Written by Sarah Parsons West

Swanton – In earlier years, child-care provider Lisa Meunier enjoyed babysitting and volunteer work, which subsequently progressed into a career with the establishment of the Luvalot Family Childcare and Preschool, at her home in Swanton.

“I have been registered for 35 years this May,” says Meunier, a specialized care provider pre-certified through Act 166 for prekindergarten. “I started my childcare in 1984 so I could be home to raise a family. We adopted our first daughter in 1988 from India, followed by three more children.”
The Luvalot group is now at full capacity, serving six full-time and four part-time children, ages 22-months to twelve years old. Helping to develop their social and emotional skills, Meunier teaches the children to respect each other’s needs and their shared space. Following state endorsed food guidelines, she serves mostly whole, non-processed meals and a lot of water. “I have a strict no-juice policy, so the children drink only milk or water.”

Meunier balances both mental and physical activities in the daily routine, incorporating fine and gross motor skill development into all aspects of her childcare program.
Recognized as a community partner embracing healthy lifestyles, Meunier was awarded a RiseVT/NMC sponsored mini-grant, expanding opportunities for active play. In May 2018, Meunier received the $250 mini-grant, enabling her to purchase additional child-friendly exercise equipment for Luvalot.
“This is a nice grant they offer, helping afford items you wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase.” Meunier says the process was simple, having the products delivered through Amazon. She was able to buy a non-motorized children’s treadmill; a child-sized stationary bicycle; and a multi-colored, padded tumbling mat.

Each morning, the preschoolers start out with basic movements yet follow a more structured exercise routine three times per week, utilizing the mat. “We do various activities such as dance and exercise cube. The younger children love playing on the exercise mat doing tumbling,” says Meunier.
“The mat is also great for the school age girls who love dance and gymnastics. Whether it’s a summersault, cartwheel or just jogging in place, “they all love dance and movement in general.”
Meunier says the padded mat is hidden away when not in use. “It folds easily, and we can take it outside. I like the thickness of it, and that it can be Velcroed to the rug.”
The exercise bike and treadmill are accessible to the kids all the time. “Instead of having the children remain stationary, they can jump on the equipment and have movement whenever they need to,” says Meunier, making the healthy choice, an easier choice.
“All play is helpful in developing the children’s gross motor skills,” Meunier explains. The bike, treadmill and mat are all beneficial tools to strengthen and develop those gross motor skills – movements children learn early on, which utilize the larger muscles in their arms, legs, torso and feet.

Preschooler Luna Benoit scampers onto the treadmill, “I like it because I can go fast,” she says.
“Even kneeling, stretching and reaching are ways to keep them physically active, and helps get that winter-energy out,” says Meunier. “Naptime is good here,” she says, about the need for rest after activity. “We get outside whenever we can. As long as it’s above 20-degrees we go out for walks or to play.”

The Luvalot children also participated in a RiseVT activity video, produced by Northwest Access TV a few years ago. “They dressed up in yellow Muddy-Buddy jumpsuits and danced around,” she says.
“RiseVT offers a wide range of activities in the community, which encourages the parents to think of making healthy choices for those at a younger age,” Meunier says. She has attended several RiseVT Show-Up events over the years; even having RiseVT Wellness Specialist Betsy Cherrier-Fournier visit Luvalot, to help develop wellness criteria.

“One of the most rewarding parts of being a childcare provider is seeing the children learn and grow over the years, and connecting with them after they’ve outgrown my program,” says Meunier. “If they learn to exercise early in life, hopefully that will continue into adulthood.”