Definition of wellness- Wellness is a multidimensional state of a human being. It is a part of positive health and includes components of life and wellbeing. Focusing on the physical aspects of health is not enough for raising children. Parents and teachers must strengthen and nurture a child’s emotional health as well. It involves keeping a track on the child’s emotional, physical and mental development.
Role of early childhood teachers- It is believed that literacy foundation of a student is built in preschool years. Children develop skills that help them achieve success later in school and in life as well. Wellness refers to a positive state of wellbeing and health and develops from certain practices like exercising, following a nutritious diet and proper sleep (Bredekamp, 2016). Children are exposed to lifestyle programs like fun and play that enhance their health development and language skills. Teaching follows certain rigorous rules and assesses a child’s strength and weakness. Development of such healthful practices in children improves their optimal mental and cognitive development and enhances their learning capabilities. Teachers are dedicated professionals, responsible for the educational and behavioral development of children. An early childhood teacher works in the setting of a classroom and tries to nurture the academic, emotional, social and physical aspects of a child (Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter & Pretti-Frontczak, 2017). The teacher also strives to protect the child in absence of his/her caregiver or guardian. Preschool safety should be the top priority for a teacher. They should set up routines and rules to keep the children safe. Children are often subjected to abuse and violence in school premises. A teacher is responsible for preventing any such untoward incident by recognizing and identifying such events that create fear or anguish. They should understand the cultural orientation of all children in the class. Intervention programs based on cross-culture experience help a child to develop socially. They play an essential role in promoting the child’s social and intellectual development during the formative years (from infancy to 5 years of age). Children are able to learn and promote their own wellbeing owing to their exploring nature and curiosity. Emotional and social development also helps them to build trust and attachment. Nutrition (pre-birth and in their childhood) greatly affects the growth, wellbeing and development of children. Nutrition encompasses the association of food nutrients and their influence on the body (Kim et al., 2015). The nutritional needs are high in infants. Optimal child development and growth depends on proper balance of nutrients. Infant feeding helps them to connect with their teachers in a comfortable setting. Teachers are responsible for enhancing good feeding habits in toddlers by planning wholesome food meals for them. Wellbeing of children is also linked to their health. A teacher should have a clear understanding that a child’s immune system is more susceptible to infections and is influenced by eating habits.
Strategies to promote wellness in children- The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and National Health and Safety Performance Standards for Child Care are some of the bills that are aimed at improving wellness of children. Teachers should follow the NAEYC’s code of ethical conduct and statement of commitment to resolve the dilemmas they encounter in early childhood education. Professional commitment is the first strategy that teachers should adopt. Such a commitment helps them to develop dispositions that will promote a positive outcome in the children. They should advocate and address negative influences on children. For a successful and purposeful teaching, teachers should frame activities that help children to learn concepts and gain academically (Conroy et al., 2014). They should teach about the necessity of healthy eating, cleanliness, covering coughs to prevent germ spread and safety rules of crossing streets. Practice of these wellness messages would contribute to the child’s wellbeing. They should utilize children curriculum books, songs, literature and internet resources to promote the wellness concepts (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). Teachers should develop partnership skills with families and tell parents to keep a track on the child’s outcomes. This partnership will help in reinforcing behaviors to develop the wellness curriculum for the child. Shortage of food affordability, under-nutrition and over-nutrition are some of the challenges that a teacher needs to identify. They should have a sound knowledge of daily intakes, food allergen, DRI (dietary reference intake), macronutrients and micronutrients and all other components, which contribute to the diet of a child. Teachers can also promote personal health of the child, teach nutrition concepts, and provide a calm feeding setting (Gordon & Browne, 2013). They should identify the need of complementary foods that match the child’s developmental, nutritional and physiological needs. One important strategy is creation of a feeding experience that will stimulate feeding relationship (Sorte, Daeschel & Amador, 2016). Wholesome foods, which include vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, meat and dairy products, should be added to the meals. They can help toddlers learn about different aspects of nutrition by exposing them to meals rich in taste and aroma; helping them in cleaning-up and encouraging them to participate in food-related activities. Poorly constructed areas, lack of safety locks in cupboards and gates, inadequate fencing, lack of adult supervision are some of the safety challenges. Rom arrangement is a way to ensure safety. Toys or furniture that can cause potential harm should be removed while formulating safety strategies (Brubacher et al., 2016). Blind spots should be identified where a child can hide. No vendors or unknown people should be allowed in the premises. Outdoor and indoor play space layout should be included in safety considerations. There are two theories proposed in relation to child development and behavior:
James Mark Baldwin’s theory- James Mark Baldwin was an American psychologists and studied the mental development of a child. He observed children behavior. He stated that a sequence of stages which begin with simplest behavioral patterns of a newborn and concludes with an adult’s capability of abstract and reflective thinking helps children understand their social and physical worlds. He mentioned that nature and nurture are equally important in influencing a child’s development. Children learn through their habits or by imitating others and form an inseparable network with their surroundings (Scheiner, 2014).
Albert Bandura’s theory- Albert Bandura focused on imitation and observational learning as major development source for children. He explained that a child’s ability to remember, think and abstract affects their learning and imitation. His revised theory states that children develop self efficacy and personal behavior standards by watching others and through feedbacks. These cognitive abilities help in guiding their response (Bandura, 2011).
Importance of such contributions on wellbeing- Early childhood teachers have many roles to fulfill for a successful career. They are engaged in continuous inspection of children to ensure their safety, wellness and health (Sandseter, 2014). They are mainly responsible for promoting a comfortable and safe environment to make children feel confident in the surroundings. Well-educated teachers provide better quality programs to enhance a child’s wellness. They play an important role in social and emotional development of young children. Personal efficacy, self-compassion, mindfulness are often associated with the wellbeing. Engaging children in physical and recreational activities improves their wellbeing and health spontaneously. Teachers help in building a child’s intellectual abilities and offer a holistic approach to all-round development (Sorte, Daeschel & Amador, 2016). They also help a child to cope with negative experiences and establish a sense of trust with their parents and peers (Boldt et al., 2014). Demolishing inequity gaps between children from different socio-economic backgrounds help in addressing major health issues like obesity, malnutrition and irregular meal patterns. A high quality diet is needed to support development and growth of preschool children (De?Regil et al., 2013). On watching their peers eating vegetables and fruits, children develop healthy eating habits. If teachers are able to develop proper diet planning for the children, it will boost normal development and physical activity. Children gradually develop the habit of consuming nutritious food and start avoiding foods that contain saturated fats and sugar. These teachers are also involved in identifying and eliminating intoxication, infection, use of chemicals or physical agents that are hazardous for the health of the child. Monitoring practices are also responsible to preventing any form of abuse, violence or accidents. Promoting food safety ideas among children also promotes their health. Early education teachers also focus on partnerships with parents to ensure that the child’s needs are appropriately met. When teachers built an active learning environment, it helps children to develop their learning habits. These measures adopted by the teachers also help in bringing cognitive success in a child. Creating a safe environment for children in the preschool or nursery also helps to protect them from any unwanted injuries. The safety measures adopted by teachers in the childcare facilities help in avoiding mental or physical harm or illness of the child in the care centre.
The purpose of this essay was to elucidate on the role of early childhood teachers on a child’s wellbeing. The essay concludes that health, safety and nutritional development are significant factors in a child’s life and they are strongly influenced by the educational environment and learning experience. Teachers play an important role in building an environment, which is conducive to the child’s learning. They positively nurture the health of a child, meet their nutritional needs and promote their safety. Therefore, it can be concluded that early childhood teachers provide a firm foundation that helps children attain a good life.
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