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Childcare Makes the Whole Family Healthier

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

It’s not big news to say that childcare improves academic performance through high school. It’s a logical assumption, proven by countless studies.

What may surprise you is that children who attend early education and care programs enjoy greater physical and mental health… for life. Even more surprising: the support of a quality program improves parents’ mental health—and helps them become better parents.

Programs meet the needs of the whole family 

Quality childcare programs recognize the interdependence of physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development. 

Young children—adults, too, for that matter—learn more quickly and deeply when basic needs are met. That’s why early educators and providers take care of the whole child.

  • Nutrition: Healthy meals and snacks support the nutritional needs of growing children, leading to improved cognition and other health benefits.
    Better eating is encouraged in other ways too: the Regional Environmental Council partners with seven local childcare programs, building and maintaining gardens with help from children; playgroups, offered by the Worcester Family Partnership, meet at the RCC farmer’s market during the summer months; and at Rainbow Child Development Center, parents attend evening cooking classes taught by local chefs, where they learn to prepare nutritious, budget-friendly meals.
  • Health screenings: Local programs ensure children’s wellness and healthy development through regular screenings. Rainbow Child Development Center, for example, through a partnership with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, monitors health markers and provides dental check-ups, eye exams, and free eyeglasses.
    The results speak for themselves. Children who attend quality early childhood programs show improvements on health indicators later in life, including lower blood pressure and lower morning cortisol. Researchers say childcare programs may disrupt the cycle that leads from social disadvantage to health disparities.
  • Mental and social-emotional health: Imagine trying to learn when stricken by fear or anxiety. Children are like the rest of us except their daily lives are packed with new experiences, which can bring emotional challenges.
    Positive playtime activities and screenings at quality programs create a foundation for mental health that endures well into adulthood.

Positive playtime is at the heart of quality programming

The fact is, children learn through playing. It also encourages healthy living.

In Worcester, early educators and parents turn to Edward Street’s Worcester Day of Play website for positive playtime activities that support everything from relationship building to problem solving and physical dexterity. There are even mindfulness activities, including ones led by Wendy O’Leary, M.Ed., an Edward Street Board Member, that help children develop healthy emotional responses.

Countless studies have proven the benefits of play, but Edward Street’s  Play Through the Lens of a Child gives viewers a front row seat. The exhibit, now led by our own Jo Ann Borinski, shows what happens when adults empower children to engage in creative play.

Supported parents are healthier, less stressed, and more skilled

Quality programs not only enable parents to work and build careers; they provide wraparound supports, teach parenting skills, and empower mental health.

The Worcester Community Action Council, which operates both Early Head Start and Head Start programs, links parents to community resources, advocates for their needs, and addresses gaps in family services—all of which results in mental health improvements

Thank goodness, because parents’ mental health has a direct effect on their children’s

The health of children and families is yet another reason why Edward Street is such a cheerleader for childcare, and why we’re asking for your support.

Donate today so children, families, and businesses can thrive, and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.