Daycare celebrates fitness, nutrition

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One of Michelle Freeman’s 12 young charges at her home daycare center in North Suffolk had the right answer on Wednesday.

“What’s your favorite fruit?” Freeman asked Andrew Moretti.

Jumping up and down on the tips of his toes — like any 3-year-old — Andrew replied: “Yogurt and strawberries!”

Home daycare provider Michelle Freeman reads on Wednesday to Ashley Breland, 4, Andrew Moretti, 3, Chloe Clark, 21 months, Ryder Haugh, 5, Derek Heberley, 3, Phoenix Haugh, 3, and Blake Speller, 23 months.

Home daycare provider Michelle Freeman reads on Wednesday to Ashley Breland, 4, Andrew Moretti, 3, Chloe Clark, 21 months, Ryder Haugh, 5, Derek Heberley, 3, Phoenix Haugh, 3, and Blake Speller, 23 months.

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Freeman, who opened Michelle’s Playground in her Bennett’s Creek home five years ago, says she is always mindful of instilling the message of healthy eating and physical activity.

On April 3, for beginning at about 10 a.m., she’s inviting the community to her home for the second annual Healthy Al, Healthy Me Celebration.

So, who exactly is Al? He’s a children’s book character created by Wingspan, an early childhood program founded by Susan Geller, in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, in 1997.

Al’s Pals is a curriculum and teacher training program that develops social and emotional skills, self-control, problem-solving abilities and healthy decision-making, according to the Wingspan website. Al’s Caring Pals, meanwhile, provides training and materials for home-based childcare providers that develop social skills and healthy decision-making. Wingspan targets 3- to 8-year-olds.

Thursday’s celebration, which will involve children at home daycare centers across the U.S. and Canada, will feature things like games, dancing and healthy snacks.

“We teach them while they are young the importance of being healthy,” Freeman said, adding that if one of her center’s children isn’t happy, she tells them to “go talk to Al.”

“It teaches them how to handle their anger,” she said of the Al method.

For the celebration, Freeman said she has invited “quite a few people” to her home, including the mayor and city council members.

“I think it’s vital that our children learn to eat healthy and how important exercise is,” she said.

Michelle’s Playland is at 3505 Ludlow Cove.