Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.4 Health Education

2.4.1 Health Education for Children Health and Safety Education Topics for Children

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 1/10/2017 and 5/30/2018


Health and safety education topics for children should include physical, oral, mental, nutritional, and social and emotional health, and physical activity. These topics should be integrated daily into the program of age-appropriate activities, to include:

     a.Body awareness and use of appropriate terms for body parts

     b.Families, including that families have varying compositions, beliefs, and cultures

     c. Personal social skills, such as sharing, being kind, helping others, and communicating appropriately

     d. Expression and identification of feelings

     e.Self-esteem and self-awareness

     f.Nutrition and healthy eating, drinking water, including healthy habits and preventing obesity

     g. Healthy sleep habits

     h. Outdoor learning/play

     i. Fitness and age-appropriate physical activity

     j. Personal and dental hygiene, including wiping, flushing, handwashing, cough and sneezing etiquette, and tooth brushing

     k. Safety, such as home, vehicular car seats and safety belts, playground, bicycle, fire, firearms, water, and hat to do in an emergency, getting help, and/or dialing 911 for

     l. Conflict management, violence prevention, and bullying prevention

     m. Age-appropriate first aid concepts

     n.Healthy and safe behaviors

     o. Poisoning prevention and poison safety

     p. Awareness of routine preventive care

     q. Care of children with special health care needs

     r. Health risks of secondhand and third-hand smoke

     s. Appropriate use of medications

     t. Handling food safely

     u. Preventing choking and falls


For young children, health education and safety education are inseparable from one another. Children learn about health and safety by experiencing risk-taking and risk control, fostered and modeled by adults who are involved with them. Whenever opportunities for learning arise, caregivers/teachers should integrate education to promote healthy and safe behaviors.1 Health and safety education does not have to be seen as a structured curriculum but as a daily component of the planned program that is part of a child’s development and habit. Health and safety education supports and reinforces a healthy and safe lifestyle (1,2).


Teaching children the appropriate names for their body parts is a good way to increase body awareness and personal safety. Learning about routine health maintenance practices, such as vaccination, vision screening, blood pressure screening, oral health examinations, and blood tests, helps children understand these activities and appreciate their value rather than fearing them. Similarly, learning about the importance of nutrition, drinking water, fitness, and healthy sleeping habits helps children make responsible healthful decisions. Good sleep hygiene (3) (e.g., early and routine bedtimes) and obtaining a sufficient amount of sleep in early childhood4 are associated with improved social and emotional (5,6) cognitive, and weight outcomes (7-10).

Child care health consultants and certified health education specialists are good resources for this instruction. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing provides information on certified health education specialists.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthy sleep habits: how many hours does your child need? Web site. Updated March 23, 2017. Accessed November 14, 2017

Bonuck KA, Schwartz B, Schechter C. Sleep health literacy in Head Start families and staff: exploratory study of knowledge, motivation, and competencies to promote healthy sleep. Sleep Health. 2016;2(1):19–24

Kobayashi K, Yorifuji T, Yamakawa M, et al. Poor toddler-age sleep schedules predict school-age behavioral disorders in a longitudinal survey. Brain Dev. 2015;37(6):572–578

Owens JA, Witmans M. Sleep problems. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2004;34(4):154–179

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Child Care Health Consultants Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants Written Daily Activity Program and Statement of Principles Health, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Safety Awareness Transitioning within Programs and Indoor and Outdoor Learning/Play Environments Handling Physical Aggression, Biting, and Hitting Gender and Body Awareness Caregivers’/Teachers’ Encouragement of Physical Activity Scheduled Rest Periods and Sleep Arrangements Oral Health Education Handwashing Procedure Cough and Sneeze Etiquette Foods that Are Choking Hazards Nutrition Learning Experiences for Children Nutrition Education for Parents/Guardians
  1. Sharma M. Health education and health promotion. In: Theoretical Foundations of Health Education and Health Promotion. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017:4–7

  2. Lyn R, Evers S, Davis J, Maalouf J, Griffin M. Barriers and supports to implementing a nutrition and physical activity intervention in child care: directors’ perspectives. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014;46(3);171–180

  3. Anderson SE, Andridge R, Whitaker RC. Bedtime in preschool-aged children and risk for adolescent obesity. J Pediatr. 2016;176:17–22

  4. Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, et al. Consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children: methodology and discussion. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(11):1549–1561
  5. Sivertsen B, Harvey AG, Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Torgersen L, Ystrom E, Hysing M. Later emotional and behavioral problems associated with sleep problems in toddlers: a longitudinal study. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(6):575–582

  6. Bonuck K, Freeman K, Chervin RD, Xu L. Sleep-disordered breathing in a population-based cohort: behavioral outcomes at 4 and 7 years. Pediatrics. 2012;129(4):e857–e865

  7. Institute of Medicine. Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies: Goals, Recommendations, and Potential Actions. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine; 2011. Published June 2011. Accessed November 14, 2017

  8. Fatima Y, Doi SA, Mamun AA. Longitudinal impact of sleep on overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: a systematic review and bias-adjusted meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015;16(2):137–149

  9. Li L, Zhang S, Huang Y, Chen K. Sleep duration and obesity in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Paediatr Child Health. 2017;53(4):378–385

  10. Bonuck K, Chervin RD, Howe LD. Sleep-disordered breathing, sleep duration, and childhood overweight: a longitudinal cohort study. J Pediatr. 2015;166(3):632–639


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 1/10/2017 and 5/30/2018