ANSWER: 30 May 2006
In this role I'm only qualified to answer your question in relation to lead
poisoning (though it probably helps that I am actually a trained and
experienced kindergarten teacher.)
I will forward this email to another member of our Technical Advisory Board,
Rosemary Ayoub, who is an early childcare education specialist, who may or
may not have time to contribute more to my answer in relation to lead
poisoning, or who may indeed contribute to a more general answer to your
question: "How should kindergartens be assisting child development?"
By assisting child development specifically in relation to lead poisoning
prevention and management, you will see that kindergartens are also
assisting many other aspects of a child's development eg development of good
nutritional and hygiene habits, prevention of anaemia, improvement of the
child's learning behaviours, early detection of hearing problems and
problems in following instructions (whether these are caused by lead or
something else), imparting an awareness of environmental hazards both to the
child and their family both in relation to the kindergarten environment and
to the home environment etc.
Here's what I believe kindergartens should do to assist children's
development in relation to lead poisoning:
- Know the blood lead levels of children before they enrol at the
kindergarten. In areas with a high risk of childhood lead poisoning and/or
childhood anaemia eg smelter communities, inner city areas with pre-1970
housing, etc, Kindergartens can organise for a paediatric venepuncturist and
a doctor to be in attendance on open days for prospective new children and
parents so that blood lead tests can be organised easily en masse prior to
the start of attendance. In many states of the United States, it is a legal
requirement that parents present their child's blood lead result prior to
kindergarten enrolment. In Australia, simply by asking prospective parents
(or parents of currently enrolled children) to organise the test through
their doctor, the kindergarten will already be raising awareness of the
issue of lead poisoning.
- Assist parents to bring down the blood lead levels of any lead poisoned
children. If the kindergarten is housed in a pre-1970 building or is located
in the drop-down zone of any lead source (eg lead mine, smelter, painted
bridge, etc) then organise a lead assessment of the building and follow
through on any findings of lead contamination to completely eradicate
available lead sources. Be particularly precautious if any kindergarten
child has pica (the propensity to eat non-food items) and eliminate all
chewable leaded surfaces and items.
- Adorn the kindergarten with lead awareness posters and have free handouts
(booklets and factsheets) available on the issues of lead poisoning
prevention, lead-safe renovation , lead-safe housekeeping, nutrition for
lead poisoned children etc.
- Develop a lead-aware cleaning regime for the kindergarten and display it
for the parents to see. You can even explain it to the children and ask the
children to illustrate the policy.
- Train and supervise the children in washing hands before eating - provide
each child with their own nail brush, soap and handtowel and stress the
importance of proper cleaning AND proper drying (wet hands pick up lead dust
from surfaces more easily than dry hands). Encourage the parents to provide
the same items and supervision at home.
- In areas where a lot of children have elevated blood lead levels it is
vital to ensure that children eat breakfast (lead absorption rates are
vastly increased by the acidity of a stomach that has been empty for many
- The best place to eat breakfast (to decrease the time when they have
access to a lead contaminated home environment) is at home as soon as they
wake up but if the kindergarten determines that parents are simply
delivering an unfed child to the kindergarten, then the kindergarten should,
at least temporarily while the parents are being re-educated, provide
breakfast. If the parents are ineducable on this issue, then the
kindergarten should provide breakfast on an ongoing basis.
- Ask the teachers and aids to follow the guidelines in Anne Winner's
article: "The Early Lead Poisoned Child In The
Classroom: Symptomatology and
Intervention for School Psychologists and School-Based Personnel" and http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Autism-Lead/links/]
- Provide experience of nutritious balanced meals and snacks for the
children - including experience of making simple nutritious meals and
snacks. The importance of good intake of Vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc,
selenium, iodine, Omega 3 fatty acids and protein and the importance of
eating regular smaller meals and snacks (or browsing) cannot be
overemphasised for children at risk of lead poisoning. See "Fight Lead
Poisoning With a Healthy Diet" by the United States Environmental Protection
Agency at www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/nutrition.pdf
- Picky eaters and junk
food addicts should be the subject of special efforts to improve their diet
(and possibly their family's diet).
- Ensure children are up to date with their hearing assessments and dental
check-ups and attend to their posture and speech development if necessary.
Ensure that they have numerous opportunities to overcome clumsiness and
improve their gross motor skills (eg crawling, skipping and other activities
that require body cross-over and proprioreception) and fine motor skills,
pre-maths and pre-reading skills. Instil a love of reading and learning and
investigate aggressive and inattentive behaviour immediately. Lead poisoning
impacts negatively on all these aspects of a child's development (see "Health Impacts of Lead Poisoning - A preliminary listing of the health
effects & symptoms of lead poisoning") but
at least one study has shown that some of the negative impacts of lead
poisoning can be reversed (see "Environmental enrichment reverses cognitive
and molecular deficits induced by developmental lead exposure" Tomás
R. Guilarte PhD*, Christopher D. Toscano MS, Jennifer L.
McGlothan MS, Shelley A. Weaver PhD. Annals of Neurology Volume 53, Issue 1, pages 50–56, January 2003,
- I hope this helps and that it covers what you expected.
Sent: Saturday, June 03, 2006 4:04 PM
Subject: The role of kindergartens in assisting Child Development
Elizabeth O’Brien forwarded this to me. I could probably write a 10,000 word paper on this subject but I’m sure you don’t want that.
The role of the kindergarten is to foster the holistic development of the child by focusing on each child as a unique individual. The way we foster children’s development is by identifying each child’s individual strengths, interests and needs. Once we have identified these we will use our knowledge of the child’s interests to create provisions ( learning experiences) that will encourage development of the child’s strengths, help develop areas that they may need assistance in, and most importantly give the child the opportunity to become a proud, confident and independent learner.
Generally it is accepted that most children will develop according to identified “norms”. Consequently, in childcare we like to develop all aspects of the child’s persona ( physical, language, cognition, social emotional, creative, spiritual etc) by engaging , challenging, supporting and scaffolding them to take risks and investigate and problem solve answers to their own questions. Rather than focus on a pre determined curriculum our curriculum emerges and follows a path that is determined by the child. It is sometimes called interest based learning. It may change day to day, minute to minute or it may follow similar pathways with many tributaries over weeks or months.
I hope this helps. If you need anything further, feel free to email me back.