Massachusetts Revises Early Education Physical Activity Regulations

In 2010 Massachusetts revised licensing standards by including a requirement that all children in licensed child care programs receive 60 minutes of physical activity a day in full-day programs and 30 minutes a day in half-day programs.

The revised regulation applies to all types of facilities (family child care, center-based and after school). The physical activity regulation affected more than 2,000 licensed child care centers in the state and was part of a larger set of new regulations that included revised standards on child tooth-brushing and EEC provider training.

Challenges and Resolutions

While they were aware of the regulation, child care providers responding to a survey noted that few had the time or resources to do anything about it on their own.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) teamed up with members of the Departments of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Elementary and Secondary Education to create Massachusetts Children at Play (MCAP), a free policy development training program to help child care providers meet the requirement.

MCAP recruited and trained specialized child health consultants, referred to as MCAP Mentors, to help child care providers incorporate active movement and healthy food and beverage options into child care settings. As one mentor put it, “The main barrier at the centers was a lack of knowledge, so as soon as I explained how they could easily make small changes, they were excited to do so.”

During the first two years of implementing MCAP, program partners were able to make enhancements along the way, always asking: “What’s working? What could we do better?” The evaluation helped the workgroup pinpoint several areas in need of tweaking that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Tool Kits to Meet New Regulations

An MCAP Tool Kit has been developed which incorporates:

1) Head Start’s I Am Moving, I Am Learning program
2) North Carolina’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC)

Certified mentors use these and other tools to help child care centers develop practices to support healthy eating and create opportunities for increased physical activity to meet the new state regulation.

Results to Date

To date, staff in over 270 child care centers and family child care providers in the state have been trained to implement components of MCAP. MCAP trainings have also been held for Massachusetts’ WIC program staff.

The Nutrition, Physical Activity & Obesity (NPAO) Program continues to work with Early Childhood Services through their Early Education and Care (EEC) “Race to the Top” grant and the state’s new Mass in Motion — Kids initiative (one of four Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration projects funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to expand training and establish a professional learning community for child care providers across the state.

Lessons Learned

  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) spent nearly two years carefully laying the groundwork and securing stakeholder buy-in for the regulatory changes. This process was critical to facilitate the acceptance of the proposed regulations.


  • After draft regulations were approved by DEEC’s Board of Directors, DEEC delayed implementation of the regulations to ensure that the necessary information and resources were available to the EEC community to maximize compliance. Although other states have implemented new regulations in shorter periods of time, it was important to consider the substantial investment of time required for the regulatory change in Massachusetts. Visit NRC Kids for more information about state licensing and regulations.


  • “Demystify” the concept of “policy” among child care providers by referring to it as a practice or as just an agreed-upon way of doing things in the center.