The Importance of Wellness During the Early Childhood Years
By Vanessa Pacheco Larkin
Wellness refers to the positive state of one’s health and well-being. (Sorte, Daeschel, Amador, 2011) There are many considerations to take into account when measuring and reinforcing the wellness of children and adults alike. By further understanding ones wellness and the factors that affect it, we can assure that we are living healthy and safe lives. During the early childhood years is the best time to expose children to these terms and build the foundation for wellness. As parents and educators, it is our responsibility to reinforce the knowledge of wellness within our homes and classrooms.
When refereeing to wellness we must understand and be able to identify the interrelationship among nutrition, health, and safety, which all lead to our overall wellness. Through these “building blocks”, children are capable of reaching their optimum development. Nutrition refers to the relationship of “nutrients” that are eaten, absorbed and digested and how they affect the development, growth, and health of a child or adult. (Sorte, Daeschel, Amador, 2011) Health is referred to as the physical and well-being of a person and the lack of illnesses or diseases. Health is achieved and can be maintained by practicing sanitation and using healthful activities to prevent the spread and contact of illnesses and diseases from one person to another. Lastly, safety refers to keeping a child or oneself out of harm. (Sorte, Daeschel, Amador, 2011) Safety practices can prevent injuries and exposure to harmful toxins that can affect ones overall wellness. These “building blocks” of wellness are interrelated and the benefits of one factor can highly affect the success and outcomes of the others. By understanding the link between them, we can create better practices, to create a positive environment for children to thrive and learn how to be responsible for their own wellness.
A child’s family is their first “experience” to the understanding of wellness and the factors that shape it. It is important that all families are educated on the importance of a child’s wellness. Using age-appropriate practices, we can make sure the children in our care are getting the experiences and activities needed in order to have a full understanding of wellness. Age-appropriate practices represent a group of lessons or “practices” that are appropriate to a child’s age or stage of development. These practices need to be in all of the domains and factors of wellness, which include nutrition, health, and safety. Some ideas to promote nutrition include offering well-balanced and nutritious meals and snacks, reading stories of the importance of foods for our bodies, having visual cues such as posters of healthy food choices, and being a role model in making healthy eating choices. Practices for health include showing children how to wash hands, demonstrating how to cough or sneeze to prevent the spread of germs, and reinforcing these skills with book and visual cues such as posters. Safety is also a very important factor and can be included within the home and classroom environment by proving appropriate practices that include establishing safe environments, reinforcing and maintain safety rules, open dialogue about safety through the use of books.
We must understand the importance of a child’s well being and the link to their development. By identifying these important factors of wellness and by understanding the benefit of using age –appropriate practices, we increase a child’s ability to gain the knowledge they need to understand what “wellness” truly means and how their choices can affect their lives.
There are many resources available for educators and families alike that help in assuring that we are exposing children to positive experience so that they may lead long and healthy lives. Such resources include but not limited to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Healthy Child Care America. Using these available resources, the implementation of age-appropriate practices, and the careful preparation of our classrooms and curriculums, we can give the children all the opportunities needed to develop and reinforce their total well-being.
References and Resources
Sorte, Daeschel, Amador. (2011). Nutrition, Health and Safety for Young Children, Promoting
Wellness. New Jersey, Upper Saddle River. Pearson Education, Inc