Creativity should be the order of the day in preschool classrooms, as it keeps students engaged and entertained during the learning process. However, health and safety are vitally important, too! Follow this quick guide to learn how preschool teachers, owners, and directors can keep their classrooms well-organized, secure, safe, and healthy.
Spruce up classroom safety and security features.
According to The International Journal of Education and Practice, classroom design and the teacher’s arrangement should be used to create a safe and secure environment for children. Before children can dive into any learning process and explore the world around them, they need an environment that makes them feel comfortable and secure (Olds, 2001).
This isn’t surprising, considering that adults intentionally invest a lot of time, money, and effort into making their environments secure. Safety and security are inherent needs of humans.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions to pave the way for better learning in preschool classrooms:
- Get rid of clutter and dangerous materials to minimize slips, trips, falls, and injuries
- Keep doorways clear of furniture for safe entry
- Avoid transitions and lining up too close to doors so little fingers don’t get pinched
- Provide proper ventilation, heating, and cooling
- Carefully placem rocking chairs in infant rooms so crawlers remain safe
- Install low, child-safety secure shelving to prevent injuries from falling objects
- Have a safe cabinet or closet to store teacher purses/bags/coffee so they’re out of reach of children
- Be sure all infant teachers are aware of proper bite sizes and bottle temperatures when feeding babies and toddlers
- Ensure adequate lighting from both natural or artificial sources
- Think through placement of climbing structures and shelves in toddler rooms, place mirrors in blindspots so all toddlers are within sight and sound while teachers are changing diapers
- Conduct routine playground inspections for loose screws, bolts, nails, ant beds, and other safety hazards
- Include safe sleep training in all staff orientation to ensure safe nap times
Create a clean and healthy environment.
Preschool children are a curious bunch, and their hands like to touch and explore everywhere. Let’s be honest — germs are going to thrive anywhere a bunch of little ones are, but you can help minimize it by staying on top of your cleaning game. Make a cleaning schedule and ensure all are clear on who is responsible for each aspect. Always be sure to have an ample supply of cleaning products, hand sanitizers, and disinfectant wipes. Live plants, when kept out of reach, are also a great way of making sure students breathe cleaner air and are excellent learning opportunities.
Since the classroom is designed for teaching, you also have a great opportunity to teach your students not to put toys, shoes, and other objects in their mouths, as well as proper handwashing (don’t forget to scrub between the fingers!).
Encourage healthy eating habits and have a plan for food allergies.
A huge part of creating a healthy classroom environment is providing students with proper nutrition. According to the US Department of Agriculture, childcare providers can help children establish lifelong healthy eating habits by creating a friendly eating environment.
For instance, it’s essential to always have healthy snacks on hand (think fruits, vegetables, and raisins) while limiting things like potato chips and other processed treats. Similarly, provide frequent access to water instead of soda and sweetened beverages. Incorporate healthy food choices and exercise in your daily lessons.
It’s also critical to keep track of each student’s food allergies and medical conditions, and have an allergy plan in place to ensure both that they are snacking on safe foods and other children’s food does not come in contact with theirs. All teachers and staff who handle food should be well-trained on cross-contamination and the signs and symptoms of food allergic reactions. A written and agreed upon safety and treatment plan is a must for children with food allergies.
Find the right balance between activity and sleep time.
Being physically active helps build strong and healthy bones, muscles, and joints in children of preschool-age. It also helps them shake off some of that crazy energy. The best way to encourage students to be more physically active is to make it fun, fun, fun! For instance, incorporating active toys and multisensory learning provides more enjoyment for students when it’s playtime. Children learn best through play, so teach those foundational academic skills while children are moving their bodies.
However, it’s crucial not to overdo the activities. The little ones need some time out to recharge and nap, preferably at set routine times. Nap time, or even quiet time in the afternoon, is a great way to help the kids relax and wind down after a busy morning. Teach them relaxation techniques and breathing strategies so they can calm themselves down and relax at nap times. These self-regulation skills will serve them well throughout their lives.
Team up with parents and families.
Creating healthy and safe preschool classrooms also requires parental participation. That’s why it’s important to always keep communication lines open, so you’re on the same page with your students’ parents and families.
Parent communication is key, and it’s important to enforce school sick policies so parents keep sick students home. Teachers can communicate with parents and keep them in the loop on what the class is working on so parents may also provide at-home learning experiences. This is a great way for children not to get left out of the learning process. While you may struggle to communicate with some families, it’s important to put forth your best effort and do everything you can to support their child’s health.
How Healthy & Safe Is Your Preschool Classroom?
You won’t have the same students in every class, and you may need to add additional steps into your health and safety routine to better suit the unique students in your care. For example, you may need to follow proper diaper changing rules for those who aren’t quite potty trained. However, in general, these are good best practices that anyone can follow to create a safe learning environment. We know you’re busy, and incorporating all of these practices into your day may seem overwhelming, so start with one and go from there. A little progress is still progress!
At Impact Early Education, we know your work is never done. That’s why we provide valuable professional development courses for preschool teachers, directors, and owners in a way that works for you. To learn more, explore our courses or contact us today.