CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Building Healthy Habits at School

By Anna Marrs | July 8, 2019

As early childhood educators, our goal is to provide children with strong foundations that set them up for success. These foundations transcend the academically-focused, Kindergarten-readiness skills and also include supporting the physical, mental, social, and emotional health of all children. 

What Health Concepts Should Teachers Reinforce?

While parents and families play a pivotal role in teaching children healthy habits and routines, teachers can reinforce these behaviors at school. In particular, teachers can also help support and reinforce the oral vocabulary related to health. 

Proper Hygiene: Hygiene and cleanliness are important habits that children will use every day in a variety of settings, especially in school settings to stop the spread of germs. Specific habits to reinforce include hand washing after the bathroom and before eating, covering their mouths when they sneeze and cough, and using tissues to wipe their noses. Proper dental hygiene, while not a part of the everyday school routine, is an additional important habit that educators can reinforce.

Eating Healthy Foods: Teachers can both model and encourage healthy eating. Teachers can lead conversations about fruits and vegetables, provide healthy food at snack or meal times, and model eating healthy foods when sharing meals with children. As part of eating healthy foods, teachers should reinforce the importance of drinking water and milk, as opposed to sugary drinks.

Daily Sleep and Exercise: Getting sufficient sleep and exercise each day are essential for young children and continue to be important precursors for school success. Teachers can reinforce these habits through creating structured time for both at school.

Fun ways to Teach Healthy Habits

Read-Alouds: Read-alouds are a great tool to teach concepts in all learning domains. They foster discussions about characters’ behaviors and how that behavior might compare to children’s own behavior. They are also a great tool that educators can refer back to when discussing a concept. For example, “Did you take a bath like Pigeon last night?”

Some of our favorite books about health include:

  1. Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems
  2. The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
  3. I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
  4. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Songs and Poems: Songs and poems are great tools to help children remember the steps to a routine. Rhymes and tunes are fun for children to practice as they create healthy habits. 

Some of our favorite songs include:

  1. Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands (to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat)
    • Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands
    • Don’t forget the soap!
    • Rub and rub and rub and rub
    • Wash the germs away! Yay!
  2. Run in Place (to the tune of Frere Jacques)
    • Run in place (x2)
    • Touch the sky (x2)
    • Hop on one foot (x2)
    • Now switch legs (x2)

Activities: Teachers can structure a variety of activities and lessons to reinforce healthy habits. For example, teachers can:

  1. Encourage children to “shop” for healthy foods in the classroom food area
  2. Structure practice time for children to practice brushing and flossing “teeth” (use ice cube trays as fake teeth!)
  3. Allow children to model hygiene routines, like bath time, with dolls
  4. Invite doctors and dentists into the classroom to remind children that these professionals are not intimidating
  5. Provide opportunities for children to role play as a doctor or dentist with dolls and stuffed animals
  6. Teach simple yoga moves and include opportunities for movement in daily routines
A magical backpack of learning with school supplies, planets, and a spaceship flying out of it

Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter

In partnership with HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter is a twice a month collection of topical research articles, tips for educators, and unique ways COR Advantage can support the documentation and communication of child development.

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About COR Advantage

COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Anna Marrs

Anna Marrs is a former early childhood and elementary literacy curriculum developer for Bridge International Academies and a former 1st grade teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and now works on the Partnerships team at COR Advantage.