Image of formThe environments we inhabit profoundly impact our physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being. This is especially true for the brains and bodies of developing children. It becomes crucial to ensure the environments they encounter are inspiring, healthy, safe, and contain developmentally appropriate materials and equipment. Given that many children spend a substantial portion of their weekdays out of their homes and in child care spaces, it is essential to be vigilant about environmental risks.

Environmental health revolves around the connection between individuals and their surroundings. It focuses on the relationship between people and their environment and intentionally monitors or mitigates the factors in the environment that impact health and contribute to disease. The World Health Organization emphasizes that young children are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards due to their developing systems and behaviors. Children tend to be closer to the ground, place items in their mouths, and have a faster rate of respiration than adults. This underscores the important practice of evaluating our environments as they play a critical role in determining our health and well-being.

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Childcare Education Institute

list of assessmentsThe Community Development Institute, with financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Healthy Learning Environments grant, has developed an environmental self-assessment tool for early childhood spaces. The primary objective of this environmental self-assessment is to build awareness of potential environmental exposures, identify potential areas of improvement, and provide valuable resources to address identified concerns.

It is well-known how hard early care and education providers work to create safe and inspiring environments. The use of the tool can complement those efforts and greatly contribute to an enhanced experience of health, safety, and quality for children, families, and staff. The tool is free and can be accessed at cdihealthyspaces.org along with a prerecorded training highlighting some environmental risks and tips for using the tool.

References

World Health Organization-Chemical Safety and Health Unit, Environment, Climate Change and Health. (2019). Children are not little adults: training for health care providers, 2n ed. who.int

Monica Duncan

Monica Duncan is an employee of Community Development Institute and serves as the director of Thrive Community Building. Thrive is the sister organization to CDI and is a non-profit organization that partners with those committed to improving and raising the standards of early childhood environments so that children can learn, grow and thrive. With over 20 years of experience in program development, Duncan is passionate about relationship building, respecting community and culture, and identifying strategies that leverage programmatic sustainability and success.

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