Effective Practice Guides

Health, Safety, and Nutrition: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-PMP 9. Child demonstrates healthy behaviors with increasing independence as part of everyday routines.
  • IT-PMP 10. Child uses safe behaviors with support from adults.
  • IT-PMP 11. Child demonstrates increasing interest in engaging in healthy eating habits and making nutritious food choices.

Teaching Practices


Involve children in performing self-care routines and encourage them to perform routines with increasing independence, as developmentally and culturally appropriate.
Ms. Stone is visiting 8-month-old Carmella and her mother, Ms. Pizzo, at feeding time. Mother and child sit in a corner of the sofa, enjoying their time together. Carmella pats the bottle and then grasps it on her own. Ms. Pizzo says, "I think she is almost ready to hold her own bottle." "I think you are right," says Ms. Stone. "Next time I come, you will still be having cozy feeding times, but Carmella may be holding her own bottle."

Encourage children to explore healthy and nutritious foods. Make sure to follow your program's policies for when and how to introduce new food to infants. Also, make sure the food is culturally appropriate and that children are not allergic to the food.
Mr. Eddy sits with three 18-month-old toddlers at a table. He has cut ripe avocados in half, taken out the seeds, and given each child an avocado half and a spoon. As the children begin exploring the avocado using their fingers and spoons, Mr. Eddy watches them. He comments on what they are doing and asks questions: "You used your fingers to scoop out some avocado and put it in your mouth. The avocado is ripe. It's soft and mushy on your fingers and in your mouth!” "Avocados are fruits, just like apples and oranges. Fruit is good for you.” “I'm watching your face as you put a spoonful of avocado in your mouth. You look surprised! How does it taste?" 


Arrange the setting so children can find and access what they need to stay healthy.
"I gonna sneeze," says a panicky Felipe, age 28 months. "That's okay," says Ms. Harms, "grab a tissue from the box on the shelf so you'll be ready to catch it." Felipe, who uses a standing walker, reaches for a tissue just in time to catch his sneeze. Ms. Harms says, "Remember to throw away your used tissue." 

Create a "Yes" setting that allows children to safely play and learn.
In Ms. Juniper's family child care home, the toddlers like to wave goodbye to their families when they leave for work. To ensure safety and encourage independence, she places a slip-resistant stool at the window. It's just tall enough so toddlers can step up and wave from the goodbye window on their own.


Allow a child to do as much self-care as he or she is able.
After Alma has a clean diaper, Ms. Mullens prepares to change the 9-month-old's wet shirt. She seats Alma on the changing table and says, "Alma, we're going to change your wet shirt. Please hold your arms up high." Alma lifts her arms and Ms. Mullens gently removes the shirt. She holds up two shirts and says, "This one or this one?" Alma grabs one of the shirts and Ms. Mullen says, "That's a cozy shirt. Now, hold your arms up again and we'll put it on."

Respond promptly and consistently when a child needs assistance.
With varied success, the children in the toddler room have been using tongs as a serving tool and to build their fine motor skills. At snack time, Ms. Reed serves crackers and cubes of low-fat cheese. She places forks and several pairs of tongs on the table next to the cheese. Hugo says, "I am so hungry!" He reaches for the tongs and tries using them to pick up the cheese. "Oh no," he says. "These are no good." Ms. Reed steps in and says, "You can use a fork for the cheese, Hugo. I think the tongs can be too frustrating when you are extra hungry."

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-PMP 4. Child demonstrates personal hygiene and self-care skills.
  • P-PMP 5. Child develops knowledge and skills that help promote nutritious food choices and eating habits.
  • P-PMP 6. Child demonstrates knowledge of personal safety practices and routines.

Teaching Practices


Model and talk about what adults do to stay safe and healthy.
Ms. Stein joins a group of children seated at the self-service snack table. She puts a few cinnamon apples on her plate and says, "I love cinnamon apples. They taste good and they are good for me." "Me, too," says Akim. "They are tasty good." Ms. Stein continues, "Did you know we should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day? I had blueberries on my cereal so that was number one. These apples make two."

Acknowledge and comment on children's use of safe and healthy practices.
"Peter," says Mr. Fiorina, "I saw you walk way behind the swings this morning. You didn't want to be too close to them." "Yeah," replies Peter, "I didn't want someone to bump into me and knock me down. That happened to me once and I got hurt." Mr. Fiorina invites Peter to tell his story at afternoon group time. "Okay," says Peter. "I want my friends to be safe."


Provide child-size dishes, cutlery, and serving pieces for snack and mealtimes.
During a home visit, Ms. Jackson tries out her home visitor's suggestion to let her children serve themselves at snack and meal times. She and the home visitor, Ms. Frost, sit down and eat a snack with the children. "More carrots, please," says Miranda, age 3. Her brother, Luis, age 4½, uses two hands to pass the bowl to her. She spoons some carrots on her plate. Luis asks for the cheese cubes and Miranda passes them to him, again using two hands to pass the platter. Using a fork, he moves several pieces of low-fat cheese from the platter to his plate. "Is cheese good for me?" Luis asks. Ms. Jackson responds that cheese is healthy and delicious. Later, she comments to Ms. Frost, "That worked really well. The children ate everything on their plates without me nagging them." "They also learned that cheese is a healthy choice and delicious, too. And, they used their eyes and hands to pass the bowl and platter and use the utensils," responded Ms. Frost.

Arrange the setting so children can carry out personal hygiene and self-care activities independently.
In Ms. Lesser's family child care home, the children use the bathroom next to the play room. Jeremy takes out one of the two stepstools stored under the sink and uses it to reach the toilet. After he's done, he moves the stepstool to the sink and washes his hands. Next, he dries his hands with a paper towel, steps on the trash container pedal, and tosses the towel inside. 


Remind a child of a safety rule and why it is important.
While on a neighborhood walk with her teachers and classmates, Angela, age 4, suddenly drops hold of her ring on the walking rope. She hurries to pick a flower peeking out of a chain link fence, saying, "Look at this yellow flower, everyone." Ms. Emerson catches up with Angela and crouches to the child's level. "Angela, when we walk in the neighborhood, everyone has to hold on to the walking rope. That's how we all stay safe. You might get hurt if you go off on your own."

Learn important health and safety terms in families' home languages to ensure all children understand how to keep themselves safe and healthy.
Mr. Wells is an English speaker who is learning some words and phrases in Spanish to support children's understanding. He reminds the children, "It's hot today. Hace calor. We need to drink lots of water. Bebemos mucha agua." He asks for a volunteer to help him carry the water cooler outside. Emilio raises his hand and Mr. Wells responds, "Gracias, Emilio. Thank you for your help."

Last Updated: August 3, 2018