Child care health and development includes learning how to keep children safe and healthy in a child care environment. "When families leave their children in your care, they trust that you will provide the best care possible for them. One of the most, if not the most, important responsibilities that we have as child care providers is to keep children safe and healthy. We know that the first three years of life are instrumental in laying the foundation for lifelong development, but we also know that this foundation must be laid with health and safety as a top concern.
Infants and toddlers explore their worlds through their senses and movements, by touching and mouthing anything within reach. When thinking about child care health and development, as well as, creating a safe environment, remember who the classroom is for. It is not for adults – it is for the infants or toddlers in care. The space where infants and toddlers play should be free from danger to the greatest extent possible. The first step to creating a safe place for infants and toddlers to explore is to identify and remove any potential hazards in the environment…. (For more information see Extension online courses).
Infants and toddler are sometimes thought of as being in a sensory-motor stage of development, which means they explore the environment using their senses. Mouthing is one way that infants and toddlers explore the environment and learn. Since infants and toddlers do not understand the risk of spreading germs by mouthing objects, it is our job as caregivers to protect them from illness by keeping the learning environment clean and sanitary.
Prevention is key in keeping infant and toddler classrooms sanitary. Remember, supervision is the primary strategy for keeping infants and toddlers safe and healthy. Always observe children during play, and try to prevent inappropriate instances of mouthing. When mouthing does occur, and it inevitably will, wait for the child to finish exploring the object and then remove the object from play until it can be properly sanitized. Be sure that all materials selected for infant and toddler classrooms are easy-to-clean and, if possible, non-porous. Plastic toys and materials are much easier to safely sanitize than porous materials like wood – keep this in mind when stocking your inventory.… (For more information see Extension online courses).
Another important way caregivers can help protect children from the spread of illness is by ensuring adults and children follow proper hand washing procedures at all times….According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all staff, volunteers, and children should wash their hands:
The steps to proper diaper changing are:
First, get organized. Before gathering the supplies needed to change a diaper, make sure the diaper changing area is clean and sanitized. Wash your hands before you get started, to keep from spreading germs to the child. Then, gather all the materials needed before moving a child to the changing table. Materials may include:
…Following proper procedures for bottle feeding infants can prevent a number of potential health and safety hazards from occurring. Caregivers need to ensure that bottle feeding is done in the most safe and healthy way possible. Caregivers should make sure that all bottles are labeled with the correct child's first and last names. It is also important to make note of whether the contents are formula or breast milk. If the bottle contains formula, then the label should include the date the bottle was prepared; if the bottle contains breast milk, then the label should include the date the milk was expressed…. (For more information see Extension online courses).
Another important component of keeping infants safe and healthy is reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. SIDS is the death of a sleeping infant that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation, including an autopsy, crime scene analysis, and in-depth examination of the child's medical history. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, caregivers can take a few precautions to help reduce SIDS risk:
1. Place all babies on their backs to sleep, even for naps,
2. Use a firm mattress that fits tightly into the crib with a fitted sheet,
3. Use sleepwear to regulate babies' temperatures instead of blankets,
4. If blankets are used, tuck them firmly under the edges of the mattress on the bottom and sides of the crib, and only bring the blanket up as high as the infant's chest,
5. Make sure nothing is covering the child's head,
6. Do not use pillows, blankets, or bumper pads in the cribs, and
7. Keep soft objects out of the cribs, like stuffed animals or other loose bedding.
Since the underlying cause of SIDS is still unidentified, it is not possible to prevent SIDS altogether. However, implementing these suggestions in the form of a written Safe Sleep Policy governing the entire child care facility is a crucial step toward reducing the risk of SIDS death…."
For more information on health and safety for the children in your care see Extension Online child care courses, which include information on recognizing and handling illness, safe play, immunizations, solid foods, first aid, emergency preparedness, safe release of children, etc. Particularly, see the courses:
Also, be sure to check your state licensing standards to know that you are meeting your states health and safety requirements.