HEALTHY – Just as you probably thought the classroom is what you get and what you have, the menu of your classroom is set first by the owner and or director, then the caterer or cook, approved by the state and overseen by the USDA and you have little or no input.
But keeping the children healthy is still part of your responsibility.
Let us address “healthy” in three ways. Illness, sanitizing and cleaning, and nutrition.
- Health can be viewed through the lens of keeping children from sickness. With COVID-19 there are many new things that are required. Your center probably has an action plan about how, what, where, and what to sanitize and disinfect and other procedures to follow. And because of COVID-19, we are much more vigilant in what we do hourly and daily with children.
Before we get into the sanitizing piece of health, let us consider being more proactive with health from the standpoint of avoiding illness. These times are scary for children. Take the time to have discussions about what is going on, why you and their families are doing certain things, how they can stay safe and healthy, and answer questions. There will be a lot of questions if you encourage them. Try to answer them simply and truthfully. Keep it basic and not scary.
Also, consider setting up a doctor’s office in your dramatic play area for twos and up. What will you need: toy doctor and nurses kits because duplicates are essential, but mostly because pediatrician’s offices have both and both are important; paper and pens, toy phone, old useless keyboard, you can make a computer screen from a box; old calendar to make appointments, chair for the patient and chair for the doctor/nurse; think about a bathroom scale (look at a resale shop), white shirt or small white jackets for the doctor and the nurse.
Finally, consider having a health or medical theme. Who says you must have a prescribed theme from a company or kit or that you must teach according to the season or holiday? Or even how long it needs to be and whether if can go along with every other theme or study you have going on. This could last a week or a couple of weeks or the rest of the year. If you decide to do it, then you make it what you would like it to be. It can coincide with everything else you do.
Here are some suggestions:
- Social studies of careers or the people in our neighborhoods. You can do essential workers or you can cover everyone because all our jobs are important.
- Having a study or project or theme about bodies. Not just learning the body parts, but also about the skeleton and why we need one. Find books about breathing and lungs and noses. Help children learn about digestion and the stomach and intestines. What about the sameness and differentness of hair, eyes, skin color, and size?
You can be as superficial or as in-depth as you want to carry it. But guess what? You will need to do research. Even if you just want to touch on breathing for a day and mention the nose and how the air goes in and comes out, at least.
You can select any one medical person like a dentist and study teeth and brushing and what else dentist do. You can do the same for all of the careers.
2. We must all do our part for sanitizing and cleaning, just to get this virus somewhat under control. But how can you be more proactive? Especially, teaching the children to be more aware. Here are a couple of activities to try with twos and up.
a) Mix hand soap with glitter and paint it on a child’s hands. Have the child touch things and see how the glitter comes off and onto the surface of whatever the child touched. We might not be able to see germs, especially the coronavirus, but we can see that glitter on things.
b) Have each child draw their face on a paper plate or on construction paper and cut it out. During the week collect “garbage”. Things such as pencil shavings, glitter, sand, plant dirt, etc. You do not have to tell the children where this came from, just that this is all germs. When we sneeze or talk, some of those little “ughs” come out and get on other people. We need to cover our mouths to keep them from getting on others. You can cover the face either with a tissue or a real mask or a mask the children draw and cut out.
c) Designate classroom responsibilities for every child. Consider letting children have hats to make the job special. Some of your most important jobs will be related to cleaning but make all jobs special.
You can have a Table Wiper who can spray the tables with soapy water or clear water. Under absolutely no circumstances allow children to handle any sanitizing solutions, like bleach or even Lysol.
You can have a different child wipe the tables with a dry paper towel.
Of course, you have the table-setter or setters. You could also assign another child to carry around the garbage can for discards.
What about a hand-washing monitor to make sure everyone rubs their soapy hands together correctly?
The possibilities are endless, based on your classroom.
3. Being healthy also encompasses nutrition and exercise. We all know you do the exercise things every day, both outdoors and inside. Consider being a little more intentional by targeting specific muscles and skills.
a) Locomotion is moving. We know how much children move. But focusing on how to move and strengthen and coordinate specific movements of specific muscles is altogether than different than just running around. Helping a child who is a little less coordinated than his age milestones might need help running and stopping or dodging.
b) Manipulation of objects is another skill you can target and help children with. This includes reaching, grasping, releasing; throwing an object; catching an object, kicking an object; and striking an object (such as with an arm, leg, hand, or bat). You can enhance every child’s ability in each of these areas with lots of games.
c) Balance is very important for coordination and strength. Play lots of games on legs and knees and arms, etc.
Let me know if you need some specific ideas to supplement what you already know and do. Other healthy nutritious activities include:
- Setting up a grocery store. Have the parents send in their empty bottles and boxes.
- Making a MyPlate picture with grocery store circulars.
- And best of all, cooking with children. There are numerous recipes that do not require heat and are fun for small groups of children to do.
If you need some, let me know and I’ll feature them in another blog or in the newsletter. If you have some suggestions, please let me know. I truly appreciate learning new things and passing them on.