Health and Safety E-News for Caregivers and Teachers

Welcome to the April 2007 issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics Health and Safety E-News for caregivers and teachers.

Click here to view previous issues of E-News or to sign up to receive this newsletter.

This issue includes information and action steps for you on the following topics:

Healthy Eating Habits

Nutrition is an important part of good health. Enjoying and learning about food in early childhood builds habits that can last a lifetime. Here are some things you can do to help children in your care get the best foods:

  • Help children develop a habit of eating healthy foods by giving lots of food choices, including fruits and vegetables. A registered dietician or nutrition specialist can help you develop a culturally sensitive, balanced menu.
  • Encourage, but do not force children to try all types of food. Forcing children to "clean their plates" can lead to bad eating habits and food struggles. Avoid making deals with children such as, "just two more bites!" or "if you eat your vegetables, you will get dessert." It is important for children to learn to stop eating when they feel full.
  • Offer new kinds of foods to young children often (especially to those who seem to be picky eaters). Children may need to be offered a new food many times before they will eat it. If children are not eating fruits or vegetables, try encouraging them to dip fresh vegetables or fruits into healthy dips like yogurt, hummus, or low-fat salad dressings.
  • Include daily chances for children to help cook meals and prepare snacks. Assign simple tasks such as putting napkins on the table, placing pre-cut vegetables in the salad, or helping to mix batter. Children can explore the color, taste, smell, and texture of foods. This is a good time to reinforce and model good handwashing, before and after touching food. For more information and resources on handwashing, click here for the April 2006 issue of the Health and Safety E-News.
  • Ask parents for information on their child's food allergies, special nutritional needs, or developmental delays that might have an effect on how they eat or behave. Encourage parents to partner with you and their child's doctor to develop a written care plan so that everyone understands what the child can and cannot eat including any food allergies, agrees on the best approach, and "hears" the same thing!

Also, remember that breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. Studies have shown that one of the most challenging times for mothers to continue breastfeeding is when they return to work. You can help infants get off to the best start possible by offering encouragement and support to breastfeeding mothers.

Increasing Physical Activity

Physical activity is just as important as nutrition. Whether it's running, dancing, or tumbling, regular physical activity is an important part of health. With a little thought and help, you can get children to exercise each day to promote their healthy growth and development.

  • Develop a schedule or plan that includes different physical activities throughout the day.
  • Arrange the classroom so that it promotes physical activities and makes exercising fun and easy. Set up a small obstacle course either inside or outside; include riding and push toys, and encourage outside play whenever weather allows.
  • Limit activities that involve sitting or remaining in one place (like watching videos or playing computer games, etc.). Increase physical activity. Simple games such as "Simon Says," chase, and tag are appropriate and fun. Physical activities may need to be tailored to the developmental and physical needs and limitations of children.
  • Explain to parents the importance of physical activity and share examples with them about how to encourage their children to be physically active. For example, parents can play with their children before watching television, and then gradually extend playtime and decrease television, computer, or other electronic game time.
  • Children with chronic health conditions and disabilities should be included in appropriate activities. They receive the same positive benefits from exercise and exploration. Again, some activities may need to be modified to fit each child's needs and limitations.

Caregivers as Role Models

Like home, child care is a place where a child learns by watching what other people do. It is easier to help a young child learn healthy habits from the beginning than to get them to change their behavior later. Are you a good role model? Take a look at your own habits to see if you're setting a good example. For example, if you want kids to drink milk, don't drink soda in front of them!

  • Take care of yourself—eat well and keep active so that you stay healthy, feel good, and have the energy you need to take care of children.
  • Participate in games, dances, and other physical activities with the children and have fun doing it!
  • Encourage positive experiences with food and eating. Have "family-style" meals, sit with the children and eat the foods they eat. Talk about how the foods they are eating will help their bodies grow. Mealtime should be relaxed, not rushed.
  • Stay informed about the proper dietary needs of children and infants through nutrition and health resources or by talking with a child care health consultant, registered dietician, or nutrition specialist.
  • Consider joining a health and wellness program.

For resources on Healthy Behaviors, visit the Resource Library.


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