How to create a healthy and safe environment for your children

The environment itself plays a significant role in their development.

The importance of building safe learning environments for your learners is something that cannot be overstated. While it’s true that every student learns a bit differently from the next, the environment itself plays a significant role in their development. Safe learning environments translate into comfortable learning environments. They are places where learners feel at home.

In surroundings where students are willing to open their minds and actually listen to what you have to say, you can empower them to achieve their highest potential.

The key to achieving this goal will require you to keep a few important things in mind.

It’s About Students

In your quest to foster safe learning environments, your biggest ally along the way will be your learners themselves. Are your students feeling uneasy about the environment that you’ve already created? Your first step should be to ask them what you could be doing to help them:

  • Are you moving from one lesson to another too quickly? Too slowly?
  • Are they disengaged from one particular topic?
  • Do they like to work by themselves or are they more comfortable breaking down into teams?

No question is too small to ask and no topic should be off the table. Take steps to change yourself to fit in with how they want to learn first and foremost.

Work on Yourself as an Educator

You can create safe learning environments for children if you also lead by example. If you show kids how important kindness is by taking every opportunity to be kind yourself, they will follow. The reverse is also true, however.

If you’re quick to lose your temper, this will set a negative example that will eventually become hard to break from.

Show your students that you yourself are comfortable in the environment that you’ve created. Then before you know it they will begin to grow more at ease themselves.

Celebrate Achievements

One of the major benefits of safe learning environments is that students will begin to take pride in their work and in themselves. One of the best ways to help your kids along on this goal is to skip right to the end result and celebrate their achievements as they are happening.

By celebrating all students, you foster an open environment filled with happiness and creativity.

If a student writes a particular essay you’re really impressed with, read it out loud for everyone else to hear. If a student draws a particularly striking image, post it in public so everyone else can enjoy it. The student may not be comfortable with this, though. As such, they’ll feel a sense of trust if you ask them first.

Build a Judgment-Free Zone

If you ask most adults why they’re afraid of public speaking, one of the most common answers that you will get is that they’re afraid of being judged. The same concept is true of young students.

If they feel like any time they open their mouth to answer a question they might get judged negatively by their peers, they will stop opening themselves up.

To combat this, you need to go out of your way to create an environment free from judgment. Let them know that differing opinions are a great thing and that being “wrong” isn’t a bad thing. Remind them that failure is a learning experience. Even something as simple as this will put you on your way to creating the safe learning environments your kids always dreamed of.

THE SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS CHECKLIST

Here is a quick list of some suggestions and tips to help you out:

  1. Keep a clean and orderly classroom.
  2. Allow students to be openly expressive and encouraging to others.
  3. Celebrate student work in different ways.
  4. Create a list of guidelines that are “law” (ex: no name-calling, bullying, etc.)
  5. Stay calm and in control always.
  6. Practice useful failure and turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
  7. Model kindness every chance you get.
  8. Move around and interact with students, and create a connection.
  9. Be patient and smile.
  10. Feel free to laugh with your students and be vulnerable.
  11. Give kids choices on how they can do assignments.

How to create a healthy and safe environment for your children

Encouraging safe exploration is an important job for child care providers. Children are natural explorers and risk takers. They move quickly, put things in their mouths, drop or throw things, and love to climb and hide. Keeping children safe is crucial. But setting up an environment where you spend all day saying “Don’t touch this!” or “Stay away from that!” is not the answer. Instead of spending your time redirecting children, think carefully about how you set up the environment. Giving children the chance to explore freely in a well-organized and child-safe space is a much more effective way to manage behavior and encourage learning.

If children in your child care program are misbehaving, check to see whether the environment is contributing to the problem. Take a close look at your space, indoors and outdoors. Setting up a safe place to play and providing appropriate toys can keep children interested in learning, reduce behavior problems, and save you from saying “No” too often.

Here are some tips to create a space that engages children and encourages safe exploration.

  • Try a child’s-eye view. Get down to the children’s height and walk or crawl around the space. Pay attention to hazards you might not notice when standing up. By looking at the space from the child’s viewpoint, you may see accidents waiting to happen.
  • Make sure your space is child-safe. Whether you are in a child care center or a family child care home, make your space safe for children. Store dangerous chemicals and medicines out of children’s reach. Cover electrical outlets, and store dangerous or breakable objects up high. Fix, lock up, or discard anything that might be a danger to children. Be sure all outdoor play areas are fenced in to keep children safe.
  • Arrange your space wisely. Often the way you organize your child care space can make a difference in how children behave. If a space is too open, you may find children running wildly. Pay attention to where behavior problems occur. Set up shelves and other furniture to divide the room into separate learning and play areas. This will cut down on running and help children find activities more easily.
  • Identify and cut off “runways.” Long, narrow spaces — including open hallways and long aisles in the classroom — encourage running. Break up those long, narrow spaces by rearranging furniture, or add barriers to discourage runners. Try staggering tables so you don’t have long, open aisles. Place seating areas or small tables at intervals down the hallway. These visual cues may help reduce running.
  • Organize toys and supplies to make things easy for children. You will have fewer problems if children can find toys and supplies. Place toys on low shelves. Label the shelves with pictures and words so children will know where to put them back.
  • Make sure there are enough toys. Problems often arise when children do not have enough toys or materials to play with. Think about what you need for children of different ages and interests. Plenty of paper to draw on; materials to sort, collect, trade, and share; dress-up clothes and props; puzzles and games; and well-maintained equipment to climb or ride on will keep children busy and interested.
  • Make sure the toys match the children’s ages and abilities. Infants need toys that they can shake, drop, mouth, roll, and otherwise explore with their bodies. Toddlers need toys they can push, pull, grab, fill, dump, or yank without causing major damage. Toddlers have not yet learned how to share well, so purchasing several favorite toys can help prevent a lot of behavior problems. Preschoolers need more complex materials that keep them interested for longer periods and challenge their new learning skills.
  • Teach children how to handle toys and materials. Explain and model how to carefully handle books, toys, and other materials. Even very young children can learn to treasure books, to turn the pages gently, to carry them carefully, and to read them in special places. Repeat this message a number of times, and give children plenty of opportunities to practice.

For More Information

To learn more about positive and safe child care environments that support children’s learning, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

Creating a healthy environment at home is vital to the overall development of children, who learn from the influences around them. Part of parenting is creating the habits that will follow your children throughout their lifetimes and shape them as they mature. Instilling a healthy lifestyle in children when they are young can help build the framework for an entire lifetime of healthy habits.

One way to establish a healthy home environment is to practice healthy eating habits. Research has shown that making dinner a family affair leads to an encouraging environment for healthy eating. Families who share at least three meals a week have children who are 24 percent more likely to eat healthier foods than those in families who ate few or no meals together. This also coincides with a less likely chance of becoming overweight or practicing dangerous weight-loss efforts such as purging and taking laxatives or diet pills.

Homemade meals typically are lower calorie than their restaurant counterparts and also allow children to participate in the meal-making process. This allows for more family time and a deeper understanding of the creation for each meal. A stocked kitchen of healthy foods is important because children will eat what is available. The goal is to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so encourage healthy snacking. The pantry should include whole wheat bread and cereals and limit low-nutrient snacks as an occasional treat. In addition, serve water or milk and reduce sugar intake by eliminating soda and fruit-flavored drinks.

Parents play an important role in a family’s health because they serve as the models for children to follow. It is important for parents to eat healthy to send the right message. As children follow their parents’ lead, they too will slowly develop healthy eating habits. Acting as a good role model also includes explaining feelings of fullness to discourage overeating. Serving appropriate portion sizes can easily maintain this, too. Also, get children involved in the entire meal process—take them grocery shopping, decide together upon healthy dinner options and teach them to read food labels.

Encouraging children to enjoy outdoor activities by playing games in the yard or going on hikes is another way to develop a healthy home environment. Playing ball with your child or involving them in sports not only helps instill a healthy lifestyle, but also helps them develop coordination and important social skills not attained by sitting in front of a television. Teaching your children the joys of sports early in life can help them find their talents and teach them to appreciate exercise as a form of fun.

Talking positively, encouraging your children and rewarding them with positive feedback helps reinforce good behavior and healthy habits in and outside the home. When your children choose to be active, learn about a topic, select a healthy snack or get involved with others, positively reinforce these actions by supporting your child and ensuring that their good choices are noticed and applauded. This helps build your child’s self-confidence.

Providing your child with consistent responsibilities is an important building block for future success. Even small tasks such as planning and creating their snacks or lunches, sending holiday cards to friends and family, or cleaning the house, offers each the opportunity to take ownership, teaches how to complete the required tasks and also allows you the opportunity to correct their choices along the way.

Exposing a child to a positive environment with positive role models, healthy food options, outside activities and intriguing mental challenges will increase their ability to become a more positive individual. Such an upbringing will help each child make choices that perpetuate a healthy outlook and a healthy lifestyle for years to come.

How to create a healthy and safe environment for your children

By Sarah Merrill and Jamie Sheehan

When we think about early learning environments, what comes to mind? Often, it’s things: alphabet puzzles, books lined up neatly on shelves, blocks, water tables, and more. But the most important part of a positive early learning environment is you. Teachers and family child care providers—all the education staff working with the children are what matter most. Though staff roles may look different across various types of settings (e.g., home-based, center-based, family child care), you remain the most important component of a responsive environment.

Positive early learning environments start with you when you create a positive social and emotional environment that is built on caring and responsive relationships. Children can’t explore and learn, experience joy and wonder, until they feel secure. They need to trust their caregivers and know their needs will be met. Young children need adults to establish the relationships by being consistent and responding to social and emotional cues, both in classrooms and home-based settings.

When you build a unique relationship with children, learn their cues and communications, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and the areas where they need support, you help them feel safe. That’s why providing nurturing, responsive, and effective interactions and engaging environments is the foundation of the Framework for Effective Practice, or the House Framework. The practices at the foundation of the house are critical to promote early learning and development in all domains.

But what you do for the children in your care is not everything! Take care of yourself! Make sure you feel safe and secure in the environment, too. When providers calmly manage the stresses and challenges they experience in an early childhood program, children feel safe and secure.

What helps you keep cool when challenges ramp up? When the toilet breaks one more time? When the children are antsy after a week of rain? Self-regulation skills. “Self-regulation” is your ability to manage your feelings, actions, and thoughts so you stay goal-directed and do not get derailed. For example, when a car pulls out in front of you on the highway, can you stay calm and carefully slow down so you don’t hit it? Will you still get to the movie on time? Your self-regulation skills are at work every day, in so many ways.

Young children are just learning how to regulate their emotions, behavior, and cognition. But they can’t do it alone. They need you! The Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework says it clearly in the Approaches to Learning and Social and Emotional Functioning domains, where the self-regulation goals for young children include “the support of familiar adults.”

Exactly what kind of support can you give young children? It’s called co-regulation. “Co-regulation” is an interactive process where adults provide regulatory support to children in the context of a shared, nurturing relationship. It looks different at different ages, but adult support remains a critical piece of the puzzle throughout childhood. Even as grown-ups, we often need support from others to regulate ourselves—think of when you call your mom or meet a friend to talk through a bad day.

You might co-regulate when a baby is startled by a dog barking loudly. You pick the baby up, rock him, reassure him in a gentle tone, and rub his back until he is calm again. A preschooler becomes incredibly angry when a peer pushes her on the playground. In this case, you might kneel to the child’s level and validate her feelings (e.g., “You’re very mad because someone pushed you!”) and suggest pro-social next steps (e.g., “Should we tell them how you feel?”). When you respond calmly to a child, the child’s feelings often de-escalate. Children tend to turn up the intensity if they feel they aren’t being understood. When you respond calmly, you show children what regulation looks like.

To work with children as they co-regulate, you need to:

  • Identify your own feelings and reactions when you are stressed.
  • Find healthy outlets to manage your emotions. Exercise can be an effective stress management practice for many people, while others find that meditation works best. Experiment and discover which strategies work for you.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts and beliefs about child development, behavior expectations, and individual children. Make sure you’re interacting in developmentally, culturally, and linguistically responsive ways.
  • Use strategies to calm yourself so you can respond to children effectively and compassionately. Decide what works best for you. Drinking a glass of water? Singing a song with the children?

A key part of building a positive early learning environment is providing children with the co-regulation they need. There are three main ways you can do this:

  • First, build a warm and caring relationship with each child and their family. Your goal is to understand their development, communication style, and temperament. Some children may need a lot of support to co-regulate and others not as much. You only know those cues when you know the child. Parents can help you here because they know their children best!
  • Second, create an environment of “yes” for children that buffers them from environmental stressors. Establish predictable routines, transition strategies, and behavioral expectations appropriate to their development. You can also create a “cozy corner” in your classroom or family child care home where children can go if they are feeling overwhelmed. Share these ideas with families so they can create “yes” spaces in their home.
  • Third, offer children intentionally planned learning experiences to help them practice self-regulation skills. For example, you can plan fun activities to help children as young as 18 months learn to name their own feelings, recognize others’ feelings, and self-soothe in moments of distress. Model these skills yourself and point out when you see other children and adults using them, too. Review your curriculum to ensure it offers appropriate social and emotional learning opportunities.

You are the most important part of the early learning environment. Offering young children calm, nurturing, and predictable social and emotional environments, and promoting their self-regulation skills, helps them feel safe and secure so they can learn, play, and grow.

Sarah Merrill and Jamie Sheehan are Program Specialists for the Office of Head Start.

The environment itself plays a significant role in their development.

The importance of building safe learning environments for your learners is something that cannot be overstated. While it’s true that every student learns a bit differently from the next, the environment itself plays a significant role in their development. Safe learning environments translate into comfortable learning environments. They are places where learners feel at home.

In surroundings where students are willing to open their minds and actually listen to what you have to say, you can empower them to achieve their highest potential.

The key to achieving this goal will require you to keep a few important things in mind.

It’s About Students

In your quest to foster safe learning environments, your biggest ally along the way will be your learners themselves. Are your students feeling uneasy about the environment that you’ve already created? Your first step should be to ask them what you could be doing to help them:

  • Are you moving from one lesson to another too quickly? Too slowly?
  • Are they disengaged from one particular topic?
  • Do they like to work by themselves or are they more comfortable breaking down into teams?

No question is too small to ask and no topic should be off the table. Take steps to change yourself to fit in with how they want to learn first and foremost.

Work on Yourself as an Educator

You can create safe learning environments for children if you also lead by example. If you show kids how important kindness is by taking every opportunity to be kind yourself, they will follow. The reverse is also true, however.

If you’re quick to lose your temper, this will set a negative example that will eventually become hard to break from.

Show your students that you yourself are comfortable in the environment that you’ve created. Then before you know it they will begin to grow more at ease themselves.

Celebrate Achievements

One of the major benefits of safe learning environments is that students will begin to take pride in their work and in themselves. One of the best ways to help your kids along on this goal is to skip right to the end result and celebrate their achievements as they are happening.

By celebrating all students, you foster an open environment filled with happiness and creativity.

If a student writes a particular essay you’re really impressed with, read it out loud for everyone else to hear. If a student draws a particularly striking image, post it in public so everyone else can enjoy it. The student may not be comfortable with this, though. As such, they’ll feel a sense of trust if you ask them first.

Build a Judgment-Free Zone

If you ask most adults why they’re afraid of public speaking, one of the most common answers that you will get is that they’re afraid of being judged. The same concept is true of young students.

If they feel like any time they open their mouth to answer a question they might get judged negatively by their peers, they will stop opening themselves up.

To combat this, you need to go out of your way to create an environment free from judgment. Let them know that differing opinions are a great thing and that being “wrong” isn’t a bad thing. Remind them that failure is a learning experience. Even something as simple as this will put you on your way to creating the safe learning environments your kids always dreamed of.

THE SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS CHECKLIST

Here is a quick list of some suggestions and tips to help you out:

  1. Keep a clean and orderly classroom.
  2. Allow students to be openly expressive and encouraging to others.
  3. Celebrate student work in different ways.
  4. Create a list of guidelines that are “law” (ex: no name-calling, bullying, etc.)
  5. Stay calm and in control always.
  6. Practice useful failure and turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
  7. Model kindness every chance you get.
  8. Move around and interact with students, and create a connection.
  9. Be patient and smile.
  10. Feel free to laugh with your students and be vulnerable.
  11. Give kids choices on how they can do assignments.

Every child has the right to grow up in a healthy environment – to live, learn and play in healthy places. Acting to safeguard children’s environments can save millions of lives, reduce disease and provide a safer, healthier world for our children’s future.

How to create a healthy and safe environment for your children

The biggest threats to children’s health lurk in the very places that should be safest – home, school and community. Dangers such as contaminated water, polluted air, lack of basic sanitation, disease-bearing insects and chemical hazards present health risks that disproportionally affect children and cause a huge and unnecessary toll of disease and death.

More than five million children die each year from environment-related diseases and conditions such as diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses, malaria and unintentional injuries. Millions more children are debilitated by these diseases or live with chronic conditions linked to their environment, ranging from allergies to mental and physical disability.

Yet this suffering is not inevitable. There are solutions. Most of the environment-related diseases and deaths can be prevented using effective, low-cost and sustainable tools and strategies.

Creating healthy settings – homes, schools and communities

A wide range of solutions have been developed to combat environmental threats to children’s health (see photo gallery for some examples). Most of these interventions fall in the areas of policy, education, awareness raising, technology development and behavioural change.

Tackling environmental threats requires a concerted, coordinated approach, involving people from many different sectors (e.g. health, education, housing, energy, water and planning). By working together, policy-makers, government officials and community members such as parents, teachers and health workers, can building on existing programmes and adapt interventions to local needs.

This multisectoral, participatory approach has been successfully used in several small-scale projects around the world (see box for examples). The challenge is to implement these successful strategies on a national and global scale to provide all children with a healthy place to live, learn and play.

Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA)

WHO is working with various partners and groups around the world to establish a global alliance to tackle environmental threats to children’s health. This initiative was launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. By drawing on the strengths of many different parties, the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance aims to mobilize support and intensify global action to make children’s environments safe and healthy places to live, play and learn.

Box: Ensuring healthy places – examples of successful projects

The Healthy Homes Project, South Africa
This project was initiated to tackle environmental health problems in an overcrowded, unsanitary inner-city building and its surroundings, where implementation of traditional environmental control measures had failed. A variety of stakeholders was involved. With the support of the local council’s environmental health officers, a tenants committee devised strategies to deal with waste removal and security. Residents volunteered to regularly clean up the local park and surroundings, and engineering students from the local university looked at making improvements to the building design. Overall, this project laid the foundation for a new way to deal with environmental health problems in inner-city buildings, emphasizing community development and stakeholder participation.

Health-promoting schools, Viet Nam
This project set out to make 18 schools cleaner and safer places for children to learn. Teachers, parents, health workers, and specialists in water and sanitation, trained to create health-promoting schools. They then acted by increasing health education, improving water supply and latrines, improving lighting, and providing deworming and eye testing for children. The positive outcomes demonstrated that given training and materials, schools were willing and able to take action.

World Health Day 2003: Shape the future of life
This year’s theme for World Health Day is “healthy environments for children”. Under the slogan “shape the future of life”, events and activities around the world will mobilize action on reducing environmental risks to children’s health.

Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA)
HECA is a new, worldwide alliance to intensify global action on environmental risks to children’s health.

World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA) was inaugurated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August – 4 September 2002).

Infants and toddlers learn best in environments where they can have secure relationships with caring and responsive adults, and where they feel safe and free to explore and learn. One key way infants and toddlers learn is by exploring their environment. Children will naturally be drawn to explore a space that is inviting. Whether the environment is a home, socialization space, or a child care center, creating a safe, playful, and welcoming learning environment requires a thoughtful process. Use these resources to help you think about play spaces, areas for caregiving routines, and ways to integrate home cultures into children’s environments—all important aspects of an engaging environment for infants and toddlers.

Teacher Time: Creating a Responsive Environment for Young Children, Infant/Toddler Episode

Serving children’s interests and developmental level is key in creating a responsive learning environment for infants and toddlers. In this episode, learn about the importance of creating a classroom that fosters trust and security for infants and toddlers. Discover strategies teachers can use in their classrooms.

Promoting Learning Through Approaches to Rest, Meals, Routines, and Physical Activity

In this Standards in Action vignette, take a look at the Head Start Program Performance Standards on promoting learning through approaches to rest, meals, routines, and physical activity. It features a fictional grantee and highlights how program leaders work with others to meet the standards. Use the vignette to reflect on and identify the most appropriate ways to put the standards into practice in your own program.

Continuity of Care

When children are with the same teachers over time, they get the attention and affection they need to have meaningful relationships. In these close bonds, children thrive and learn about themselves. Use this tip sheet to explore how continuity of care is key to the healthy development of young children birth to 3. Learn about three types of continuity of care systems.

Environments That Support High Quality Inclusion Webinar

In this webinar, explore effective, research-based environmental modification practices. Find out how to make accommodations to support children birth to 5 with suspected or identified disabilities. Learn about specific strategies for inclusive services, including changing classroom routines and environments to support individualization. Discover free resources to support staff in adjusting the environment to meet the needs of all children.

Early Essentials Webisode 7: Environments

Find out how environments impact adults and children. In this webisode, hear from Louis Torelli and other experts as they consider environments in your work with infants, young children, and families.

Caring Connections: Let’s Talk About Environments

The way your physical environment is set up sends powerful messages to the infants and toddlers in your care. What messages does your physical environment convey to young children? Are they positive messages of security, trust, comfort, and belonging? Does the space offer children the freedom to move and explore? Listen to this podcast to explore the concept of environmental messages. Find out how the physical environment impacts relationships between children and adults. There are also strategies and suggestions for creating and sustaining environments that convey positive messages.

Supporting Outdoor Play and Exploration for Infants and Toddlers

In this technical assistance paper, learn more about the benefits of outdoor time for infants and toddlers. Find ways to create outdoor play spaces. Explore safety considerations, strategies, and policies that support this important part of quality infant-toddler programming.

Spending Time Outdoors Matters for Infants and Toddlers!

Listen to this podcast to learn about some of the benefits that infants and toddlers gain by spending quality time outside. Discover ways Early Head Start staff and parents can make the most of outdoor time.

Nature-Based Learning and Development

Nature play is important for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, families, staff, and communities. Learn how children who regularly play in nature are growing up healthy, smart, and happy.

Outdoor Play Benefits

Children are spending less and less time playing outdoors. Research has shown that children who play outdoors regularly are happier, healthier, and stronger. Learn about some of the health benefits and get ideas for fun outdoor activities.

Infant and Toddler Outdoor Play Space Assessment

Learn about the Infant and Toddler Outdoor Play Space Assessment. It is designed to assist Head Start staff and early childhood educators in assessing the quality of outdoor play spaces for young children. Use this tool to help identify the strengths and needs of an existing play space and as a basis for setting priorities and planning enhancements and improvements. Head Start directors, managers, and other educators may also use this tool to help plan and design a new play space.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe: A Developmental Guide

Explore this tool to find safety tips for early childhood staff working with young children in classroom environments. In each section, find development and safety tips organized by daily routines. Some tips apply to all children. Others address the developmental needs of children in a specific age group. If the children in your classroom fit more than one developmental level, review the safety tips for each.

Keep Children Safe Using Active Supervision

Children learn best when they are in safe, well-supervised environments. Head Start staff can reduce the possibility of a child getting hurt when they closely observe children and respond when needed. Use these resources to help programs think systematically about child supervision. Find ways to create safe, positive learning environments for all children. Using active supervision means that programs develop a systems approach for child supervision, provide staff development and resources to ensure program-wide implementation, and use redundant strategies to ensure no child is left unattended.

News You Can Use

How to create a healthy and safe environment for your childrenExplore this e-newsletter to find topics important to staff who work directly with infants, toddlers, and families, including expectant families (e.g., home visitors, teachers, family child care providers). In each edition, find information on one particular topic. Review the vignettes to see how the information can be used in daily practice.

Young children experience their world through their relationships with parents and other caregivers. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to preventing child abuse and neglect. The Essentials for Childhood Framework pdf icon [24.3 MB, 36 Pages, 508] includes strategies to promote relationships and environments that can help create neighborhoods, communities, and a world in which every child can thrive.

The Essentials for Childhood Framework is intended for communities committed to both, promoting the positive development of children and families and preventing child abuse and neglect. The framework has four goal areas and suggests strategies based on the best available evidence to achieve each goal. The four goal areas include:

  • Goal 1: Raise awareness and commitment to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments and prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Goal 2: Use data to inform actions
  • Goal 3: Create the context for healthy children and families through norms change and programs
  • Goal 4: Create the context for healthy children and families through policies

States Implementing the Framework

CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention is funding seven state health departments in California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Utah, and Washington to implement the four goals. CDC also offers technical assistance and training to other states that do not receive CDC funding but are engaged at varying levels in implementing the Framework. State health departments:

  • Coordinate and manage partnerships with other child abuse and neglect prevention organizations and non-traditional partners involved in assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children
  • Work with partners to identify and align strategies across sectors
  • Identify, coordinate, monitor, and report on the strategies implemented by multi-sector partners
  • Document state-level impact of these efforts

Framework Resources

  • Essentials for Childhood Framework: Fact Sheet pdf icon [258 KB, 1 Page, 508]
  • Essentials for Childhood: Steps to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children pdf icon [24.3 MB, 36 Pages, 508]
    • Building Community Commitment for Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments pdf icon [6 MB, 16 Pages, 508]
    • Promoting Positive Community Norms pdf icon [1 MB, 12 Pages, 508]
    • Boost Your Competitive Edge: Actions for a Healthy, Productive Workforce pdf icon [5 MB, 12 Pages]
    • Making the Case: Engaging Businesses
    • Suggested Practices for Journalists Reporting on Child Abuse and Neglect pdf icon [2.65 MB, 12 Pages, 508]
  • Children Benefit When Parents Have Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments pdf icon [213 KB, 2 Pages, 508]

Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers

Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers is a free, online resource designed for parents of 2 to 4 year olds. It addresses common parenting challenges, like tantrums and whining. This resource provides information on things parents can do to build a positive, healthy relationship. Skills focus on encouraging good behavior and decreasing misbehavior using proven strategies like positive communication, structure and rules, clear directions, and consistent discipline and consequences. Essentials for Parenting includes:

  • Articles with a variety of skills, tips, and techniques
  • “Frequently Asked Questions” answered by parenting experts
  • Fun and engaging videos featuring parents, children, and parenting experts who demonstrate and discuss skills
  • Free print resources like chore charts and daily schedules

How to create a healthy and safe environment for your children

I visit a lot of classrooms. And I’m always fascinated by the variety of ways teachers launch the new school year and also with how they “run their rooms” on a daily basis. From these visits and my own experiences as an instructor, I’d like to offer my top 20 suggestions for keeping your classroom a safe, open, and inviting place to learn.

1. Community Build All Year Long. Routinely include strategies and activities in your lessons, such as Save the Last Word for Me, that allow students to express their thoughts and ideas, build relationships, and practice collaboration. This will help grow and maintain a feeling of emotional safety in your classroom.

2. Post Student Work. When displays of essays, poems, projects, and exams dominate the walls, there is student ownership of the room. When they look around and see their own writing and thinking, they certainly experience a higher level of comfort than if they see store-bought posters. That said, if informational posters are needed, ask your students to create them.

3. Have Non-Negotiables. Along with classroom rules and procedures, students must know non-negotiables right out of the gate. My biggest non-negotiable? Name calling. This resulted in an immediate consequence (a call to the dean and removal from the classroom that day). Tackle name calling head on or else kids won’t feel safe to be themselves, let alone learn.

4. Admit When You Don’t Know. Students appreciate when we show our humanity. Saying “I’m not really sure. Does anyone else know or might they like to look that up for us?” is powerful stuff.

5. Read with Your Students. The message this sends: I like to read. I don’t just tell you this and grade you on how much you read, I read side-by-side with you. You see my facial expressions as I struggle to understand something difficult and you see when I feel emotion at a sad or funny part. I am a reader, too.

6. Remain Calm at All Times. Once a teacher loses it with a class or student, it takes a long time to rebuild that feeling of safety and trust within those four walls. Step right outside the door and take a few breaths. It’s worth it.

7. Take Every Opportunity to Model Kindness. They will follow.

8. Circulate. Mingling lets you monitor their work, yes, but it also gives you a close view of any tensions or negative energy brewing with groups or between students. Also, circulating gives you great opportunities to overhear a student sharing an idea or question that you can use with the whole class.

9. Address Grudges Early On. If tension is building between a couple of students, create time and space for them to talk it out while you mediate.

10. Write with Your Students. The message this sends: I like to write. I don’t just tell you this and grade you on your writing, I write side-by-side with you. You see me struggle as I am drafting a poem or letter, and you see me contemplate new words, cross-out old ones, and take chances as I revise. I am a writer, too.

11. Model Vulnerability. They will appreciate this. If we are asking kids to write and talk about times they have felt scared, alone, confused, etc., we need to be willing to do the same.

12. Follow Through with Consequences. A consequence must proceed a non-negotiable. Students need to know there’s a consequence for those serious infractions. They need evidence to believe they are safe in each classroom.

13. Smile Often. The antiquated saying in the teaching profession is wait until Christmas to smile. This is just plain silly. Let the children see those pearly whites often and genuinely. The more smiles we offer to students, the more we will receive.

14. Use Every Opportunity to Model Patience. They will notice.

15. Give Kids a Chance to Problem Solve on Their Own. It’s so much better when ideas and solutions come from the student. This is a chance for us to ask rather than tell: “What might be some things you can start doing so you complete your homework on time? How about I write them down as you tell them to me?”

16. Laugh with your Students. The message this sends: Learning doesn’t have to always be so serious, nor do we. Sometimes, when tensions are high, like during testing or when crazy things are happening out in the world or on campus, we need to laugh together. It’s okay.

17. Offer Options. If we start an assignment with, “You will have three choices,” kids may even get excited and are often much more willing than when we say, “The assignment is. .” By giving kids choices, we send a message that we respect their decisions.

18. Keep the Vibes Good. Students, no matter how young, know when a teacher is not happy. Joy can be contagious, but so too can misery. Maybe a vacation, a massage, watching a TED Talk, or even changing the level of grade you teach will help re-kindle the flame between you and teaching when you are in a slump.

19. Sit with Your Students. Sitting in a chair made for a child is not the most comfortable thing for an adult. But joining a group of children at their table takes us off stage and let’s us, even just for a few moments, become a member of the group. We might ask a strategic question, inquire about the group’s project, or simply listen.

20. Art and Music Feed the Soul. (And they starve the beast.) Incorporate both of these routinely in your lessons.

Do any of these especially resonate with you? How do you create a safe learning environment for your students? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us.