupon program, where local residents in need were given coupons to use to get free fresh food at the farmers market. A total of $5,190 worth of local food (at least 438 pounds) was distributed to 1,139 people April through June.