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BLOG: A Childminder’s Experience of Healthy Early Years London (HEYL)

The Mayor of London’s Healthy Early Years London (HEYL) is an awards scheme that  supports and recognises achievements in child health, wellbeing and development in early years settings.The  National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is the delivery partner for the programme, working closely with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to drive change and improve outcomes for children and their families. 

HEYL aims to reduce health inequalities by supporting a healthy start to life across themes that include healthy eating, oral and physical health, and early cognitive development. It also complements and enhances the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS), adding to the focus on children, families, and staff health and wellbeing. The award scheme is open to all early years settings in London, including childminders, with the potential to achieve awards at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. The scheme can support practitioners to develop their practice and reduce health inequalities across London.

If you live outside London, contact your local authority to find out if there is a similar scheme in your area. PACEY also has a wide range of resources to support you in promoting a healthy lifestyle to the children in your care and their families.

Yordanos Gebretinsae, a childminder in Tower Hamlets, shares her experiences of achieving her Bronze award and how it has supported her practice and the children in her care.

Why did you decide to complete the Healthy Early Years London scheme?

I heard about the HEYL award from Lorraine, Healthy Early Years London Co-ordinator, at the childminder drop-in sessions. I wanted to improve my knowledge and provide the best service to the children and their families. I felt the scheme would help the children get the best start in life.

How were you supported through the process of completing the award?

I was supported 100% by Lorraine, who arranged a place where we could meet up and the children could access activities. We discussed the award, and I was very grateful for this and found it helpful.

How has completing the award impacted your practice with children and their families?

By completing the award, my understanding has grown which will help the children in my care to have the best start in life. We learnt about oral hygiene, toilet training, self-care, getting school ready, becoming independent, ways of communicating with the children and supporting their communication skills, and the importance of healthy eating and healthy weight. In general, it’s about developing children’s awareness and understanding of self-care.

Is there anything you have done differently in your setting since completing the award?

Since completing the award, I encourage the children to brush their teeth daily in my setting. They have their toothbrushes in the bag they bring. I remind parents of when to take them to the dentist. I keep talking about personal hygiene, encourage independence, and create an awareness of good hygiene in readiness for when they go to school.  I carry out regular observations in readiness for their two-year progress check, so I make sure I jot down if they know how to brush their teeth, and if they can wash their hands independently or with my encouragement.

What are your plans going forward?

I would love to do the silver award if I get the opportunity.

Why should other childminders consider doing a Healthy Early Years London scheme or an equivalent in their local area?

It’s great for the mental health of the children, their families, and even for me. We use physical activity, like walking to the library and going to the local parks to have a day out. We eat outside and get fresh air. I make sure the children maintain hand hygiene when we are out by taking wipes to wash their hands. So many children struggle with their weight and this kind of activity will help them to reduce their weight and get stronger. At the same time, learning about oral hygiene will help prevent tooth decay. All of these activities get the parents involved and interested in what we are doing.

Lorraine Moss, Healthy Early Years London Co-ordinator, supported Yordanos in completing the Bronze award. We spoke to Lorraine to find out more about the scheme.

Where can practitioners find out about the scheme?

I work closely with our Early Education and Childcare (EEC) Advisors and Teachers promoting the HEYL programme to all providers.  I attend face to face childminder drop-ins and our online Early Years forums.  I use email when contacting all providers in Tower Hamlets and work closely with our Sector Coordinator who manages training for our providers.  Therefore, my presence and HEYL are well advertised across the borough.  I also support EEC advisors and teachers with writing and presenting training.   I write monthly articles that feature in the headteachers’ bulletin on different aspects of HEYL, again promoting the programme to all.

What are the benefits of practitioners completing the award for the setting, the children and their families?

I always promote the benefits of HEYL as primarily supporting providers to give our children the best possible start in life.  The programme can highlight any areas for staff training, as well as team building and bonding.  It can also support communication between staff, children, families, and the staff team, as well as promote a positive approach to good mental health for all.  As HEYL is linked to the EYFS, it should not create any additional work for providers, just an opportunity to showcase all the good work that is done in each setting or childminder.

Why is quality improvement for early years settings important and how does the award support this?

Quality improvement is important because it supports outcomes for children, their parents and staff.

Continuous professional development links to quality improvement, so the training delivered helps to ensure practitioners are equipped to meet the needs of children.  Accessing a scheme like this supports the provider to keep up to date and move the setting forward to create imaginative and stimulating play for the children, as well as improving their outcomes in all areas.

#Signposts

To find out more about the HEYL scheme visit the Healthy Early Years London website.

You can find out about similar schemes in your area, by contacting your local authority’s Early Years team.

You may also find the following PACEY resources useful:

Spotlight on Nutrition in the Early Years

Blog: Early Years Nutrition

Example menus for early years settings

Blog: Why sleep is so very important

Oral Health

Video: Toilet training

PACEY Live webinar: Physical health in early years settings

Blog: Getting kids on the go: Being active for health

CEY Smart: Fit & Healthy

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