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SNAP-Ed Helps Kids be More Active by Transforming Playgrounds!

November 21, 2018 | California

Nov 21, 2018

The Challenge

In Colusa County California, SNAP-Ed works with 2 preschools to help young children to eat healthy foods and be active. The health department’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch worked with 2 preschools to improve their outdoor playgrounds and gardens.

The Arbuckle Children’s Center   

This small preschool had limited outdoor play space and equipment. Staff identified a need for more space so kids could move more.

The Williams Children’s Center

This larger preschool had separate play areas for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. It had plenty of space, but lacked a climbing structure and play areas that encouraged physical skill development. 

people paining a playground

The Solution

To learn the needs of each location, staff at the schools completed an assessment. They used the Go Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC) (1).  Both preschools were eager to create new play spaces for their children. The assessments helped program planners identify their next steps.

The Results

In September 2017, the partners accomplished the following at the two preschools:

  • Completed playground stencil makeovers (painted shapes, letters, games, etc.).
  • Established a garden program with garden boxes, learning supplies, and age-appropriate tools.
  • Increased the number of outdoor portable play toys from 3-5 types to 6-8 types.  These included jumping toys, push-pull toys, throwing/catching/striking toys, and balance toys. These all encourage a greater variety of play and activity.
  • Increased the number of outdoor play topics taught to staff from 1 new topic to 3 new topics.
  • Increased the number of healthy eating topics in the school policies.  These policies adapted from the California Early Care and Education Physical Activity & Nutrition Templates and Policies (2).

After these changes, staff re-assessed the schools with the same Go NAPSACC tool, the results showed improvement in the children’s activity levels and learning about healthy foods

These strides would not have been possible without collaboration between the Colusa County Office of Education and the following partners:

  • Colusa County Public Health
  • California State University (CSU) Chico, Center for Healthy Communities
  • CSU Chico, Health and Community Services Department

The Center for Healthy Communities worked closely with teachers and administrators to develop the playground designs and layout. The stencil patterns were designed to encourage children to move and develop important physical skills. Partners cleaned the playground surfaces prior to paint day, recruited painting volunteers, obtained the stencils, designed the project, and helped with media coverage. 

Teachers are thrilled with these new opportunities to teach through movement and experiential learning!

Sustaining Success

Short-term goals are to:

  • Add more garden education and physical activity staff training
  • Start a wellness policy at all preschool sites

A long-term goal is to implement these physical activity and nutrition improvements in all area preschools.

Stories from the Field

The California Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) aims to inspire and empower underserved Californians to improve their health and the health of their communities through healthy eating and active living. The program facilitates this through education and community change in partnership with many others. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) shares this story to highlight a snapshot of some of the California SNAP-Ed work conducted by local health departments and partners across the Golden State.


CDPH funds local health departments, 57 county and three city health departments, to conduct SNAP-funded obesity prevention programming across the state. The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, California Department of Aging, and Catholic Charities of California, Inc. also fund local agencies to conduct programs that align with the California SNAP-Ed mission. The California Department of Social Services oversees the collective California SNAP-Ed work.

Expanding our Reach

We hope these community stories inspire you to envision how to create a healthier tomorrow! 

This article was submitted by the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch of the California Department of Public Health. For more information, please contact Jennifer Murphy.

1. Go NAP SACC is an easy-to-use online tool for early care and education programs interested in building healthy eating and physical activity habits in children,, accessed 11/04/18.

2. Early Care and Education Physical Activity & Nutrition Templates and Policies, 2017. California Department of Public Health, Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB), Policy, Partnerships and Program Development Unit; email or call 916-449-5400 for information.