While for many parents, the word “preschool” brings up images of kids learning their letters and numbers, some of the most important lessons kids may learn in the early learning years occur in areas like nutrition, health and wellness, sleep, and screen time. What a school teaches young children—explicitly and implicitly—about their choices in these areas can have lifelong consequences for their physical and mental well-being.
Many schools today take their responsibilities in these areas very seriously, recognizing that helping children develop the ability to make healthy life choices is fundamental to later success across all areas of their lives. A focus on what is sometimes called holistic development recognizes that children’s physical, mental, spiritual, social, and academic growth are all intertwined; boosting success in one area often increases their chances of success in others.
How can schools help equip young children to make healthy life choices? They must intentionally find ways to teach about, model, and encourage such life skills. Teachers may incorporate lessons about nutritious foods; curricula may be designed to avoid or limit screen time; schools may model healthy food choices through school meals and cooking activities; educators may communicate with parents about appropriate sleep targets, food choices, and screen-time limits for young children; Many schools today take their responsibilities in these areas very seriously, recognizing that helping children develop the ability to make healthy life choices is fundamental to later success across all areas of their lives. physical exercise and playtime may be incorporated in the school day; opportunities to interact with nature may be sought out; techniques for stress reduction and improved focus, like meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises, may be introduced. And of course, there’s always quiet time, reading time, and naptime, which all promote rest and relaxation during the busy day. When considering various early learning programs, it is worth asking yourself, “will this school help my child become a happier and healthier person in the long term?”
- How do you help children develop good habits in areas like food and nutrition, sleep, screen time, and stress?
- Do children use technology or screens during the school day? Why or why not?
- How often do students get outside each day? How often do they have a chance to move around?
- Lay the foundations for healthy habits! Have your children help you shop for and use healthy ingredients; model regular exercise; put away your devices for meals and family time; and be sure to get enough sleep. Not only will this help your children, but it may improve your own health and happiness.
- Decide on your rules at home around snacks and treats, exercise, screen time, and bedtime. Discuss them with your children and then make sure to enforce them fairly.