- Describe the significance of involving families in children’s active lifestyles and wellness.
- Identify ways to help families understand children’s physical development.
- Explore resources that promote wellness and an active lifestyle for children and the adults in their lives.
Involving Families in Children’s Physical Development
Considering that families generally have the largest impact upon young children’s development, it is critical that they are actively involved in efforts that promote their children’s wellness, active lifestyles, and overall physical development.
In the same way that caregivers support families in fostering their children’s physical development and overall wellness, families can support caregivers in planning, implementing and monitoring programs that promote wellness. Physical activity and movement are essential parts of the learning, growth and development of young children, and caregivers and families can join forces to promote active lifestyles. Physical activity habits are established early in children’s lives. Families can assume critical roles when it comes to establishing and fostering healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Supporting Family Involvement: Personal and Family Life Skills
Several preschool motor activities resemble tasks that young children may also perform at home. Just as preschoolers move around to explore their indoor and outdoor environments, play with toys, manipulate different materials, eat, use the bathroom, or help clean up after themselves in their child care setting, they engage in similar tasks at home with their families. Participating in these activities enables children to take better care of themselves and to take on simple household responsibilities.
In their homes, many children perform self-care tasks such as dressing themselves, cleaning up their toys and books, brushing their teeth, bathing, using the bathroom, eating with utensils, and making their own beds. While some children can accomplish these self-care skills independently, some will require help from adults, especially when it comes to tasks that involve small muscles, such as buttoning small buttons, tying shoes, or using a fork and a knife to cut food. Children usually master several of these self-help skills by the end of the preschool years.
As a family child care provider, it is important to help families understand the significance of children’s participation in these activities for their physical and overall development and well-being. At the same time, it is also very important to be sensitive to families’ values, backgrounds, beliefs, cultural practices, and traditions as they relate to young children’s skill development and independence. While you may have certain opinions about what children should or should not do in your child care home, it is important to be considerate of families and try to understand and honor a point of view that may be different from yours. For example, while you may highly value independence in young children and therefore think that it is important to let children eat on their own so they can become independent, families of children in your care may value interdependence and favor adults helping children with eating, which helps establish and promote relationships. Along the same lines, you should also be sensitive with your choice of materials for sensory activities, as some materials, for example food items (e.g., rice or beans), may hold significant cultural value for some families and should not be used for play. As a caring and resourceful professional, be flexible and think of alternative ways to positively engage with each child’s family.
Establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships between families and caregivers promotes children’s optimum learning and growth. When it comes to families of children with special needs, communication with families is essential. As a caregiver, you should learn as much as possible about the child and his or her particular needs, as well as accommodations that the family finds successful. You should also invite the families to share concerns or ask you questions.
Encouraging Family Involvement: A Lifetime of Wellness
We all need to establish and maintain healthy habits. Family members can set a great example for the children and the rest of the adults in their families by promoting healthy environments at home. Healthy environments include engaging in activities that promote well-being: Planning balanced and nutritious meals, shopping for ingredients, cooking together, walking and exercising together, playing together, and keeping each other motivated and committed to making healthy choices and keeping an active lifestyle.
There are several websites that provide information about helping families set goals for wellness and healthy living. Explore the links below and consider using some of the materials and resources with families of the children in your care.
Click on the link below to watch this video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this video, you will learn about how one caregiver promotes active and healthy lifestyles for the children in her care and their families. As you watch, think about what you can do to promote active and healthy lifestyles for children and families in your care. https://www.cdc.gov/cdctv/lifestagesandpopulations/child-obesity.html
Consider the following ideas to help families understand children’s physical development. You may notice that some of these suggestions resemble recommendations made in the Family Engagement course about helping families understand their children’s development.
- Invite families to visit your home at the beginning of the year and explain your beliefs about children’s physical development and growth through play.
- Help families understand the significance of play in children’s physical development by sharing related information through your parent handbook, social media site, website, or newsletter.
- Ask families to share favorite play activities at home so you can incorporate some in your daily routines.
- Share resources that families can use at home to promote wellness and active lifestyles.
- Ask families to share their goals and priorities for their children in terms of physical development and wellness.
- When it comes to children with special needs, ask families to share input, preferences, and tips about ways to promote physical development and wellness in their children.
- Display photographs of children and their families engaging in physical activities.
- Include books about wellness and physical activity in your book area.
- Invite families to participate in events related to physical activity and wellness (e.g., have a get-to-know-you event for parents and children at a local playground. Bring active toys for the parents to use with their children (e.g., balls, jump ropes, toy golf clubs, etc.).
As you help the families of children in your care, and think about promoting physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, it is also important to think about yourself and your own habits or practices that keep you healthy so you can be a positive role model. These documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide guidelines for physical activity in adults. Read and review this information to learn about health benefits of physical activity, examples of physical activity to incorporate in your life, and tools to keep track of what you do each week to maintain an active lifestyle.
This section includes resources you can use to promote family engagement in children’s wellness.
The first resource from the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion describes steps families can take to set good examples for children to promote wellness at home. Review the Setting Good Examples document and use it as you answer the questions in Ways to Promote Family Engagement in Children's Wellness activity. Then talk with your trainer, coach, or administrator about how you can be a healthy role model for children.
The second and third handouts from Let’s Move! include ideas of fun ways to help families foster and monitor healthy lifestyles. Review the Family Activities and Family Calendar documents and share them with families of the children in your care. You can also use these documents with your own family!
The fourth resource includes a list of websites that provide resources on how family members can assume active roles that promote health and wellness in their children and families. Read and review Resources for Families, and explore these websites to learn about ways to engage families in their children’s wellness. Then, share these websites with families of children in your care.
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2010). Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs: Selected Standards from Caring for Our Children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (3rd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association. Also available at http://nrckids.org/CFOC/Childhood_Obesity
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2011). Caring for Our Children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (3rd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association. Also available at http://nrckids.org
Berk, L. E. (2013). Child Development (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2013). Principles of effective family engagement. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/family-engagement/principles
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2011). Position Statement: Code of ethical conduct and statement of commitment. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/image/public_policy/Ethics%20Position%20Statement2011_09202013update.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). NAEYC Where We Stand: On professional preparation standard. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/programStandards.pdf
Schickedanz, J. A., Hansen, K., & Forsyth, P. D. (2000). Understanding Children. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Trawick-Smith, J. (2014). Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R., Erwin, E. J., & Soodak, L. C. (2006). Families, Professionals, and Exceptionality: Positive outcomes through partnerships and trust (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.