Cleveland, OH 44106
- Why does early childhood wellness matter to you
Cleveland Montessori is a preschool and elementary program located in Cleveland Ohio that is dedicated to the implementation of Montessori Educational principles. A Montessori education focuses on independence and respect, including respect for oneself and their environment. This aspect of our philosophy lends itself to educating children on healthy choices in nutrition, exercise and socialization. Children have opportunities for food preparation, daily physical activity and practicing the skills of grace and courtesy that lead to healthy relationships. The exposure to these skills from an early age contribute to the development of life skills. Learning about these skills in the early years leads to life-long wellness.
- What motivated you to become involved with Early Ages Healthy Stages?
Our involvement with Early Ages Healthy Stages was motivated by our desire to further educate parents about child development and the need for healthy food choices and exercise in this process. We also have a continued desire to stay informed ourselves about local initiatives that support and encourage this education. The school’s largest population is in our preschool program and we plan for future expansion to a toddler program. Parent and staff education and access to resources from EAHS are important for our strategic planning process.
- How is your program changed since becoming involved with Early Ages Healthy Stages?
Our program has been able to share vital information and resources with parents which have helped to improve the quality of student lunches and snacks. We are able to give parents both paper and online materials to reference. This has expanded our ability to collaborate and have a team approach in with parents regarding the wellbeing of children in our care.
- What advice do you have for ECE programs looking to get more involved in early childhood health and wellness?
Involve yourself. Be the change you desire. Stay away from the notion that the next person will step up. If you want better for the children in your care, be available to make it happen. Take that step whether it is a baby step or a giant leap. Make exercise and food choices a daily conscious lifestyle for the children in your care. The notion will trickle its way down to the family either fast or slow.
- Can you share a healthy success story from your program?
In the primary aftercare program, we try to incorporate at least one to two baking or cooking activities a week. We also taste one new produce or “good for you” food item a week that children might “shy” away from. Also available daily are yoga and dancing/movement to music.
Most afternoons, children join me in preparing snack. This could include washing, slicing, peeling, blending, and/or measuring. Children will enthusiastically want to help, taste (inevitably having seconds or thirds), and then make sure their loved ones know about the experience. I have included many recipes in the primary aftercare newsletter due to parents inquiring and showing surprise at what their children have tried. Parents are also thrilled that their children want to participate in making family food choices and assist in the home kitchen.
I have had many children who have moved on to elementary aftercare come back to visit when any of the above activities are occurring and stay to join in with the younger ones. They reminisce about what they remember tasting, baking, and doing gross motor wise. There is no joy or affirmation greater then hearing the older children comment; that they still make the recipes, still enjoy tasting new things, and that they shop and make meals with or for their families and enjoy sports and exercise.
(A note from EAHS: Cleveland Montessori’s Primary Aftercare Guide, Terri Stahl, has been with EAHS since the begging and is one of our most passionate members! Terri’s enthusiasm for healthy eating, gardening, and active play constantly inspires us to work just a little bit harder to make our dream of a healthier generation a reality.)