I hope your school year was very successful and that you are enjoying the warm summer weather!
For those of you teaching summer school programs or beginning to prepare for fall, you might want to review the physical activity goals in your curriculum to ensure that you are providing quality opportunities for young children to stay fit and healthy.
One of my colleagues, Dr. Rhonda Clements, Chair of the Physical Education Department and a Professor at Manhattanville College, recently brought to my attention a new publication that she helped develop, which, I think, will be of great benefit to early childhood education teachers. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and Playworld Systems, collected 101 tips from early childhood movement specialists to help teachers of young children provide quality physical education experiences in their classrooms and on the playground.
The 101 tips are organized into eleven best practices principles for creating an excellent physical activities program for young children. I have highlighted and summarized some of the main points made in each section.
1. Provide developmentally appropriate movement opportunities
Summary: Appreciate and recognize the importance of movement for young children and the unique ways and differing levels of movement ability of each child.
Provide enough time for physical activity in your program and give children the opportunity to feel success.
2. Maximize the environment for play
Summary: Play outdoors and indoors, and create optimal movement environments in both spaces. Use music, appropriate equipment and include a wide range of movement experiences, including jumping, twisting, running and dancing.
3. Be creative with equipment
Summary: Use balls, bean bags, hoops, beach balls, tape as a balance beam, props such as puppets, costumes, scooters and trikes. Use equipment for multiple purposes and teach spatial awareness and spatial relationships in the process. Encourage children to make up their own games. Note: Music can also encourage and support these activities!
4. Make safety a priority
Summary: Always provide appropriate supervision. Check that the play space is safe and always have emergency kits and emergency plans available. Use age-appropriate materials and spaces. Help children learn safety rules and use signals such as a horn or music to help children stop their activities.
5. Use play to teach social skills
Summary: Use games to help children learn to work together. Also use games that are active such as Duck, Duck Goose. Through games, show them how to take turns and share. Support and praise children when they are using good social skills.
6. Provide instruction during structured play
Summary: Give simple and clear instructions, include songs for creative movement.
Include walking, marching, jumping, hopping, galloping and sliding as well as bending, reaching, stretching and swaying movements. Give support, encouragement and positive responses to children’s efforts.
7. Integrate physical activity into the curriculum
Summary: Use movement vocabulary in your classroom including body parts and physical skills. Use colors, letters and numbers when doing activities with young children. Read books with pictures that show action.
8. Be reflective and flexible
Summary: After doing movement activities, think about what worked and what didn’t. Take notes about successful strategies. Ask children what they enjoyed and what they didn’t like. Teach children the names of the games you introduce and provide them with choices. Modify games with rules to accommodate all children.
9. Talk about and practice healthy eating
Summary: Teach children about the importance of drinking water for hydration and how foods provide energy for movement. Encourage them to taste a variety of foods. Require children to wash their hands before meals. Model and encourage good table manners.
10. Involve parents and families
Summary: Remind parents that children should have appropriate clothing for outdoor play. Encourage parents to do physical activities with their children and act as active role models. Organize active parent/child events at school. Send home tips and ideas for healthy eating and physical activities. Help parents identify safe outdoor environments for their children, and encourage them to incorporate physical activities into their family vacations.
11. Employ existing resources
Summary: For additional ideas, look at physical fitness websites, such as:
A summary of the Surgeon General’s suggestions to prevent obesity in young children includes:
1. Limit consumption of sodas and juices with added sugar.
2. Reduce serving foods that contain added sugars and fats.
3. Encourage children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
4. Limit portions served to children.
5. Encourage children to drink more water.
6. Serve low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
7. Limit television viewing and computer use.
8. Increase physical activity to at least one hour per day.
In addition, the Surgeon General recommends that early childhood educators :
1. Identify and use resources that recommend effective approaches to promoting physical activity, good nutrition, and healthy sleep in early childhood settings.
2. Establish and post policies, procedures and practices that support these approaches in ways that respect local communities and cultures.
3. Stay current in these approaches through required training.
4. Educate and involve parents in trainings and other activities.
The following policies are recommended by the Surgeon General:
1. Require 60 minutes of a mix of structured and unstructured daily physical activity.
2. Establish nutrition programs using national guidelines.
3. Train early childhood educators on how to promote physical activity and good nutrition.
4. Give parents materials that reinforce the practices that promote physical activity and good nutrition and limit time children watch TV or use the computer.
A recent study of children enrolled in 24 urban preschools in North Carolina, conducted by the Children’s Activity and Movement in Preschools Study, found that the children engaged in moderate to vigorous activity only 3.4 percent of each school day. The study also found that lower quality programs had less physical activities for children than higher quality programs.
Results revealed that even as most physical activity takes place outdoors, children spend more time indoors where the majority of activities are sedentary. However, teacher-arranged activities or the use of music and movement activities brought indoor physical activity up to high levels.
If this is the case throughout the country, early childhood educators must rethink their program scheduling and include many more opportunities for active play, both indoors and outdoors, on a daily basis.
Because over 3 million children are in some kind of early childhood care setting, early childhood educators can play a significant role in helping young children to be more active and enjoy better nutrition.
What do you think about the Surgeon General’s recommendations? Are there ways your program can improve in the areas mentioned? In what ways do you support good health practices in your program?
I hope your school year is progressing well and that you and your young students are enjoying the beginning of the fall season!
The fall season is often the beginning of cold and flu season.It is important, of course, that teachers try their best to keep their children and themselves as healthy as possible.
A good way to start the day is to greet the children as they arrive and look at each child to make sure he or she is feeling well.
Teachers need to practice good health habits themselves and also teach good health practices as part of, perhaps, the science curriculum.
Here are some tried and true tips on cold and flu prevention in the early childhood classroom:
1.Wash your hands and the children’s hands with soap and warm water as much as possible.Be sure to help children wash their hands thoroughly.For example, children should wash hands as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.
2.Teach children to cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze or cough.Some teachers prefer to have children sneeze into their sleeves; others encourage children to use their hands or tissues. If children use tissues, they should be tossed away immediately after they are used.Hands should always be washed after coughing or sneezing.
3.Remind children not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth while they are in school in order to avoid getting germs into their bodies.
4.Send a letter home to parents, reminding them to keep sick children at home.Be sure that parent contact information is up to date.
5.If children become sick at school, remove the children from the classroom, call parents and send the children home as soon as possible.
6.Keep the classroom as clean as possible. Wash off tables and chairs daily. Make sure the carpets and floors are cleaned.Make sure that stuffed animals and pillows are washed frequently.
7.Send home children’s naptime bedding to be washed on a regular schedule.
8.Do not encourage children to share each other’s snacks or lunches from home.
9.Stay home if you are sick and encourage your assistants and other staff members to do likewise.
10.Teach lessons in good health habits to the children and send home newsletter articles about good health practices.
By practicing good health habits, we can diminish the number of cold and flu occurrences in our classrooms and keep ourselves healthy as well.
Do you have any suggestions about health practices you have used in your classroom? Please share them with us.
Warm weather has finally arrived in the northeast! Birds are singing, flowers are blooming and the leaves are turning green!!
Children will probably be spending more time outside in the coming months, so I thought it might be a good time to talk about one of the most important topics in early childhood education, namely safety. Whenever I talk about planning activities and creating environments for young children, I always tell my audience, safety first!
No matter what else we do in the classroom and on the playground, nothing is more important than making sure the children are safe.
With respect to young children, teachers need to make sure the environment we create for them is both physically and psychologically safe: free from injury and harm.
How can we make outdoor play safe for young children?
Here are a few tips:
1.Young children need to be closely supervised during outdoor play. Even though it’s tempting to take a break and sit on a bench during outdoor time, teachers really need to stay close to children, especially in the large equipment areas where children can fall off swings or tumble off slides. Areas where children are doing activities such as riding trikes or pulling wagons also need careful supervision.
2.Young children should be taught some simple rules for playing outdoors. Rules such as how to:
·use the toys and equipment
·put on a helmet when riding the trikes, etc.
can help children to stay safe while they play outside.
3.Playground surfaces need to be soft and thick enough so they will cushion a child’s fall.Professional organizations suggest using rubber mats or materials like wood chips or sand. Be sure to check with your local department of health or child welfare agencies to make sure that you use the correct surfacing to prevent injury.
4.Outdoor play equipment needs to be in good condition and well-maintained. Loose or broken parts, jutting edges or rusted surfaces can cause serious injuries to young children. Also, make sure that all your outdoor equipment meets the appropriate standards for installation, safety and maintenance.Check with your local department of health or child welfare agencies to make sure that your equipment meets the proper standards.
5.Outdoor equipment and materials should be developmentally appropriate for the age of the children using them. Equipment and materials that are too advanced may cause young children to have accidents. It is also important that areas of the playground are not overcrowded and that there are enough materials for all the children to use. Equipment that is too challenging for young children could cause them to have accidents and injuries.
6.Remember to have the children wash their hands when they return to the classroom after playing outside. Keeping their hands clean will help children stay healthy and safe as well.
In addition to these tips, it is also important that we teach young children how to keep themselves safe as well.KidsHealth provides important playground rules for children in addition to general playground safety information.
What do you do to keep the children safe outside at your program? Please share your ideas with us!
I hope you and the children in your group stay safe and have a good time outdoors this spring!
Welcome to the Early Education Corner, a little space on the world-wide web where we early childhood educators can “gather” and “talk” about topics related to our work with young children!
For those of you who have weathered a cold, snowy winter, I hope you are beginning to enjoy the first signs of spring like we are here in the northeast!
So, looking at what’s new these days, one topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind is health care and health-related issues.Even early childhood educators are turning their attention to the importance of health and physical fitness in the early years.
In fact, many states have developed or are developing early learning standards for health, nutrition and physical fitness.Many early childhood programs are including physical education in their curriculum.
Much of this work is based upon years of research revealing that childhood obesity and related diseases are an ever-increasing problem in our country.Research has also shown that developing good health habits in childhood can have positive effects on health and fitness practices in later life.
How can early childhood educators help young children acquire good health and fitness habits?
Here are four areas that I think are important.
Young children need:
1.information about their bodies and how they work.
2.to know how to take of their bodies and keep them healthy by preventing disease and injury.
3.to learn about the importance of exercise in keeping the body fit and healthy.
4.to learn about the importance of good nutrition in keeping the body healthy and in good physical condition.
It’s important for young children to learn about health and fitness and have the opportunity to practice what they have learned.
Here are some suggested themes you can use in your health and fitness curriculum: