Preschool Learning Guidelines for Health Education

Overview of the Preschool Learning Guidelines for Health Education

In the preschool years, brain and body development are critically linked. It is through physical activity and body movement that the brain internalizes the foundations of laterality (left, right), directionality (up, down, in, out), and position in space (over, under, behind). These concepts are critical to mathematical thinking as well as to beginning reading and writing. They lay the basis for the child to “see” how letters are formed and put together in patterns called words, and to translate this understanding into symbols on paper in the form of writing. Children should be encouraged to engage routinely in block building, or other spatial and manipulative activities, as well as in music, art, dramatic play, and language activities, in order to stimulate both sides of the brain.

At the preschool level, there should be strong emphasis on both gross and fine motor development activities. Developing the large muscles will give support to the small muscles in the hands and fingers. Outdoor play should be an integral part of the daily curriculum, all year and in all seasons, and should be viewed as an opportunity for learning. Activities that promote sound physical development help children develop both skills and confidence in using their bodies and the equipment they play with.

Socially, preschool children are moving into a wider circle of relationships with peers and with adults other than family members. Many children need to learn how to play in a group setting. Three-year-olds are egocentric and have a hard time waiting for a turn. Four year olds who have had some experience in groups may be aware of group expectations but still need to be reminded of rules and routines. Preschool children need guidance to develop the ability to share, take turns, lead, follow, and be a friend.

Emotionally, the young child’s growing independence involves taking gradual steps away from the security of an adult’s presence and protection and fulfilling the drive toward separateness and individuality. Preschoolers’ drive for independence needs to be supported by adults who set reasonable limits for them and give them security. The foundations for children’s confidence in themselves, their relationships with other children, as well as their trust in the adults who teach and care for them, are influenced, if not established, in early childhood. Children need to feel safe in order to feel free to explore, and they need meaningful feedback from significant adults who delight in their successes and reassure them in their failures. As they begin to exercise independence, it is important to allow children sufficient time to work on tasks until they are satisfied with the results. These guidelines will help preschool teachers address these needs.

Note: The guidelines for physical development, neurosensory development, social/emotional development, and health education do not align directly with the Health Framework or reflect its sections. Some guidelines have been added or expanded for social/emotional development, gross/fine motor development, and neurosensory development because of their particular significance at the preschool level. Others have been incorporated into other content areas (e.g., the Arts or History and Social Science) in an effort to reduce repetition.

Learning Guidelines for Health Education

Preschool Standard

Links to K Standards

Physical Development

1. Listen to and use appropriate language describing the names and functions of parts of the human body.

Link to Growth and Development 1.1, 1.2

2. Build body awareness, strength, and coordination through locomotion activities.

Link to Growth and Development 1.1, 1.2

3. Discuss various aids and accommodations used by people for the activities of daily life.

Link to Growth and Development 1.3

4. Build awareness of directionally and position in space.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.2

5. Use both sides of the body to strengthen bilateral coordination.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

6. Alternate the left and right sides of the body and cross the midline of the body.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

7. Build upper body strength and stability to gain controlled movement of shoulders.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

8. Strengthen hand grasp and flexibility.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

9. Use thumb/forefinger in pincer grip.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

10. Use a variety of tools and materials to build grasp-and-release skill.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

11. Build finger dexterity.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

12. Use eye-hand coordination, visual perception and tracking, and visual motor skills in play activities.

Link to Physical Activity and Fitness 2.1

13. Discuss nutritious meals and snacks and the difference between junk food and healthy food.

Link to Nutrition 3.1

14. Practice personal hygiene and safety measures.

Link to Nutrition 3.2, 3.6, 3.7

15. Discuss gender and growth in age-appropriate ways.

Link to Reproduction & Sexuality 4.2, 4.3

Social & Emotional Health

16. Recognize and describe or represent emotions such as happiness, surprise, anger, fear, sadness.

Link to Feelings and Emotions 5.1, 5.3

17. Talk about ways to solve or prevent problems and discuss situations that illustrate that actions have consequences.

Link to Decision Making 5.2, 5.5

18. Talk about how people can be helpful/hurtful to one another.

Link to Violence Prevention 11.1

19. Practice independence and self-help skills.

Link to Identity 5.3

20. Describe members of their family and discuss what parents do for their children to keep them safe and healthy.

Link Functions and Purpose of Families 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4

Safety & Health Care

21. Discuss strategies to prevent injury and illness, control the spread of disease, and promote cleanliness.

Link to Disease Prevention & Control 8.1, 8.3

22. Talk about the common symptoms of illness and injury and what they should do when they hurt or don't feel well.

Link to Signs, Causes, and Treatment 8.2

23. Discuss tooth care and dental health including brushing, flossing, and healthy foods.

Link Health Maintenance 8.4

24. Discuss rules for safety in a variety of settings including fire safety, weapons safety, bus safety, seat belt use, playground safety, as well as safety at home and in the community.

Link to Safety and Injury Prevention 9.1, 9.3

25. Talk and listen to stories about safe, unsafe, and inappropriate touch and ways to protect themselves.

Link to Self-protection standard 9.4, 9.5 (see History & Social Science #7 for link to 9.2)

26. Talk about what to do when someone gets hurt and the rules for universal precautions (do not touch body fluids; wash hands after touching body fluids).

Link to Emergency Intervention 9.6, 9.7

27. Identify and distinguish between substances that are safe to be taken by mouth.

Link to Effects on the Body 10.1

28. Describe the purpose of medicines and how they can be used or misused, and what to do in an emergency.

Link to Effects on the Body standard 10.2, 10.4

29. Talk about some basic ways they can keep their environment clean or take care of it.

Link to Ecological Health 13.1, 13.2, Community & Public Health 14.2


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Citation: Preschool Learning Guidelines for Health Education. (2011, March 02). Retrieved November 06, 2014, from UMass Boston OpenCourseware Web site:
Copyright 2014, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License