Although wellbeing is a term we frequently hear when discussing adults and teenagers, we don't consider it when addressing young children. We understand the impact of mental health on teenagers but often overlook the most vulnerable members of society. If we start encouraging wellbeing within the early years, we are setting them up for the skills and qualities needed in life.
What is Wellbeing?
Wellbeing extends beyond feeling okay, surviving, or coping with life. Instead, it is committing to flourishing, blossoming, and generally thriving. Wellbeing incorporates a mutable dynamic meant to shift and adjust instead of remaining stale. We need to alter the belief that surviving is satisfactory; it needs to change with circumstance and become restored through positive, cognitive decisions.
To experience wellbeing, we need to pre-dispose ourselves to it completely. Many of these factors vary between internal and external. The internal elements can be impaired or enhanced by external factors but also heavily relies on how we interpret and engage with those factors.
Two different images represent the aspect of wellbeing. The first suggests an 'inner glow. This imagery suggests the subjective elements of an individual's wellbeing, typically connected with emotional wellbeing and a positive sense of self. These components are gained from secure relationships early in life.
Subsequently, a set of Russian Dolls can offer insight into other aspects of wellbeing. This imagery represents the external and social factors that influence the wellbeing of the adults caring for them. In turn, these adults hold external influences like social circumstances, financial impact, and other national economic policies.
How can wellbeing affect a child's development, and why is it important?
Children require a healthy and balanced lifestyle during the early stages, which is imperative for achieving and maintaining growth. A child's wellbeing is critical to mental, emotional, physical, social, and environmental development. Basic needs include the following aspects:
Food and Water
Maintaining a balanced diet helps stimulate physical and psychological development. It underpins brain development.
Rest, Sleep, and Play
There is a physiological need for the body to repair, rejuvenate, and grow. This period of rest is equally important as a balanced diet.
Physical Activity and Social Interaction
Both of these activities can increase life expectancy and decrease the probability of cardiovascular disease. These aspects will help encourage physical, social, and psychological benefits.
Helping to regulate the body's temperature properly is essential for a child's wellbeing. This aspect also promotes self-awareness and bodily autonomy.
Sunlight and Fresh Air
Sun exposure is vital for Vitamin D, helping the body absorb calcium for more robust and healthier bones. When regulated and controlled, it also decreases depression and lowers hyperactivity. Finally, children will learn a greater appreciation for nature and wildlife.
Affection and Love
Children feel good about themselves when they know they are valued and cared for. This increases when a child knows someone special to them acknowledges their efforts, promoting positive relationships, independence, and a caring spirit.
It's essential to offer opportunities to experience rich language to express themselves, listen, speak, and stimulate curiosity about their environment. Children thrive when they have feelings of awe and peace, including the opportunity to share thoughts and explore sensitivities and connections.
Attention and Praise
A child learns to recognize uniqueness, individuality, and creativity. These actions promote self-worth while giving a sense of appreciation and opportunities to learn how to manage their feelings.
Shelter and Security
Working to safeguard and protect little ones from danger helps build trust. It also helps children see happiness by enjoying the world around them in a relaxed atmosphere.
Health care and Hygiene
Learning to establish day-to-day care routines is essential for lifelong habits. These habits need to be practised and reinforced in the early years to protect against germs and infections and promote personal responsibility, standards, and self-esteem.
All children require a high level of stability and routine, promoting confidence and structure. Consistency also teaches resilience toward life challenges and obstacles.
It's important to remember that wellbeing incorporates all elements of wellness, from physical to mental. These factors contribute to the overall state of wellbeing.
Adverse Experiences and the Impact on Children
Every time a child faces a difficult challenge, it takes a toll on them in various ways. Just as wellbeing positively influences a young child's growth and development, adverse experiences can negatively impact the individual. Negative childhood experiences are potentially traumatic situations children face, whether divorce or violence in the home.
An adverse experience won't guarantee a future issue; instead, it heightens the child's potential risk of mental health issues, injury, infectious or chronic disease, risky behaviours, and lack of income/education. ACEs can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Although you never want to expose your children to ACEs, learning to protect your children from excessive risk is the easiest option for childcare providers. Ensure all children receive authoritative direction. Develop clear standards and boundaries while remaining responsive to the child's needs. Instead of dictating what the child does, allow the children to communicate freely. Encourage all educators and staff to maintain a loving and secure attachment with the children to minimize the impact of ACEs overall.
Evidence of Wellbeing (Appearance/behaviours)
A child in a state of wellbeing has a few physical attributes and behaviours. While these indicators aren't exclusive, they suggest a child's wellbeing overall. Physical appearance may include:
- Looking healthy and well cared for.
- Using dynamic facial expressions (like smiling or bright and sparkling eyes).
- Identifiable body language.
Body language might include a relaxed posture with the ability to maintain eye contact. Children will always display wellbeing through body movement too. Actions involve running, dancing, jumping, clapping hands, being bouncy, or moving happily with intent.
Behaviours are also identifiable when looking for wellbeing in children. These actions include friendliness, empathy, caring, and regulating emotions. Additionally, children will become curious and want to explore. Most children will willingly interact with peers, adults, and the environment while maintaining an enthusiastic attitude. The child embracing wellbeing will show pride in their achievements while quickly recovering from disappointments and mistakes. Youth will hold a sense of belonging, eager to try new things and join in. Persistence, involvement, and engagement in all activities within the centre or with peers are also easy to identify. Finally, a child maintaining wellbeing is willing to take calculated risks confidently.
5 Ways to Wellbeing - Ideas for Childcare Providers on How to Support Children's Wellbeing
One essential factor in helping children improve their wellbeing is ensuring they are loved for the unique individual they are. While parents and caregivers hold a valuable role in this, caregivers also have their part to play in developing this mindset. Educators can show children they are loved through the interactions we hold with them.
Consider how you welcome your children into care each day. Notice how they look, whether it's a new haircut or a fun shirt. Show warmth and compassion in your smile and words. The goal is to show children they are cared for and welcomed and that you're delighted to see them.
To support young children's wellbeing, here are a few practical Ideas:
1. Play Outside
Studies have shown that children need time outside. Whether the children explore, run, climb, or discover, get them involved with outdoor activities. Ask the kids in your centre to help build an obstacle course for one another, considering the tools and resources they'll need to complete the project. Ask older children to make or create a treasure hunt for younger kids. Have them draw the map and plan out a route.
2. Incorporate Emotional Language
Educators must help young minds understand feelings and emotional language to help them express themselves. Even when children are infants, educators can validate a baby crying to be fed with, "it's okay; I know you're hungry. Let's feed you now." Adding descriptive words for the emotions a toddler feels helps connect children with the words to their thoughts or actions.
3. Slow Down
Our lives are constantly busy, with children's lives staying just as complicated. We must help children find time to rest and enjoy the silence. Do you have spaces within your setting for children to lay back and daydream? You can also incorporate yoga and mindfulness into the centre.
4. Encourage creativity
Creativity is essential for wellbeing. Children need space to be creative and join in the process. Try to find times when children can dance, sing, and experience the arts. Give children the opportunity to experiment with different materials or mark-making. It's not about the finished product; it's embracing the experience.
5. Join In
Children naturally have a passion for discovering and learning. They require adults who want to learn and explore together. Becoming a co-explorer and adventurer with children is an effortless way to Interact and engage. Children are great at building interests, whether a stick or snail. As adults, we can express our interests and commit to learning alongside them.
If you're looking for additional resources to Incorporate mindfulness into your centre or facility, check out the following links for more details.
This includes resources for all childcare centres and educators wanting to build a better understanding of wellbeing in young children. Resources include books, reports, working papers, and seminars.
Working with children through big emotions often starts with understanding the best approach. The Children's Society offers explainers, videos, and worksheets to help your children work through their feelings healthily and beneficially.
Providers and educators looking for Intentional and planned activities to promote wellbeing within the centre will enjoy the comprehensive guide on all products and services for young children. All links and resources are tailored to young minds, with various media and learning objectives.
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