Early Years Update focuses on the importance of health and well being with babies, toddlers and three- to five-year-old children. This is part of a range of practical ideas to underpin the information in the Early Years Foundation Stage Principles into Practice cards

PiP Card Theme: A Unique Child
‘Every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.’

Commitment 1.4 Health and Wellbeing
‘Children’s health is an integral part of their emotional, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing and is supported by attention to these aspects.’

Areas of knowledge covered:

  • physical wellbeing
  • growing and developing
  • emotional wellbeing.

The CD-Rom in the EYFS pack contains two short video clips and links to a number of reports and research briefings, including: the 2005 Ofsted report, Firm Foundations; the Sure Start evaluation report What Works in Promoting Children’s Mental Health; and Healthy Choices, part of the literature review associated with the Birth to Three Matters guidelines. There are links to key sources of information including the British Nutrition Foundation, The Food Standards Agency, Caroline Walker Trust, British Heart Foundation, Youth Sports Trust, ICAN, NASEN and the National Healthy Schools Programme.

In the ‘In depth’ section of the CD there is further detail on what health and wellbeing means for young children and guidance on how to find opportunities to incorporate these aspects within the six areas of learning and development.

Supporting effective practice
As part of supporting effective practice within this area of the EYFS, practitioners should:

  • make use of the resource material to build their own understanding of the factors underlying emotional and physical health and wellbeing
  • consider what sort of a role model they are promoting healthy lifestyles to children, colleagues and parents
  • come to a shared understanding with colleagues about how routines, policies and procedures will be implemented to support children’s health and wellbeing.

Working with babies
By establishing a strong positive relationship with both the parents and the baby the key person can create the feeling of safety and security which babies need to thrive and grow. Healthy physical and mental development is dependent on exposure to lots of different opportunities to explore new situations, resources and people, take part in non-verbal conversations, respond to music and movement, build relationships with other babies and explore the world with all the senses. Find ways of enabling babies to experience the outdoors as well as the indoors, particularly for those who are in full daycare for a large proportion of the week.

Ideas to use with toddlers
Encourage toddlers to experience a range of foods by providing a variety of different types of fruit and vegetables at snack time. Share information with parents about what constitutes a healthy diet, providing recipes and menu suggestions where appropriate. At mealtimes and toilet times talk to children about the importance of washing their hands and demonstrate how to do this properly. Make hand washing a regular part of the daily routine of the setting, for children and adults alike. Provide choices for children so their independence and self-confidence grows and as their physical skills and mastery develop remember how important it is to give them the time they need to carry out tasks successfully.

Working with three- to five-year-olds
Individual children’s need for rest and sleep will vary as they grow through the pre-school phase but it is vital to vary the pace of the pre-school day to provide opportunities for children to be calm and quiet as well as to be active and energetic. A calm, uncluttered environment where there is space to move around will help children to feel physically comfortable and emotionally at ease. Quiet music, neutral colours on the ceiling and walls and defined areas where children can focus on specific experiences, will all contribute to a feeling of emotional security.

Involvement in cooking activities, helping to prepare snacks, tasting a range of healthy foods and growing food plants from seeds are all excellent ways of building young children’s understanding of healthy eating. Share information and ideas with parents and encourage them to think responsibly about the types of food they make available to their children at home.

Outdoor play should be a significant feature of children’s everyday experience in an early years setting. Regular exercise is important for long-term physical health and emotional wellbeing, and good habits laid down in early childhood will last through into later life. Practitioners should act as good role models in this respect, joining in outdoor games and activities and encouraging children to enjoy being out of doors, whatever the weather.