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Education is essential in the life of the younger child. At this age, they are learning new skills, concepts, words, and ideas every day, expanding their knowledge at an alarming rate. The classroom is the perfect place for a preschooler to learn, providing them with plenty of stimulation and support. However, for the child to learn in this environment, it must take into account the varying developmental levels of its students and its safety must be evaluated. This paper will explore the previously mentioned aspects, using different developmental theories as well as the California Childcare Health Program (CCHP) Health and Safety Checklist. All names of particular students within this paper are fictitious, and in no way represent the actual identities of these children.
Using the CCHP Health and Safety Checklist, an evaluation of a typical preschool classroom was done. Three specific safety standard categories have been chosen for assessment. These categories include handwashing, food preparation/eating/sanitation, and outdoor equipment. These categories will be evaluated for this particular classroom, and the importance of these categories will also be discussed.
Handwashing plays a very important part in infection and disease control. According to Hockenberry and Wilson, hand hygiene is the most important practice performed in the health care setting to reduce infectious disease transmission (2015). When it comes to the classroom setting, hand hygiene is an essential part of the daily routine. Children touch, play and interact with all sorts of objects and surfaces, allowing them to spread germs very quickly and easily. During the safety assessment, a few areas regarding hand hygiene were adequate, while others were not as good. The CCHP Health and Safety Checklist includes a variety of different areas in regard to handwashing, including resources for handwashing procedures, staff handwashing, and children’s handwashing techniques. In terms of if handwashing procedures were posted at the handwashing sinks, there was some material placed in that area, but detail of instructions was minimal. The sinks were at an adequate level for the children, and the staff was observed washing their hands before food preparation. Some children were observed not washing their hands after using the bathroom. In regards to breakfast, about 8 out of 12 children were observed washing their hands before eating, with 6 out of the 8 washing their hands correctly. After breakfast, only 6 out of the 12 children were observed washing their hands after eating, all of which washed their hands correctly. In any setting where multiple children are present, hand hygiene is an essential practice to prevent illness and disease, especially in the classroom setting.
Van Beek, Tomer, Richardus, Voeten and Erasmus note that children who attend day care centers are more likely to experience respiratory and gastrointestinal infections than other children who do not go to day care centers. By having set guidelines and protocol for handwashing in the classroom for both educators and children, the rate of these infections can decrease, improving the overall health of the children in the classroom and the facility overall. When children are healthy, they are able to actively learn and participate in class, and continue their education.
In this particular classroom and facility, the children are able to eat three meals per day, depending on when they arrive or leave the facility. Proper food preparation is essential to maintaining food quality and safety in children, as well as adults. When food is contaminated, expired, or undercooked, serious illness can occur which may be difficult to treat. The CCHP Health and Safety Checklist goes over multiple areas in regards to food preparation, eating, and sanitation, including food preparation areas, perishable item regulation, and sanitation of eating areas and areas where food is prepared. All perishable items seen where left out of a refrigerator for less than one hour.
Food preparation is typically done in a separate room within the facility, in the kitchen, so food preparation areas are separate from play areas. Counter tops, tabletops, and floors are cleaned and swept before and after every meal, which is great. The tables used for eating are also used as play surfaces, which may pose a hazard if they are not cleaned properly. No menu was posted for food served in the program in the classroom. Food preparation and sanitation is essential to keep children safe from certain illnesses. Wohlgenant, Fraser, Chapman, and Chen note that child care environments outside of the home can be reservoirs for pathogens that come into contact with the child via foodborne routes. With child care and education facilities at an increased risk for foodborne pathogens, it is essential that strict standards are set and followed to prevent such illnesses.
Playground equipment can provide children with an excellent opportunity to exercise, release energy, and spend time outside. However, it can also pose a risk for injury, often when used improperly. Hockenberry and Wilson note that the most common cause of death and disability to children in the United States is injury (2015). These injuries can occur in a variety of settings, including outdoor playgrounds, though they are typically minor. The CCHP Health and Safety Checklist goes into detail regarding multiple areas of outdoor equipment and play, including supervision, enclosure of the area, outdoor equipment, and shock-absorbing surfaces.
Staff was present at all times in outdoor areas providing supervision to the children, and the area was enclosed by a fence with multiple exits that are unlikely to be opened by children. The playground surface consisted of shock-absorbing woodchips, and extended around 6 feet past the playground equipment. The equipment is stable, and when shaken does not wobble or tip over. The area is relatively clean, free from sharp objects or litter. Outdoor equipment needs to be regulated and the use of it should be monitored to prevent injuries in young children. Gyllencreutz, Rolfsman, and Saveman note that outdoor environments can stimulate children to partake in more risky activities, and that risks can be hidden in these outdoor environments that affect the safety of children.
By maintaining control within the outdoor environment and equipment that these children use, hidden risks can be eliminated, and children can feel free to explore this environment without fear of injury. Outdoor equipment and activity outside should be monitored thoroughly to prevent accidents and injuries that can be life-altering and traumatic for the child.
In addition to a safety assessment, a developmental assessment of the children in the classroom was also performed. Two developmental theories can be applied to these children. The first is Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, and the second is Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Using these theories, the children can be assessed for developmental progress, as well as delay in relation to their ages.
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development deals with how the child resolves conflicts as they progress through life. If conflicts aren’t resolved, they may face difficulties. Although the theory is relatively old, Dunkel and Harbke note that this theory continues to accelerate, especially in regard to its concepts of ego identity and generativity. An ever growing and changing theory such as this one is good, meaning it can apply to a multitude of different generations and situations. According to Hockenberry and Wilson, the main psychosocial task of the preschooler is to develop a sense of initiative (2015). The conflict they face is between this initiative and guilt. To develop initiative, children begin to take control over their environment. They feel accomplished and satisfied in their activities, but when they go past their limit, they feel guilt for inappropriate behavior.
In the classroom, most of the students fall within this category. In the classroom setting, the conflict of initiative versus guilt was observed a few times. There are separate stations within the classroom, each with a limit on the amount of children that can be on that station. A group of children who were too large for one station were told by the teacher that they all weren’t allowed to play in that area, so their initial experience of initiative may have turned to guilt.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development aims to understand how the child develops intelligence as they age. It looks at how they understand certain ways and processes of thinking and learning. Hockenberry and Wilson note that in the preschool period, the child’s main task is to prepare for school and scholastic learning (2015). The preschool aged child falls within the preoperational phase, which spans from ages 2-7. In terms of their thinking patterns, they tend to use a lot of magical thinking, in that their thoughts hold lots of power and if they think something, it can happen (2015). Also within this stage, the child transitions from egocentricity to being able to consider other viewpoints. Even so, the preschool child is still very egocentric, thinking that everyone thinks like them and that only a brief explanation of anything is needed (2015). It may be difficult for a child in this stage to distinguish fantasy from reality as well. Maftei and Mairean noted in their study of fantasy versus reality that Piaget’s theory holds true in that older children have a greater ability to distinguish between these concepts. As the child grows older, they are better equipped through experience and better though process ability to understand when something is real versus made up.
In the classroom, all of the children observed can be placed within this stage. There were multiple instances of children speaking up in class where they assumed everyone knew what they were talking about. One little girl became upset when no one said happy birthday to her, even though she hadn’t told anyone it was her birthday. Her egocentrism had her believing that because she knew it was her birthday, everyone else knew as well.
Overall, this experience within the preschool classroom provides good insight into many aspects of the child’s life. In assessing the safety of multiple areas of the classroom, a strategy can be made to implement change within those areas, to improve the safety of the children and staff in the facility. By understanding the developmental level of these children, teaching strategies can be tailored to how they learn and understand, so that education is effective and has a positive impact on their overall health. It is important to take into account the varying developmental levels of the children within the classroom, so that they can all learn at their own pace. It is essential at this stage in the child’s life that they learn good health promotion skills like handwashing, and also understand the importance of safe outdoor play. At this age, education is an integral part of their lives that should be used to promote safety and well-being alongside basic skills typically taught in the classroom setting.
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