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The influence of social, economic and environmental factors contribute greatly to the poor health of children in our modern day society and the health and wellbeing of a child is primarily the responsibility of the parents or carers. However it is beneficial to society to ensure children's rights and needs are recognised and valued and a much better health is possible with a shared community-wide initiative.
Hall. D, Elliman D 2006 Health for all Children, 4th Edition
The Scottish Government has taken responsibility and made it a priority to improve health in Scotland with a particular focus on diet and physical activity. Their strategy "Improving Health in Scotland - the Challenge" recognises that the early years is an area for improvement and recommends that Scotland needs nutritional guidance in meeting their aim to improve children's health. In addition, they feel that changing behaviour towards bad eating habits can support and develop future healthy growth and development.
Nutritional Guidance for Early Years
Food Choices for Children aged 1-5 years in Early Education and Childcare Settings
The objective of my role as a health educator working within government guidelines was to visibly advocate health and wellbeing in the nursery. My aim was to facilitate promotion of health and well being and contribute to informing, improving and encouraging the health of the children, parents and staff and to raise awareness of adopting a healthy lifestyle. In addition, the most crucial part of my role was to be a positive role model.
Curriculum for Excellence, Scottish Government
Before deciding on which area to develop and implement, I decided to research the nursery's health approach and initiatives and I discovered that they work within The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 and "place health promotion at the heart of their schools' activities."
My research found that all food and drink provided within the establishment had to fulfil nutritional requirements and this aided my decision to implement a Diet and Nutrition project, provided me with knowledge of the strategies already in place and enabled me to plan, adapt and utilise them for the nursery setting.
The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007
I also decided to visit the nursery and discuss the project with the nursery teacher, Mrs Harley. We spoke about the how the nursery planning had a focus on health and wellbeing and that the nursery would be introducing new foods to the children the week after my completion date. I suggested that I could carry out activities relating to nutrition and it was agreed that this would be the launch to their planning.
This visit allowed me to consider the options available to me and gave me the foundation on which to plan strategies that would work alongside the current nursery planning and gave me a shared focus that supported the learning intention with the nursery.
National Care Standards, Health and Wellbeing Standard 3
Planning and Strategies
In my planning of the project, I researched and decided on using two of the key principles for health promotion, as stated by the World Health Organisation, and this included involving the whole nursery and not just particular groups of vulnerable children. By connecting with the whole nursery/school community, including parents and staff, I was more likely to prolong the awareness of health and well being. Another principle is to build on and increase knowledge by using a variety of methods, approaches and learning experiences.
Being able to use different methods, approaches and learning experiences allowed me the security that if one method was unsuccessful then another approach may provide more positive results.
My strategies for promoting the health and well being project consisted of ten learning experiences, an interest table and a wall display.
The planned activities were a combination of fruit themed experiences implemented across four areas of Curriculum for Excellence. The activities enabled me to promote diet and nutrition, observe the children in their learning and allowed me to assess the children's development and their next steps for learning.
I feel my activities produced a mixture of results and that the unsuccessful ones may have been because the children were more used to free flow play rather than the adult initiated structured activities I had planned for them.
An example of an unsuccessful activity was making the fruit smoothie. This was the last activity to be done with the children and was the most disappointing. The children were aware that this was a choice for them to participate in but I feel I may not have promoted the activity enough and encouraged interest.
My activities gave the children a variety of learning experiences to participate in including successful activities of hand painting of fruits, the fruity smelling gloop, tasting and handling unfamiliar fruits and the popular The Very Hungry Caterpillar story.
These activities created lots of interaction, gave me the opportunity to speak to the children about diet and health and enable me recall knowledge I shared with them on previous activities.
Another activity that was successful was the role play opportunity of a fruit and vegetable shop. This activity created too much excitement for the children and I have highlighted this on the observation sheet.
My observation showed that this activity was excellent for the children's fruit recognition and use of appropriate language and because of this I feel this activity produced a result of raising awareness of diet and nutrition.
The activity that produced the best result in raising awareness of health and well being was the fruit salad. I was delighted when a child came running into me the day after an activity with her and asked if she could help make the fruit salad. Feedback from my mentor was that the child had spoke about it to her parents the night before and was excited about helping me with it. This showed me that I had raised awareness to this child who in turn did the same with her parents.
The interest table was used to display the resources that I was using in my activities and consisted of books, DVDs, hand puppets and some examples of unfamiliar fruits. My intention was to encourage interest from the children and persuade them to use and explore the resources whenever they wanted.
This approach proved to be successful because the children did use the resources in their independent play. One example was when a group of four children asked me if they could watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar DVD and as soon as I started the film, I realised that other children came to join in. This experience continued to develop their health and well being learning and allowed them to take part in my project with limited adult interaction.
The purpose of the wall display was to promote health and well being through sharing and celebrating the children's learning. Our display carried pictures and photographs of the children's work and also included printed text relating to some of the learned outcomes and experiences from Curriculum for Excellence.
This method also proved to be successful because by making learning visible, which was inspired by Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy, I was able to continue to raise awareness of health and well being to everyone using the setting. In addition, the children were able to share their learning with other children, parents and staff with a sense of pride, confidence and self esteem.