Handling Health Concerns in the Classroom

Health is an important aspect of childhood development, for a healthy body is directly linked to a healthy mind.  Santrock (2013) characterizes children’s health to include nutrition, sleep, exercise, safety, and well-being.  Sleep seems dually important.  A lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, can lead to some of the other issues.  For example, being overweight or developing alcohol dependence later in adolescence.  Sleep also has a direct impact on cognitive development – problems included persistent attention problems and impaired brain development.  The cause of many sleep problems was determined as ‘too much stress during waking hours’ (Santrock, 2013, pp 245).  As an educator, providing a safe and nurturing classroom environment can minimize much of this stress (even if we are unable to impact stressors resulting from home situations).

 

Nutrition problems stem from eating behaviors, and although educators have little influence on what food is provided for children, Santrock does note that eating behavior improves when meals are provided on a predictable schedule and adults ‘model eating healthy food’ (Santrock, 2013, pp 246).  Some of the meal structure that is built into the school day can help with this, especially in situations where both breakfast and lunch are provided, or a classroom allows a ‘snack time’ for younger children.  Educators can incorporate vegetables into the meals they eat near their students, and substitute ‘candy’ or similar rewards for healthier choices, if that is something they provide to their students throughout the curriculum.

 

When it comes to exercise, educators can ensure playground time – I once heard a speaker at a conference beg educators to not take away recess as a punishment for classroom behavior, because of the impact it often had on student health.  Santrock (2013) notes that ‘preschool children were mainly sedentary even when participating in outdoor play’ – I see this with my young daughter, because she’s at a developmental age where she loves role-playing and other tea-party-esque imaginative play, so she’ll climb under a slide and create a pretend world instead of joining in a game of tag.  As an educator, it’s important to provide unstructured time, but perhaps that can be split with guided physical activity, to ensure all students are receiving a positive health benefit from outdoor exploration.

 

Santrock, J. W. (2013). Children. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: