Tickle Me Pink Daycare and Learning Center is an early childhood education center that has nurtured children and supported their families in Valdosta, Georgia for almost 20 years. As it has reached its own “adulthood,” Tickle Me Pink continues to grow and provide a fun and healthy environment where children learn and develop new skills to reach their full potential.
In December 2016, Tickle Me Pink partnered with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s Early Education Empowerment Zone, and the Georgia Department of Public Health, to host Valdosta’s first Eat. Move. Talk! training. Eat. Move. Talk! shares ways early childhood teachers can increase healthy eating, moving and talking with babies and children in the classroom. The training also provides tools for families to increase these healthy habits in the home. These habits support healthy body and brain development, and school readiness, for the youngest Georgians.
Pam Carter, Tickle Me Pink director and owner, and 17 staff members, including teachers and the school cook, participated in the Eat. Move. Talk! training. The training helped everyone learn more about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity for young children. Throughout 2017, teachers led classroom activities that expanded children’s vocabularies with fruits, vegetables, colors, textures and movements. Teachers encouraged children to try new fruits and vegetables with, “I tried it today,” stickers. Families starting bringing in healthier snacks for their children, and they were happy to do so after learning about Eat. Move. Talk!
Tickle Me Pink has several movement-based activities scheduled for their children. Every morning, they use a CD with music and movement from the Eat. Move. Talk! training. They collaborate with a dance school for movement and dance, a karate school to introduce martial arts, and the Tiny Tots Tumbling bus. The bus comes every Monday and parks in their parking lot to provide students a safe space for physical activity lesson plans with a certified teacher.
In February of 2018, Tickle Me Pink joined the Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Georgia Organics, Little Ones Learning Center, Quality Care for Children, The Common Market, and Voices for Georgia’s Children together formed the multi-year initiative to develop farm to early care and education (ECE) models. These models provide hands-on education in nutrition, cooking and gardening, and they promote local foods at early care centers to improve child care programs and increase access to healthy food.
Tickle Me Pink was one of 18 providers chosen from 80 submissions statewide to participate in the collaborative led by Quality Care for Children. Collaborative participants received a $1,500 mini-grant, free resources, materials, training and professional development for Farm to ECE curriculum. This helped Tickle Me Pink bring in local produce, provide parent workshops on healthy meals and support kids’ farming efforts.
Through this collaborative, Tickle Me Pink participated in the “Taste Test Box” using one of their classrooms. With the Taste Test Box, Tickle Me Pink and the 17 other Farm to ECE pilot programs received a box filled fresh, local ingredients and instructions for conducting a taste test. The box comes with enough ingredients for 25 children, all the utensils needed, recipe cards to share with families, stickers for kids, and information about the farmer who grew the produce. Participating sites receive one box per month. Tickle Me Pink students have tried salsa, kale pesto and spicy radishes with a yogurt-based ranch dip. The students were hesitant at first, but they love putting together the ingredients in the classroom and trying new locally grown food.
The Taste Test Box should not to be confused with mystery boxes teachers also use in the classroom. A mystery box will contain a fruit or vegetable that kids pass around, feel and describe – fuzzy or smooth, firm or soft – and imagine what the object might be and how it might taste. They then take the object out of the box. Once it contained a peach, and the students all got to try it. During this activity kids grow in their language development, critical thinking and excitement for new foods.
With Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative funding, Tickle Me Pink has conducted healthy workshops for parents on how to prepare healthy snacks that are easy and economical. As they planned the workshops, the director and the parent leader considered the cost of the ingredients and the prep time.
“Children’s proper development and growth is dependent upon essential nutrients,” shares Rochelle Perry, parent leader.
Parents snacked on fresh strawberries and bananas and brought home their own organic cucumber and tomato plants to nurture at home with their kids.
This past summer, through Eat. Move. Talk! a trainer from HealthMPowers Inc. visited Tickle Me Pink to provide training to demonstrate model lesson plans with students. The trainer demonstrated how to expose children to new words and concepts while building a story around the apples the kids were tasting. The trainer also led the kids in movements that helped test and demonstrate their understanding of words they were learning–all while moving and having fun.
Tickle Me Pink works to engage parents, especially parents of infants. There is an idea that infants are just babies and therefore do not need as much support for physical activity and healthy eating, or even language development. To counter these misconceptions, Tickle Me Pink shares developmental milestones. They have cameras in all classrooms for parents to observe what their kids are doing—and what they can do developmentally. In the healthy eating workshops, Tickle Me Pink emphasizes healthy growth and understanding different cries or earlier cues for hunger.
Tickle Me Pink is supporting the healthy growth of their children, and continuously challenges their parents and program to provide the healthiest environment possible.
To learn more about Tickle Me Pink visit their website.
To learn more about Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative visit their website.
To learn more about HealthMPowers, Inc., visit their website.
To learn more about Eat. Move. Talk!, click here.