- 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 their familes.
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 promoting their children’s wellness, active lifestyles, and overall physical development.
In the same way educators support families in fostering their children’s physical development and overall wellness, families can support educators 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 educators and families should join forces to promote active lifestyles. Physical activity habits are established early in children’s lives and families can play a large role 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 within their daily routines. Just as preschoolers move around and explore their indoor and outdoor environments, play with toys, manipulate different materials, eat, use the restroom, or help clean up after themselves at school, they engage in similar tasks at home with their families. Participating in these activities enables preschoolers to improve their independence, take better care of themselves and assist with simple household responsibilities.
Daily routines help family life run more smoothly, and allow families to enjoy more time together. Routines can also help children feel safe, develop life skills, and build healthy habits. Following these daily routines can also help parents feel more organized and reduce stress levels. These predictable daily routines may include dressing themselves, cleaning up their toys, brushing their teeth, bathing, using the bathroom, eating with utensils, making their own bed, cleaning up after mealtime, or even assisting with laundry. 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.
When working with preschool programs, it is important to help families understand the significance of children’s participation in these routines and 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 views about what children should or should not do in preschool, 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 during mealtime, and encourage children to feed themselves, some families of children in your care may value interdependence and prefer adults assist children with eating., Cultures that highly value interdependence encourage establishing and promoting relationships and interconnectivity over self reliance. Along the same lines, you should also be sensitive with your choice of materials for sensory activities, as some materials, for example food items such as rice, 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 all families in your classroom.
Establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships between home and school promotes children’s optimum learning and growth. When it comes to families of children with special learning needs, communication with families and consistent routines are essential. As a child care provider, you should gather as much information as possible about the child and their particular needs, as well as accommodations that the family has found to be successful. You should also invite the families to share concerns or ask 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 and choices at home. Healthy environments include engaging the family 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.
As a preschool teacher, you can help families of children in your care think about promoting active lifestyles by being a positive role model yourself. Watch this video to hear professionals describe how they strive for active lifestyles. As you watch, think about yourself and your own habits or practices that enable you to achieve wellness.
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 classroom at the beginning of the year and explain and provide examples of children’s physical development and growth through play in preschool.
- Help families understand the significance of play in children’s physical development by sharing related information through your classroom newsletter, during family-teacher conferences, or through any other forms of communication you use with families.
- Ask families to share favorite play activities at home, so you can incorporate some in your daily preschool routine.
- Share resources that families can use at home to promote wellness,active lifestyles, and physical development.
- Ask families to share their goals and priorities for their children in terms of physical development and wellness.
- Share with parents that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to not more than 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children aged 2 to 5 years. Parents should watch media with their children to help them connect the programs they view to the world around them. AAP also recommends: designating media-free times together, such as dinner or driving; and media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- When it comes to children with special learning or physical needs, ask families to share input, preferences, and tips about ways to promote physical development and wellness in their children.
- In your classroom, display photographs of children and their families engaging in physical activities.
- Include books about wellness and physical activity in your classroom library.
- Invite families to participate in classroom and school events related to physical activity and wellness.
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 preschool teacher promotes active and healthy lifestyles for 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.
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 the habits and routines that keep you healthy and allow you to be a positive role model for children and families in your program. The Move Your Way campaign from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide guidelines for physical activity in adults. Read and review the information to learn about why regular physical activity is important, what kinds of activity adults need, and how to get active. Click on the Keeping Track of Your Physical Activities to view an Activity Planner to help you create a weekly plan to stay active.
This section includes resources you can use to promote family engagement in children’s wellness.
The Setting Good Examples document from the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion describes steps families can take to set good examples for children in order to promote wellness at home and is a great resource to share with families. For the Ways to Promote Family Engagement in Children’s Wellness activity below, you will first need to read and review the Setting Good Examples document. Then, you will use the tips and information from the document to complete the activity. Once you have completed the activity, share with your trainer, coach, or administrator how to be a healthy role model for children, and how you plan to incorporate examples in your classroom.
In the Physical Activity Resources document below, you can find a list of websites that provide resources on how families can assume active roles that promote health and wellness. Review these sources for your own knowledge and development, and you can use this document with families in your classroom who are interested in increasing physical activity and family wellness. Feel free to add this document to your classroom resources, share some or all of these websites with families through your classroom newsletter, through family bulletin boards, or other forms of communication.
Ways to Promote Family Engagement in Children's Wellness
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American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2019). Caring for Our Children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (4th ed.). Itasca, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association. Also available at http://nrckids.org
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