Little Giants Child Learning Center has a little extra room to play at the Blue Earth child care center, thanks to a bigger playground with some new cost-efficient features.
They have received a Statewide Health Improvement Program?grant to promote healthy living, which put the ball in motion to make some improvements.
Little Giants can accommodate 72 children a day and most of them are there the entire day.
The healthy living curriculum is important to make sure they are getting exercise every day.
So far, Little Giants has been able to expand the size of the playground and install a larger fence and have switched to rubber mulch.
"We had wood mulch before which has to be added to every year,"?says Lynn Anderson, coordinator at Little Giants. "The rubber mulch will not have to be added to continually."
Little Giants began fundraising for the playground in September of 2011. They have hosted a holiday sampler, art gallery, bake sale, book sales and held a grill out.
"The parents really liked the art gallery. We had the kids do a different project every day and the parents got to purchase it to help support our fundraising,"?Anderson says.
The fund-raising efforts have totaled $4,864 which allowed the fence installation in July and rubber mulch that arrived in August.
Phase two, which includes adding rubber mulch on the large playground and a shade shelter on both playgrounds, has already been given a boost by a donation from the Blue Earth Kiwanis Club.
"By encouraging the children to play outside, we need a place to get them out of the sun," Anderson says. "That's why we are trying to get the picnic shelters."
The goal is to raise $4,900 this year through donations and fundraising.
"We are so grateful for the support of the community,"?Anderson adds.
Little Giants have also added to their curriculum to promote healthy living through the SHIP?grant.
"We have Lana the Iguana and she helps us teach the kids about eating healthfully," she says.
Lana comes with lesson plans that teachers can use to introduce children to fruits and vegetables.
"So far we've tried cucumbers, asparagus and fresh pineapple,"?Anderson says. "After the kids try something new Lana will give them an 'I tried it' sticker as an award."
Next, Anderson would like to get the children to try a fresh coconut.
As a result of this new curriculum, Anderson wants to eventually move on to a third phase of the fundraising.
"I would like it if we could get raised gardens here for the kids,"?she says.
They could then purchase gardening tools just for the children and teach them about gardening and growing fresh foods.
However, the children still need a way to stay moving during the winter months when they can't stay outside as long.
"We have a program called Spark during the winter," Anderson explains.
Spark teaches the children personal space, following directions and gets them moving.
"Statistics show that families are eating more fast food and spending more time watching TV, on the computer and playing video games,"?she says.
Little Giants is going to make sure that the children will at least be eating properly and exercising while they are there.
"So much brain development takes place during these years," Anderson says. "We're grateful to be here for the children and I think the community is grateful to have us here."