Skip Navigation LinksEarlyCareandEducation-(ECE)

nutrition and Physical Activity Branch

Early Care and Education

The California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Branch (NPAB) recognizes the importance of focusing on the birth-to-five age group as part of nutrition education and policy, systems and environmental change efforts. Local Health Departments selecting this group as a target for their activities are encouraged to consider service to the children themselves, as early childhood is an important time to help establish healthy habits and to expose children to a variety of healthy foods. Activities should also be focused on parents and other adult caregivers (such as childcare providers, preschool teachers, aides, afterschool program leads, etc.).

The development of healthy and active early care and education environments is encouraged. This includes aspects such as serving and promoting healthy foods and beverages, implementing healthy celebrations and meetings, and providing multiple opportunities for daily physical activity—all supported by healthy site policies and systems.


A variety of materials are available for use with this population. Qualifying community organizations in California can request free materials through the Local Health Department in their county. 

Partnering with California’s Early Care and Education (ECE) Community to Prevent Childhood Obesity:

A Guidebook for Public Health Professionals

Created in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing’s California Childcare Health Program, the guidebook provides an overview of California’s ​ECE en​vir​onm​ent that can help guide public health professionals (e.g., health educators, registered dietitians, and nurses) in understanding ECE in California and in engaging with ECE partners. It provides information about the ECE landscape, funding, laws, best practices, advocacy, and quality improvement. It builds on existing strategies to reduce childhood obesity and provides ideas for collaboration. The guidebook is available at: 

Partnering with California’s Early Care and Education (ECE) Community to Prevent Childhood Obesity: A Guidebook for Public Health Professionals (PDF)

Early Care and Education Physical Activity and Nutrition Policy and Templates

The policy templates were created to reflect the CDC’s 47 high impact obesity prevention standards for early care and education (ECE),  in a user-friendly format that can be customized in selected areas based on the family child care home or center/preschool site. 

Physical Activity Template (PDF)

Physical Activity Template (PDF) (Spanish)

The template includes information specific to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

Nutrition Template (PDF)

Nutrition Template (PDF) (Spanish)

The template includes general information for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

​Painting Preschool Playgrounds for Movement

Stencil Kit Guide

CDPH and CSU Chico developed a guide to aid in designing and painting playgrounds. The guide addresses: preschool physical activity recommendations, fundamental movement skills, suggested playground elements, and preparation and instructions for painting the playground designs. The playground activities associated with the use of the stencils will help the children and schools to meet the CDC’s recommended standards: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, and National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (2012).

Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs

Painting Preschool Playgrounds for Movement “Stencil Kit” – Pilot Study, Evaluation, Methods, and Results

With a Community Grant from California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) California Obesity Prevention Program, the California State University Chico, Center for Healthy Communities piloted the use of inexpensive and reusable playground stencils to enhance outdoor physical activity opportunities for preschool children at eight sites. The Center for Healthy Communities’ observational study of playgrounds enhanced with stencil designs confirmed that the use of playground stencils during the above mentioned pilot program resulted in a significant increase in active play when stenciled playgrounds were compared with a control site without stencils. During the pilot study, System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth (SOPLAY) was used for the evaluation. SOPLAY is a validated tool for directly observing physical activity and associated environmental characteristics in free play settings (e.g., recess and lunch at school).

​CHOICE – Creating Healthy Opportunities in Child Care Environments

Created in collaboration with the Contra Costa Child Care Council, the CHOICE guide supports and promotes healthy nutrition and physical activity in early care and education settings through the implementation of self-assessment and policy development resources.

​​​​​Potter the Otter Materials (CalFresh Healthy Living Approved)

Designed for early childhood education, the popular “Potter the Otter” book characters created by First 5 Santa Clara, are featured in the following CalFresh Healthy Living allowable books:

Available at Potter the Otter website:

  • Potter the Otter: A Tale about Water (story book; 2019 edition)

  • Potter the Otter Eats School Meals (story book)

  • Potter the Otter’s Market Adventure (story book)

  • Cooking with Potter the Otter (cook book)

  • Activities with Potter the Otter: Fruit and Veggie Fun! (activity book comprised of age-appropriate activity sheets) 

Available at First 5 California website:

  • It’s Picnic Day, Potter! (story book)


  • These are the only books in the Potter the Otter book series currently approved for CalFresh Healthy Living use.

  • The online Potter the Otter mini-poster, activities and worksheets from Scholastic are approved for use with CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition education.​

Discover MyPlate: Nutrition Education for Kindergarten

Discover MyPlate is fun and inquiry-based nutrition education that fosters the development of healthy food choices and physically active lifestyles during a critical developmental and learning period for children - kindergarten.

Kindergarten teachers can meet education standards for Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Health using the six ready-to-go and interactive lessons. Children become food-smart as they practice counting, reading, writing, and more. Fun characters and developmentally appropriate activities engage children in:

  • Exploring healthy choices from each of the MyPlate food groups

  • Discovering the colorful variety of fruits and vegetables and how they grow

  • Identifying feelings of hunger and fullness

  • Selecting balanced meals and healthy snacks

  • Experiencing the fun and importance of being physically active

Page Last Updated :