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NEW ORLEANS — First lady Michelle Obama led peppy toddlers at a New Orleans daycare center in calisthenics and read them a book about a mouse that eats green peas, bidding to get America’s children eating better and exercising more.

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Obama stretched, jumped and marched in place before reading to the children who gathered in a classroom with their parents and teachers at the Royal Castle Child Development Center. The center focuses on preschoolers from families with moderate and low incomes.

In June, the first lady announced a new national initiative called “Let’s Move,” designed to get child care centers to promote healthy eating and exercise habits. She promoted that initiative here after speaking at a fundraiser earlier in the day for the Democratic National Committee in New Orleans.

At the daycare center, the first lady read Denise Fleming’s book titled “Lunch,” about a mouse that eats vegetables and fruit. During the reading, she asked the children to raise their hands if they liked to eat corn. Many of the children raised their hands, prompting the first lady to declare: “I love corn.”

On another page, the mouse eats green peas. “Do you know who likes these?” the first lady said. “President Obama.”

With gusto, she also read from “Where the Wild Things Are,” the children’s classic by Maurice Sendak. Her voice rose and fell with the drama of the book, which she said was one of her family’s favorites.

The first lady’s “Let’s Move” child care checklist stresses five principles:

–Provide one to two hours of physical activity daily.

–No TV or media screen time for children under age 2. Limit screen time for older children to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and ensure children have no more than one to two hours of quality screen time per day overall.

–Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal, eaten family-style when possible and no fried foods.

–Provide access to water throughout the day, and do not serve sugary drinks.

–Support mothers who want to breast-feed by providing mother’s milk to infants and welcoming mothers who want to breast-feed their children during the child-care day.

At the earlier fundraiser, Obama spoke to a prominent crowd of Democratic supporters, including New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. She urged the crowd to back her husband’s re-election and highlighted what she said were his accomplishments — from passing health care reform to success in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is going to require every single one of us to work so hard to fight so forcefully to help people understand the stakes and the choices,” she said.


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