10 Ways to Stay Healthy as an Early Childhood Educator

It is critical, pandemic or not, for teachers to prioritize their health.

We are caregivers, often giving to and caring about others more than we do ourselves. So much so, that our health suffers. We don’t want that to happen to you.

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup?’ Well, teachers are among those who really need a full cup. So we have provided some small habits that you can easily implement to stay healthy and well this season.

1. Go Outside

One simple but effective habit for staying healthy is to go outside and spend as much time as possible in nature. Research has shown that being in nature can improve mental and physical health, as well as reduce the risk of spreading airborne illnesses. This is especially important in daycare facilities, where the health and well-being of the children is a top priority.

Taking the children outside for activities and playtime can not only boost their immune systems and improve their overall health, but it can also provide a much-needed break for the teacher and allow for a change of scenery.

2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day

Incorporating mindfulness practices, such as yoga and art, into the daily routine can also help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Engaging in activities like these, even for just a short period of time, can make a big difference.

Another way to promote mindfulness is through the simple act of enjoying a calming afternoon tea with herbal teas. This can be a relaxing and rejuvenating activity for the teacher, and it can also be a great opportunity to model healthy habits for the children.

3. Eat Healthy Foods

Good nutrition is essential for maintaining overall health, and this is especially important for young children who are still developing and growing. Many teachers are busy and may not have the time to prepare healthy meals, so it is important to prioritize healthy eating and pack a nutritious lunch for work. This can help to boost the immune system and protect against illness. It is also important to keep up to date with regular doctor visits and prioritize preventive healthcare.

The way we fuel our bodies is so important in fighting off illness. Prioritize a healthy breakfast (no, coffee isn’t a food group), and if possible, pack a healthy lunch to bring with you to school. Nourish your body with vitamin-rich foods so it has the strength to fight off germs when needed. 

4. Regular Doctor Visits

As we get caught up in the day-to-day routine of teaching, things like annual doctor visits can easily slip by the wayside. Make these appointments a priority. Put reminders in your calendar to schedule them.

Give your employer plenty of time to get coverage in the classroom if needed so that you can go to these appointments. Preventive health can save you from big headaches (figuratively and literally) down the road.

5. Air-Purifying Plants

Scientists suggest that plants can work to detoxify and purify the air we breathe. Some of these plants include: 

  • English Ivys
  • Mother-In-Law’s Tongues or Snake Plants
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Spider plants

The more the merrier! You can easily involve the children in plant care, so they will do double duty by providing teachable moments while also cleaning the air in your classroom. 

6. Positive Work Environment

For many teachers, our classrooms are a second home and a place where we spend A LOT of time. In the same ways that we make our homes healthy and comfortable, classrooms should feel that way too.

If the decor or layout of your classroom doesn’t make you happy, change it.

If motivational sayings help you keep a positive mentality, keep your favorite one in a frame somewhere you can see it often. It’s important that you are comfortable in your surroundings.

In addition to making the space more comfortable, it is important for teachers to create a healthy environment for the children in their care. This includes practising good hygiene habits such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and bathroom fixtures. It is also important to ensure that the children have access to good nutrition, whether through providing healthy meals and snacks or by working with parents to provide packed lunches.

7. Keep Good Company

Have you ever noticed how some people in your life lift you up and others drag you down? Keep those uplifting folks close and the rest at arm’s length. Positivity can have a profound effect on your health. Being picky about the company you keep may seem like it doesn’t correlate to your health, but negativity drags us down and depletes us of valuable energy.

8. Blocks of Time for Planning/Prepping

As a former preschool teacher and owner, I know more often than not, evenings and weekends are spent prepping or planning OR thinking about prepping/planning. Allow yourself blocks of time to do this, but try your best not to go beyond that.

A teacher’s work is never done.

Setting boundaries about how you spend your “free” time is crucial. Too much time spent on work outside of work hours can lead to burnout. Burnout can lead to a compromised immune system.

It is essential for teachers to set boundaries on their work time outside of school hours and make sure to get enough sleep. Many teachers find themselves prepping or planning for their classrooms during evenings and weekends, but it is important to avoid burnout by setting limits on this time.

Ensuring that we are well rested and have time to relax and recharge is crucial for maintaining our own health and well-being, and it is also important for modeling healthy habits for the children.

9. Stay Hydrated

Be sure you are drinking lots of water throughout your work day. According to healthline.com, staying hydrated helps maximize physical performance, significantly affects energy levels and brain function, helps to ward off headaches, helps to relieve constipation, and more. Treat yourself to a fancy water bottle and keep it with you as much as possible as you move around the classroom.

10. Rest

This might be the most important tip. If you want to stay healthy and mentally strong, you absolutely have to make rest a priority. The CDC recommends that adults 18+ get seven or more hours of sleep per night. I would argue that working with children requires that we add even more time to that–they are exhausting! If you take one thing from this article to implement, do this: Get AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep every night. Your health will thank you. 

Staying healthy in childcare

We teach because it’s a calling. It’s who we are. We definitely don’t do it to get rich. To give a little context, teaching is considered by many as an underpaid profession, with historically high burnout rates. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education via New Middle Class Dad, about 500,000 (15%) of teachers in the U.S. leave the profession every year. Furthermore, 66% of teachers want to leave their job and 41.3% of new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. 

For these reasons and so many others, it is important that teachers make their health and well-being their top priority. By utilizing some of these strategies, you can keep your mental and physical health on the up and up. In turn, you will not only be able to give more to the families in your programs, spend your free time doing things you enjoy, and FEEL good–but you will also be modeling healthy habits to your students. 

Do you have other tips for staying healthy? Share them in the comments!

Amanda Dixon

Amanda is a homeschooling mama of three, freelance writer and college professor. She has a master's degree in early childhood education and a deep passion for the development that takes place in children from 0-6.

2 comments

  • June McKelvey-Burbage says:

    All points were excellent! It is so sad so many new teachers choose to leave the field. I know of one case where a young man gave up teaching after only three years. Self-care is vital!!

  • Taiwo Adeyemi says:

    Thanks for sharing the information.

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