Broward day care centers will have to turn off the TV, take the kids out to play, and switch to skim milk under a proposed law working its way toward approval at the County Commission.
A majority of commissioners expressed support Tuesday for new day care regulations that would affect some 500 child care centers and thousands of children in Broward County. The county already regulates day care centers. But the new law would be stricter than existing county and state laws governing day care and after-school care centers.
The goal is to improve nutrition, reduce time spent on television and video games, and increase physical activity for Broward County’s youngest residents.
“They can be playing football, rather than playing Madden football,” Broward Commissioner Marty Kiar said, referencing a popular video game.
Kiar, who has two young daughters, sponsored the proposal, and his colleagues latched onto it Tuesday, asking the county attorney to draft a formal ordinance for a vote.
“It’s about activity and outside activity and being active,” said Commissioner Lois Wexler. “And promoting that.”
Under Kiar’s draft proposal:
•Forty minutes of indoor or outdoor physical activity would be required every three and a half hours, except during nap time. Kids must be allowed outside daily, if weather permits. Students in after-school programs would be required to have 40 minutes of outdoor physical activity a day.
•Child care workers could not withhold physical activity from children as a form of discipline.
•Children 2 and older would be limited to 90 minutes of TV, movies and video games a week. County regulations currently allow one to two hours of TV a day.
•Computer time is already limited to 15-minute increments. No change is recommended.
•Milk for kids 2 and older would be skim or low fat.
That the proposed law will undergo vigorous debate before any final approval was obvious Tuesday, as county commissioners traded stories about what kind of milk they think is best for kids. Kiar acknowledged that there’s debate about it in the pediatric health field. He asked county staff to sift through the research and come back with a recommendation.
The proposed law already has been vetted with day care operators in Broward at meetings held by county staff. County officials said they found support for the new standards, which follow national industry recommendations.
Matt Ajakie, owner-operator of Tutor Time — soon to be renamed New River Child Care/Learning Center — in downtown Fort Lauderdale, said he attended one of the recent meetings, along with 50 or 60 other day care providers.
He said he already limits television to 30 minutes a week and exceeds the proposed physical activity standards.
But not all day care centers operate that way, he said.
“I think it’d be beneficial to the kids,” he said. “There’s too much TV. There were a couple people who questioned it [at the meeting], but the schools that questioned it are the ones that are leaning on the TVs as a crutch.”
Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said her granddaughter’s day care, Baby Boomers Child Care in Pompano Beach, is great, but down the road is one that’s starkly different. The playground is blacktop, the shade a portable canopy pushed against a chain link fence. There’s not a single shade tree.
“It is the most dismal environment,” she said.
Jacobs proposed that the county find a way to help day care operators upgrade physical conditions. She said her proposal could move forward in tandem with Kiar’s.
“We have a lot of resources at the county,” she said. “We can help those horror day care centers.”
Broward Commissioner Dale Holness agreed, saying day cares in areas with high unemployment and poverty should be targeted for assistance.
“Within those communities,” he said, “if help is not given, we end paying for it later in life, as a community.”