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Nurturing a Healthier Generation: Preschoolers Learn to Grow Fit

NOVI, Mich., March 25, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- March Madness has taken on new meaning this year for thousands of preschoolers and teachers at Learning Care Group schools. Childtime, Tutor Time, The Children's Courtyard, La Petite Academy and Montessori Unlimited schools nationwide are in a "Grow Fit Fitness Frenzy" in honor of Nutrition Month.



The celebration underscores the importance of nutritious eating and physical fitness in keeping with Grow Fit, the company's comprehensive healthy lifestyle initiative. Fruit and vegetable inspired themes are featured in fun-filled games and learning activities. Classes are holding Energy Challenges to see if they can rack up more jumping jacks, push-ups, or silly steps than the day before. Children look forward to showing off their moves during the Grow Fit Daily Dance Break. Kids and teachers alike have embraced Grow Fit and enjoy championing the importance of making healthy choices.

Learning to Make Healthy Choices: A Critical Life Skill

Now in its third year, Learning Care Group's Grow Fit provides a clearly defined structure for nutrition and physical fitness at more than 900 schools nationwide. The program has become part of school culture through wholesome meals, curricular activities that emphasize movement and fun special events.

"Through Grow Fit, we've prioritized nutrition and fitness as a foundation for supporting children's healthy development and ensuring they have the energy to learn," said Learning Care Group CEO Barbara Beck. "Providing children with wholesome meals and encouraging daily exercise is a critical first step in ensuring they thrive during their early years. Inspiring them to make healthy choices is vital for their future success."

Learning Care Group has reaffirmed its dedication to providing a healthy environment for the children in its care by joining the Partnership for a Healthier America and committing to meet Let's Move! Child Care standards. These criteria encompass physical activity, food, beverages, infant feeding, screen time and parent engagement.

The company already has made significant progress toward achieving all of these goals. In just one year, Learning Care Group has cut the equivalent of five semi trucks worth of sugar from children's meals just by serving more water and reducing the amount of juice. The switch from a breaded and fried nugget to a grilled chicken nugget has eliminated more than a ton of fat in a single year – comparable to the weight of a small car.

Here's What's Cooking

The recipe for lifelong wellness can begin in early childhood. At every Learning Care Group school, healthy nutrition habits are emphasized during each meal – including the importance of drinking water and following appropriate portion sizes.

Developed by the company's registered dietician nutritionist, the well-balanced menu offers more than 50 different fruits and vegetables, along with lean proteins. More than 30 whole grain options are featured on the Grow Fit menu, with whole grain vanilla wafers joining the lineup next month as the latest offering. Fried foods have been completely eliminated.

"Studies indicate proper nutrition is absolutely fundamental to a child's healthy development and ability to learn," said Dr. Susan Canizares, Chief Academic Officer at Learning Care Group. She noted that adults may be surprised at the sophisticated, multi-cultural menu items that children can enjoy at a very young age.

"It's natural for young children to be cautious about trying new foods," Canizares said. "Their taste buds are highly sensitive during the early years as they decide what tastes and textures they like. With a little creativity and a lot of patience, you can make trying new foods a learning adventure, and even help turn around a picky eater."

Through careful planning and role modeling, teachers at Learning Care Group schools are making the process of discovering new foods fun. Turkey tacos, Waldorf fruit salad, chicken corn chowder, and hummus (chickpea dip) with baked pita chips have become favorites. Recently added offerings from the fall/winter menu, including chicken tikka masala, turkey cranberry pizza, and baked sweet potatoes are also a hit. The spring/summer menu rolls out next month, featuring new seasonal items including fruity curry chicken salad, beany bagel melt and mango fruit soup.

Physical Activity Essential to Learning

More than 90 percent of a person's brain is formed by age 5, making early childhood experiences in a nurturing and stimulating environment critical to future success. As with proper nutrition, regular physical activity is integral in helping children grow, thrive and learn. Research shows that physical activity enhances learning capacity, memory, attention, decision making, and multitasking capability.

"Our lesson plans and daily activities incorporate plenty of movement and physical exploration, which are so critical to the learning process and naturally part of how children develop new skills," said Canizares.

At Childtime, Tutor Time, The Children's Courtyard, La Petite Academy and Montessori Unlimited schools, the learning experience involves plenty of exercise indoors and outdoors. Children ages 3 and up enjoy at least two hours of physical play time, while kids ages 2 and under engage in at least one hour of physical activity. Teachers intersperse activity throughout the day and ensure children aren't sitting passively, such as for story time, for extended periods of time. Health and fitness are also emphasized for children ages 5-12. The Grow Fit Club will soon be featured in Learning Care Group's after-school care programs, encouraging school-aged students to build healthy habits while challenging themselves and their peers in physical activities.

For more information, please visit: www.childtime.com , www.tutortime.com , www.childrenscourtyard.com , www.lapetite.com and www.montessori.com. Check out Learning Care Group's Grow Fit program in action.

About Learning Care Group, Inc.

Headquartered in Novi, Mich., Learning Care Group provides early education and child care services to children ages 6 weeks to 12 years within its portfolio of brands: The Children's Courtyard, Childtime Learning Centers, La Petite Academy, Montessori Unlimited and Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers. Learning Care Group operates more than 900 schools (corporate and franchise) across 36 states, the District of Columbia and internationally, and has a system-wide capacity to serve more than 100,000 children. For more information, please visit www.learningcaregroup.com

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=31641

CONTACT: Lydia Cisaruk Director of Communications, Learning Care Group (248) 697-9140 lcisaruk@learningcaregroup.com

Source: Learning Care Group