- 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 program efforts that promote 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. Because physical activity and movement are essential parts of the learning, growth and development of young children, educators and families should join forces to promote active lifestyles. Physical activity habits are established early in children’s lives and 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 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 take better care of themselves and to take on simple household responsibilities.
In their homes, many children perform self-help tasks such as dressing themselves, cleaning up their toys, 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.
In your work at preschool programs, 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 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 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 in turn 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 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 is 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 used in the past. 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 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 Families course about helping families understand their children’s development.
- Invite families to visit your classroom at the beginning of the year and explain 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 form 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 and active lifestyles.
- Ask families to share their goals and priorities for their children in terms of physical development and wellness.
- Give families information about the different ways they can help promote their children’s physical development and wellness at home.
- Share with parents that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen use 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 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 families of children in your care think about promoting physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, it is also important to think about yourself and your own habits, steps, or practices that enable you to be healthy so you can be a positive role model for children and families in your program. These documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide guidelines for physical activity in adults. Download, print, and read 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 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. Review this document and think about ways you can share it with families as you complete the 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 Physical Activity Resources contains 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. Review 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 through your classroom newsletter or other form of family communication. You can also post this list on a classroom bulletin board for families to read.
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Game on activity library. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/game-on-activity-library/
Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Tip sheets: Before and after school activities. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/references/
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2012). 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. Retrieved from 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. (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
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). AAP Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. https://healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx
Berk, L. E. (2000). Child Development (5th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Child Care Aware (n.d.). Resources and Links. Retrieved from https://www.childcareaware.org/library/
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (n.d.). Engaging diverse families. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/diverse-families
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
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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.