Providing a healthy and safe indoor and outdoor learning environment is essential for a child’s growth and development. This kind of environment encourages safe exploration, allows for optimal learning, and leaves the child feeling safe and secure. Throughout this paper, I will discuss safety-related issues for a childcare location and space as well as provide examples of activities you can do to promote health, safety, and nutrition. I will be focusing on children between the ages of three to five years old. There are many things to consider when choosing a site for a childcare facility.
In our textbook, Susan Aronson (2012), encourages you to find a space that is not in a heavily polluted, in a high trafficked area, surrounded by loud noises, or in an old building that may contain lead toxins on the interior and exterior walls. Also, make sure to find a space with proper and updated plumbing and electrical. There are standards to consider for the number of square feet needed for each child. According Aronson (2012), the Caring for Our Children standard 5. 1. 2. 1, “recommends a minimum of 42 square feet of usable floor space per child, preferably 50 square feet per child”. Within each room it is vital to have proper exits to get out of the building quickly and safely. Once a safe space for children has been created, facility maintenance and upkeep is imperative. Creating a facility checklist will help you stay current and can help track repairs. The checklist can include checking for leaks in the roof, making sure the outside is free of debris or in need of pressure washing. Check to see if doors and windows are secure and weatherproof, check for paint that may need a touch-up, and to see if the facility is being cleaned properly on a regular basis. These are just a few of the upkeep items that need to be done to maintain a safe, healthy and secure space.
Creating indoor learning activities are a great way to promote and reinforce the importance of health, nutrition, and safety. One activity I do in my classroom is brushing your teeth after lunch. It is important to create the appropriate storage space to keep from spreading germs and model proper brushing. To encourage these healthy habits we spend a month focusing on health and the body. During this month I invite a dentist in to talk about the importance of keeping your teeth clean and how to brush properly. A second activity I have on my shelves is a job for slicing cucumbers and carrots for snack. Once they have prepared the snack they walk around and offer it to their peers. With this activity it gives me the chance to talk about proper hand washing, how to safely use a child safe knife, and indirectly teaches the children about healthy nutritional choices. These two examples are just some of the ways you can encourage health and safety.
There are also many outdoor learning activities you can do with children. When I taught in Portland Oregon our school was located right next to a State Park. Every Friday we would take a “hike” or walk through the woods. We would discuss the importance of moving our bodies, how to stay safe when walking through the woods, and discuss plants that may be harmful like poison oak. Another activity is to go on a safety walk around the playground. Ask the children to point out potential hazards that they see. Discuss what might happen if children are not using the playground equipment properly. Talk through how to be keep your body safe and avoid injury. By engaging them they will start to recognize potential hazards on their own. Including children with disabilities in your program is invaluable for all children and staff and everyone benefits. A child with Downs Syndrome although they have a disability is very capable and can participate in most activities as long as the activity is developmentally appropriate. This includes the activity I described as one of my indoor activities. The idea of slicing cucumbers and carrots to serve to peers is something you can adapt depending on the child’s mobility and fine motor skills.
Child appropriate knives with thick easy to grip handles can be made available. I also like to pair up an older child to help where needed. If the child with disabilities is able to slice the cucumbers but is not able to carry the tray around to serve their peers the partner can carry the tray for them. Giving the child with Downs Syndrome an opportunity to participate in everyday activities can have a lasting impact on their life and the child helping out is learning compassion and empathy.