Early childhood teachers' and staff members' perceptions of nutrition and physical activity practices for preschoolers

Linda E. Derscheid, Josephine Umoren, So Yeun Kim, Beverly W. Henry, Lauriece L. Zittel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Child care teachers and staff are important influences on preschoolers' nutrition and physical activity habits, and their views may be influenced by education level, years of field experience, and program involvement. For the 360 participants surveyed, responses on 5 of 18 survey items significantly differed by education level (e.g., less education led to more agreement about difficulty with foods at school). Years of field experience significantly differed on three items, such as less experience led to agreeing that government guidelines were helpful. Perceptions significantly differed between Head Start and other programs' staff on two items about food and activity school practices. Following the survey, 32 Head Start professionals participated in focus groups, yielding 16 main ideas among three broad themes involving teachers' roles, perceptions, and strategies concerning nutrition and physical activity practices. Roles revolved around use of Head Start guidelines and checklists. Perceptions included (1) mealtime routines, (2) menus, (3) planned physical activity time, and (4) sedentary lifestyles. Strategies included (1) posting weekly menus and lesson plans, (2) working with the dietitian for classroom ideas, (3) using music to encourage movement, and (4) having large motor areas. Recommendations for future research, policy initiatives, and educational implications are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-265
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • nutrition
  • physical activity
  • preschool practices


Dive into the research topics of 'Early childhood teachers' and staff members' perceptions of nutrition and physical activity practices for preschoolers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this