As caregivers, we may not be able to ensure that children’s needs are met 100% of the time, but we can be sure that their needs are met 100% of the time they are in our care. Take a moment to reflect on your environment, daily routine, and teaching practices. Think about the messages these elements send to children about how well their basic needs will be met.
Here are a few practices that will help children understand that their needs will be met when they are in your care:
- Provide nutritious meals and snacks. Create a plan to provide seconds or additional snacks for all children, and especially for children whose families may be experiencing economic hardship or homelessness.
- Create a consistent daily routine. This helps children understand that their need for food and rest are a priority and will always be honored.
- Make water available at all times. This is a small step that speaks volumes about your commitment to children’s well-being. Encourage children to stay hydrated and drink water often.
- Never use food as a reward or punishment. Food is a basic human need, the receipt of which is not dependent on a particular set of behaviors. Do not threaten children (ever or) with the loss of a snack. At the same time, don’t promise a reward of food to a child in order to encourage a particular behavior.
- Incorporate daily physical activities. In addition to outdoor free play, add a few organized physical activities or games to your curriculum plan. Talk with children about the importance of building strong bodies and establishing healthy fitness habits.
- Have extra clothing available. You may find extra cold weather wear or extra sets of clothing at a charity thrift stores. Some communities even have free clothing giveaways or free-cycle resources (www.freecycle.org).
- Conduct regular safety checks of the environment. Create program policies and practices that ensure the physical environment is free from hazards. Include the outdoor environment in your regular inspections.
- Create a set of rules or expectations that focus on safety. One rule could simple be, “We keep each other safe.” This expectation covers any behavior that might cause a child harm, including hitting, pushing, or biting. Be sure that you share the expectations often and remind the children that everyone has to follow the rules, even the adults.
These practices are just a few of the ways that you can create an environment that consistently communicates to children that their needs will be met and that they are safe in your care.
For the main article on Meeting Children’s Most Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Children and Toxic Stress, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Emotional Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Director’s Corner: Supporting Families to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE