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Back to the Basics: General Health and Safety Tips for Early Childhood Settings

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As we continue to assess and endure the Covid-19 pandemic globally, it can be easy to overlook the general health and safety procedures that we know work to keep children and staff healthy and safe in early childhood settings. Jody Martin, author of Preschool Health and Safety Matters, invites us to go back to the basics by sharing some general health and safety tips for teachers and administrators to regularly assess and promote as habits including teaching hand-washing, inspecting classroom equipment and toys, and encouraging stress relieving activities. 


Hi and welcome. My name is Jody Martin, and I'm the author of this Gryphon House publication, Preschool Health and Safety Matters. And of course we know that health and safety does matter for all age groups, and the book covers all age groups as well. I want to talk today about the different aspects of health and safety, and there's so many different ones! I'm going to focus on three. 

But I want you to take into consideration that the common ones are health and hygiene, disease prevention, and injury and accident prevention. But think about some of the other categories such as pedestrian/transportation safety, disaster preparedness, making sure children have enough physical activity, and mental and emotional health. And so there's a lot of categories that encompass making a healthy and safe environment for children and employees and families. But let's focus on those that I feel are most pertinent right now, given the most recent events of the last two years, and that begins with health and hygiene. 

Health and Hygiene

Health and hygiene is just teaching children about proper hand-washing techniques, and when to wash their hands at the important times—before they eat and after they play outside or after they play with the pet and maybe after they play in the sand and water table. There's a lot of different times that they should wash their hands—of course before they eat lunch or snack and after they blow their nose or they cough into their hands. And one of the things that we can do is help children understand the way to prevent germs from spreading.

Of course, we look at surface cleaning when we look at health and hygiene and disease prevention, and the way that we clean all the different surfaces in the environment that need to be cleaned and the equipment and the toys. But helping children understand that when they sneeze or cough, that there's airborne droplets that can be let loose into the air, and we want to help them contain those. They either need to cough or sneeze into a tissue, or maybe into their elbow or to their shoulder. And really helping them understand how germs are spread through direct contact with other people or touching surfaces. And of course, airborne droplets. 

Injury and Accident Prevention

The other thing is injury and accident prevention, and that is taking a good look at your classroom and making sure that toys and equipment are in good repair. That there's no hanging cords, there are no chemicals or cleaning supplies within the reach of children, and if you have cleaning supplies in your classroom, that they're labeled and in original bottles so everyone knows exactly what's contained in that bottle. And just making sure that children are using the equipment safely and that they understand how to use the equipment or play with the toys.

And so there's a lot of things that you can look at in your environment. I know there's a lot of checklists out there—there's some in my book and there's some you can get from the CDC or your licensing agency or NAEYC. So just making sure that you're looking at when things need to be cleaned, what the schedule is, how they need to be cleaned or disinfected, and helping the children understand disease prevention and control. 

Mental and Emotional Health

It’s also important to look at the mental and emotional health of the children, the staff, and the families given the last couple of years and what we've all gone through. We all need to look at—how we can disengage the stress response? And what kinds of activities can we do? What kind of activities do we provide the children and share with families? And that might be sensory activities, it might be physical activities and fresh air—that goes a long way to relieve tension and anxiety. And also playing music—either calm music or maybe fun and peppy music—but just offering activities daily that help children disengage the stress response as well as the employees. And sharing this with families so they can extend that learning at home. 

And breathe! Breathing—inhaling and exhaling goes a long way to disengage that stress response. So I hope that you are healthy and you have a safe and healthy environment, and I wish you well.

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