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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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4 The responsibilities of adults in promoting children’s health

Babies and children rely on the adults in their lives to support and promote their health; therefore, we all have a responsibility to understand what we can do to achieve the aim of improving their health. However, all adults, parents, carers and professionals need to share this responsibility and work together.

In the following video, you return to Dr Helen Lyndon who you first met in Session 3. Helen talks about how she sees adults’ responsibilities in relation to promoting children’s health.

Activity 3 The responsibilities of adults in promoting children’s health

Timing: 5 minutes
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Video 2
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As you listen to Helen, write down some key points about what adults can do to promote good health in children

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In the video, Helen talks about the holistic nature of early childhood and development, meaning that there are many factors that can contribute to children’s health. This means that not just one professional can be responsible, it has to be shared responsibility.

However, practitioners who work In Early Childhood Education and Care settings work directly with families, therefore, they are well placed to make connections. Think about how a child may have several professionals working with them to support their health. The practitioner can be the professional who gathers the information, communicates with the professionals from a range of different services and helps all adults, including parents to see the various pieces together as one picture. This approach can help professionals and parents to work in a participatory way to address health outcomes.

Helen mentions that, as discussed in Session 5, education frameworks and curricula have many health related aims that can be embedded within routines. And as discussed in previous sessions, practitioners have a responsibility to model health promoting activities.

Families can be encouraged to use services that are available. Helen gives the example of the benefits of ‘Stay and Play’ sessions. Such sessions have several benefits which are explored in the following activity.

Activity 4 The benefits of stay and play sessions

Timing: 10 minutes

Stay and play sessions are aimed at parents and carers of babies and children aged 0–5 years. They are frequently held in local community spaces. A variety of play options can be available, which can include messy play that involve crafts and paints, a range of different toys and games. Read about Mylene and how attending Stay and play weeks can help support and promote her children’s health.

Mylene lives with her partner in a house close to the university where he is employed on a short-term research project. They have recently moved to the area with Arlo, who is 18 months and Minni who is 4 weeks old. Mylene’s’ family are 200 miles away and her partner’s family live overseas. Mylene is finding parenting tough with two children. She found it difficult to breastfeed Arlo because he some difficulties after he was born and had to remain in hospital. Mylene is very keen to successfully breastfeed Minni. Arlo has not taken well to having a small sister. He has become tearful and, in some respects, he has regressed in his development.

A photograph of a baby being breastfed
Figure 4

The Health Visitor suggests to Mylene that they may all benefit from attending a local ‘Stay and Play’ session. The sessions are held in a local health centre which also provides baby clinics and Health Visitor services.

Write a list of the reasons why doing so could help with the children’s physical and mental health.

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The activities provided for Arlo will give him an opportunity to play with a range of different play experiences. Doing so will help his physical development and help him to be physically active. Play helps children to manage their emotions. Playing with other, or alongside, other children will give Arlo the opportunity to develop his social skills. Stay and Play offers play activities that may not be easy to provide at home, and therefore he will be occupied and interested in the different games and toys. All of these benefits can positively impact on his wellbeing and, in turn, his mental health.

Mylene will benefit from meeting other mums and hopefully making friendships with them. Breastfeeding didn’t go so well for her when Arlo was born because of his medical needs, but she can get the support from professionals about breastfeeding Minni which is so important to Mylene and will benefit Minni’s long-term health. Advice can be sought from other professionals such as Health Visitors about healthy eating for babies and young children contributes to their physical health.

Some Stay and Play sessions are held at similar times and in the same location as baby and child immunisation clinics, which can make it more convenient for parents to have their children immunised. This has the important benefit of protecting children from communicable and preventable illnesses, such as measles, mumps and rubella.

A photograph of a group of children and adults surrounded by toys
Figure 5

Practitioners who run the Stay and Play sessions can support children’s and parents’ mental health by modelling and encouraging behaviour that can promote infant and parental attachment. They can encourage parents to talk to and communicate with tiny babies, helping them to become responsive to their babies’ cues and learning how to meet their needs. For older children, language can develop through interaction with other people.

To conclude, Stay and Play sessions are a highly valuable service that can support parents, taking part in sessions can reduce isolation and offer the opportunity to be with other parents who are facing the same challenges. The idea of stay and play can appear deceptive, and the benefits of how they can support and promote different areas of health in a non-threatening and supportive way should not be under-estimated.