Improving Early Care and Education Environments

Early childhood education is one of 14 evidence-based, community-wide interventions identified to address the social determinants of health and improve health and well-being in as few as five years. - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Impact in 5 Years
“No other setting outside of the home rivals the reach early care and education has for young children with respect to food and drink intake, encouragement of physical activity, screen time limits, breastfeeding support, and the development of healthy habits.” - Early Care and Education State Indicator Report 2023, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Efforts to Improve Early Care and Education Environments to Support Healthy Eating and Active Living 

SC Department of Social Services- ABC Grow Healthy

ABC Quality, South Carolina's Quality Rating and Improvement System at the SC Department of Social Services Division of Early Care and Education, promotes Grow Healthy standards for participating child care programs. Grow Healthy standards set forth policies and practices to increase children's consumption of healthy foods and time spent being physically active in child care.

The Improving the Nutrition and Physical Activity Environment of ABC Quality Child Care Centers in South Carolina, A Five Year Review - 2012-2017 report highlights changes in ABC Quality Level B+/B child care centers’ compliance with the mandatory nutrition and physical activity standards over a five-year period.

Move More… It's In the Cards

Move More… It’s in the Cards provides early childhood caregivers with an easy-to-use resource for leading children in physical activity. Each card describes an activity that caregivers can use to help children meet the daily recommended amount of structured physical activity. This tool can be used to increase the amount and variety of children's movement opportunities and can reinforce concepts being taught in the early childhood classroom.

The Role and Value of Portable Play Equipment in the Child Care Center

The Role and Value of Portable Play Equipment in the Child Care Center provides a brief explanation of the importance of portable play equipment in the child care setting.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Participation Maps

Developed in partnership with the SC CACFP at the SC Department of Social Services Division of Early Care and Education, and the Yvonne & Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center at the University of South Carolina, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Participation Maps were created as a tool to assist CACFP staff and partners to identify participation rates and assist in strategic action to increase CACFP participation, especially in high-need areas. Participating in CACFP can support healthy meals and snacks served in child care centers and home-based child care to nourish young children during critical years of brain growth. 

Grow Outdoors SC


A joint initiative of DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention and the Division of Early Care and Education at the SC Department of Social Services, Grow Outdoors SC aims to transform early childhood outdoor spaces into diverse, naturalized environments that spark play and learning.

Based on Preventing Obesity by Design developed by the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State University, Grow Outdoors SC addresses the obesity epidemic in young children attending child care by promoting physical activity, healthy eating, and learning through changes in the design and management of outdoor environments at child care facilities. 

Grow Outdoors SC partners with the National Wildlife Federation Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) initiative and NLI to plan, design, and incrementally develop naturalized outdoor play and learning environments at child care programs across the state.

With support from Healthy Kids, Healthy Future Technical Assistance Program (HKHF TAP), DNPAO offered high-quality training opportunities to increase early childhood professional’s understanding of the importance of outdoor learning for child development. Read more here.

A short video captures the experience and voice of a South Carolina child care provider that has been positively impacted by Grow Outdoors SC, a HKHF TAP supported project.

For more information about Grow Outdoors SC, contact Misty Pearson,, (803) 898-1619.​​​​