Everything you need to know about HFMD and its preventive measures
The surge of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Malaysia has become a matter of serious concern. The country is on alert as more than 33,000 cases have been recorded nationwide to date. Children under the age of five are highly susceptible to the disease with cases being reported at daycares, nurseries and kindergartens across the country.
Here’s what you need to know about HFMD.
What is HFMD?
HFMD or the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a contagious infection caused by viruses from the Enterovirus genus, most commonly Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. The virus is found in secretions from the nose and throat such as nasal mucus or saliva, blister fluid and stool.
How does HFMD spread?
The disease spreads by direct contact with the infected person, the air after sneeze or cough of an infected person or touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands after coming in contact with contaminated surfaces or feces.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
Though it usually affects infants and children below the age of 5, it can also occur in adults and older children. The signs and symptoms of the disease generally include fever, loss of appetite, headache, sore throat, red rashes on the palms of hands and the soles of the feet, and irritability. It usually begins with fever and red rashes or blisters are observed in the following days.
Though every infected person might not suffer from all of the symptoms, it is good to seek medical attention if you observe any of these signs in your children.
How is the disease diagnosed?
The hand, foot and mouth disease can be diagnosed through physical examination by the doctor who will check the appearance of common symptoms. The doctor or health care professional may also collect a sample from the infected person’s throat or stool to test for the virus.
What precautions can be taken to prevent HFMD?
The Health Ministry has been informing the people about the current situation of the HFMD outbreak and the health authorities have advised the people, especially the parents to play an active role in the control and prevention on the disease starting from themselves and their homes. Parents can take these precautions to prevent the disease.
Wash hands regularly
The best way to prevent HFMD is to practice good hygiene both inside and outside the house. Washing your hands on a regular basis can reduce the chances of coming in contact with the virus. Teach the children to wash hands before eating, after using the washroom and after coming home from outside.
Disinfect the home
Make sure that all the shared places in the house are cleaned on a regular basis by using a disinfectant. It is also important to keep objects like toys and pacifiers clean as they may be contaminated with the virus. Teach the children not to put any toys, other objects or their fingers in their mouth.
Do not ignore symptoms
Parents should not ignore symptoms like fever, vomiting, rashes or lethargy in the child. Please take your child to the nearby healthcare centre and get the required treatment. Also, do not take the children with HFMD or possible symptoms to any public places, daycare, kindergarten or schools as it might spread the disease to others.
Avoid sharing food and other items
It is good to avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, clothes, toys, towels and similar objects with others during this time.
What precautions can be taken by preschools?
Considering the fact that HFMD majorly affects children under the age of 5 and is easily spread in places where children gather such as kindergartens and daycare, preschools have a major role to the play in the control and prevention of the disease.
- Preschools should take special care to maintain high standards of hygiene and both at a personal and environmental level. Teachers and staff are advised to wash their hands on a regular basis, especially after using the washroom, changing the diapers of children or accidentally touching the blisters.
- All the objects, toys or materials used by children including the floor and the toilets should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- There should be a proper facility for the disposal or waste and diapers to reduce the risk of the disease.
- Schools are recommended to conduct screening for any HFMD symptoms before the children enter the premises.
7 tips to keep your child healthy at preschool
Unlike your home where you can control the environment for your little one, you cannot do so in a school or a daycare. The environment will be standard for all children. This is a reason why many children fall sick again and again after starting preschool, especially if they have a weak immune system. That is why at The children’s house we are very particular about hygiene. Here are some suggestions on how to keep your child healthy at preschool.
According to almost all doctors across the world, unhygienic hands are one of the main ways of spreading bacteria. Therefore, teach your children to wash hands every time they sit down to eat or use a restroom, or after wiping their nose. And this applies to adults as well. The school and daycare staff should be doing the same each time they feed a child, or change a diaper or use the restroom. You can stay back a bit at the school or daycare and see if this is being followed. If not, please raise your concern to the head of the preschool. As a parent, you have every right to do so.
Ensure that your child is active
Exercise is good for everybody. This holds true for children, too. There have been various studies on this subject that have shown that an active child has approximately 25% less chance of being down with cold or flu because of higher circulation of infection-fighting cells. To ensure that your child is active, take her to parks and play outdoor games with her. They are also great ways of bonding with your child.
A nutritious diet
A healthy diet from an early age will go a long way in building the health of your child. Unfortunately, thanks to smart advertising, children are enticed into thinking junk food is the most delicious thing in the world . But did you know, even coke has a ‘not recommended for children’ written in small letters on its labels? Try to prepare alternatives at home that look and feel like ‘fun’ food. There’s plenty of ideas available online that will help you whip up something interesting for your children. Let them get excited about what’s cooking at home.
Ensure plenty of sleep
A child’s brain matures as they sleep. This is a proven way of developing the pituitary gland functions. Ensure your child gets enough sleep every night. Sleep deprivations increase the chance of catching a cold manifold.
While you don’t want your child to get contaminated, you should also ensure that your child is not doing the spreading of bacteria to others. Teach them to cover their mouth every time they cough or sneeze. And not with the palm of their hand but with the crook of their arm. Most importantly you should do the same yourself. Children learn a lot through watching mum and dad.
Follow up on vaccinations
Ensure your child has all the necessary vaccinations as suggested by your doctor. Vaccinations are important in ensuring your child doesn’t fall ill unnecessarily. Speak to your doctor to find out what’s best for your child.
Know sick policies
As a parent, it is extremely important for you to know the sick policies of the preschool or daycare. You don’t want your child to play with a child who has a pink eye or is down with the flu, and in turn, get infected. Therefore know what are the sick policies of the preschool so you can follow the policy when your child is down with an illness.
Following these simple steps can go a long way in having a healthy child.
Montessori learning through The children’s house
Every child is unique and is filled with an enthusiasm to explore the world around them. Each day in a child’s life is filled with the curiosity to learn something new. Hence, it is important that they find a caring environment that guides them on their individual path and inculcates a love for learning in them. This can only happen in a prepared environment where the child gets to work with materials that entice and engross his mind.
The children’s house recognises the uniqueness of your child and is as passionate about your little one as you are. Children in their first stage of development from 0 to 6 years are like learning sponges. They have incredible powers of absorption and every new thing that they experience during the early years is crucial for their physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.
Creating a loving and secure environment
The children’s house focuses on getting it right from the very beginning. We understand that your child needs to go through a separation from the caregiver in order to socialise and enter into a new routine of going to school. Hence, the Infant and the Pre-tots programme aim to provide a secure and loving environment for your child through a foundation of Caregiving, Play and Attachment in the curriculum.
While caregiving ensures respectful and responsive interactions with the infants and pre-tots, play greatly helps the children learn unconsciously. The programme includes engaging activities like Tots Art, Tots Music, Tots Read, Tots Gym, Tots Sensory Play and Sunshine Tots. Through a wide range of interesting activities, your child will acquire cognitive abilities, language skills, improved physical abilities, social and emotional skills required to be an active part of this world. Every activity is designed exclusively to stimulate the curiosity of your little ones as he progresses to the Toddler age group.
A child-centred approach to education
The environment at The children’s house is completely centred around your child. The Montessori method of teaching at Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten levels provide a nurturing and non-competitive environment that focuses on the individual needs and development of every child. The school ensures that your child gets all the care and attention by keeping low teacher child ratios coupled with well-planned classrooms to avoid overcrowding. Trust is fostered through care and participation in activities like putting away toys and returning materials back to their places.
It encourages self-education, where children learn in a prepared environment, that provides them with activities and presents opportunities for exploration, investigation and problem-solving. Children are given the freedom to choose their activity and have the responsibility of returning the materials to their places. These experiences not only give the child a sense of security but also stimulate intelligence and promote physical and psychological development. Their natural desire to succeed is encouraged by repetitive activities which help them perfect the art until they achieve a great sense of satisfaction and joy.
Learning through a variety of engaging materials
Children are provided with an encouraging environment with materials aimed at covering all areas of development. The didactic apparatus is specially designed for every level of childhood development. They start from being simple and gradually move on to more complex materials. For example from colour box 1 (primary colours) for level 1 to colour box 2 (secondary colours) for level 2 and colour box 3 (shades of secondary colours) for level 3. In this way, children learn to advance smoothly from one level to another without being perplexed by missing links.
Programmes at every level in The children’s house aim to prepare your child for a smooth transition to the next level. Each activity is carefully designed to enhance the all-round development of your child. Given the fact that 90% of the brain development of a child happens before the age of five, it is important to understand that preschool is much more than just playing. Children start with concrete experiences and move on to abstract at a later stage. Concrete thinking is important for mental development as it provides a base for abstract thinking. Concrete experiences not only give children the ability to reason beyond limits but also help them interpret better.
Rich learning experience through Montessori
By working independently on a wide variety of materials in a Montessori environment, children learn to make choices and develop problem-solving skills as they advance from one level to another. Their young minds first learn to explore, gradually developing the ability for abstract thinking. While the basic educational benefits of preschool (such as literacy and numeracy) are tangible, the advances children achieve towards becoming well-rounded individuals are truly invaluable.
The children’s house provides your child with an environment in which a skilled observer (teacher) gives him the freedom needed to orientate his personality while helping him maintain self-control. Above all, through all the activities we not only respect the individuality of your child but they also learn to respect the teachers and other children.
Choosing a curriculum that suits your child
The preschool years are extremely important as they build the foundation for your child’s learning years, and at the very least probably determine how much they enjoy school. Children have a magical capacity to learn and absorb information through the various activities they go through in their day. Therefore, picking the right preschool curriculum for your child can be quite overwhelming, especially since there are so many educational philosophies to consider.
Which preschool curriculum suits your child best?
There are three main elements that every preschool curriculum should deliver:
It should create an interest in learning
Avoid going for curricula that sound very academic or rigorous in nature. Instead, go for programmes that are inviting and create an enthusiasm to learn and excel. Look out for more hands-on activities, nature walks, sensorial materials, reading, culture activities, art projects and the like.
It should promote wholesome development
Irrespective of the philosophy, a preschool curriculum should stimulate learning while ensuring they meet the social, language, physical and cognitive development goals of the child. Children should have the freedom to move and socialise within a harmonious environment. Check if the activities are age appropriate and boost the all-round development of your child.
The curriculum should be adaptable
The curriculum should be designed in a way that it gives children the freedom to learn at their own pace. Learning takes its best course when children find meaning in what they are studying, not when we drill ideas and concepts into their mind through repetition. The goal is to help them discover their passion and develop a lifelong love of learning.
Does the preschool curriculum accommodate your child’s learning style?
Preschoolers cannot be burdened with worksheets and tests. We cannot expect children to complete writing work when they haven’t grasped how to hold a pencil. Children prefer moving around, playing and engaging in hands-on activities. Identify the learning style of your child and find a preschool that includes activities for all kinds of learners.
For example, if your child is a visual learner he might love to learn by watching activities, events, images or science experiments. Visuals learners are very observant and they like to soak in in the details. If your child is a tactile or physical learner, they would love to jump, dance, run and interact with the environment around them. On the other hand, an auditory learner enjoys learning through stories and conversations.
Does the curriculum give you learning opportunities?
A great curriculum is not only beneficial for the child but also the parents. Involvement of parents in the learning process of the child is essential to their success. Do they allow you to get involved in the child’s learning experience? How do they communicate their goals so that you can work with the teacher to help your child perform better? Parenting classes or tips are also a great way to help you work for the well-being of your child.
Time to switch preschools?
Your child hates to go the preschool and you have come to a point where you are considering other alternatives. Maybe your child is too shy and has problems interacting with people and therefore needs a preschool that is gentle and has methods of helping children get along with each other – even the shy ones. Maybe your child needs a little more attention from the teacher and would work better in a low-ratio classroom? No matter the circumstance, if your child hates going to preschool, then something should be done about it immediately as there are many years of learning ahead and you don’t want a child who hates school.
Play-based or academic curriculum?
In play-based curriculum, children mostly choose activities based on their interest. Though it might just look like they are playing, they are actually learning valuable skills including social skills through interaction and cooperation.
An academic-based curriculum is more teacher-directed. Teachers plan the activities for the children and guide them through the process. This kind of curriculum is specially designed to prepare children for school. It mainly consists of learning letters, sounds, shapes, colours and other skills.
So which preschool curriculum is best?
Most parents prefer academic-based learning as they want their child to have a smooth transition to school. However, this is true only to a certain extent. The preschool years are an important time to develop social and emotional skills, which help to set a stage for academic learning. If you feel that a play-based curriculum is not suitable for your child as it might get chaotic, you could go for a setting that is more structured.
The Montessori Method gives you the perfect combination of an academic and play-based curriculum that nurtures an active learning style in the children. The didactic materials have been developed by Dr Maria Montessori through years of extensive research culminating in a scientific pedagogy that has been highly appreciated by parents and children alike.
Your child can enjoy a wide range of intriguing materials like jugs, bowls, spoons, ladles, sensory materials, language materials, and number work coupled with the adventure of outdoor play, nature walks, cultural activities and projects. The 5 core areas of the Montessori approach include:
The practical life area encourages the child to perform activities such as spooning, transferring, and pouring which help in the development of coordination, improves concentration and fosters independence.
The sensorial materials help the children refine their senses of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight through new experiences. The materials aid in the development of the cognitive abilities of the child.
The language materials encourage the children to develop both reading and writing skills. Teachers also introduce the phonetic approach which enables the child to move gradually from simple words to full sentences.
The number work materials consist of fun and intriguing materials which introduce various mathematical concepts to the child. They provide a hands-on and minds on approach to learning number work.
Cultural activities and projects
The cultural activities and projects help the child to understand the world and connect with it in a better way. The projects are supported by the concrete materials which are further classified under subjects such as geography, history and botany. Music, art and craft are deeply interwoven in the daily approach.
The lessons in the Montessori method are delivered individually as well as in groups. This helps the teachers to understand and discover more about each child and their development. By participating in the group activities, children learn to interact, build relationships and help each other. Even decades after its creation, the elements of the Montessori Method continue to stay relevant, making it one of the more popular preschool curricula among parents across the world.
The wonders of the Montessori Method
The Montessori Method of education was developed by Dr Maria Montessori, based on her keen observations of how children learn in a carefully prepared environment when they are given the opportunity to educate themselves.
Even after a century after its creation, the Montessori method of education remains popular among teachers and children. Irrespective of the changes in national education systems around the world, the elements of the Montessori Method have remained relevant and have stood the test of time.
Respect the child
Respect for the child is the first principle, which has been the cornerstone of Montessori Method since its inception. This is the element where a child is given the freedom to select the material he wants to work with. When we respect the choice of the child without interrupting him, a positive environment for learning is created. “As a rule, however, we do not respect children. We try to force them to follow us without regard to their special needs. We are overbearing with them, and above all, rude; and then we expect them to be submissive and well-behaved, knowing all the time how strong their instinct of imitation is and how touching their faith in and admiration of us”, said Dr Maria. She believed that children have a strong instinct to imitate us. Hence, they must be taught with kindness if that is what we want them to reciprocate.
Absorbent mind of children
Dr Maria observed that young children are like sponges who have an incredible power of learning and absorbing from the world around them. She believed in the capability of children to educate themselves. “It may be said we acquire knowledge by using our minds; but the child absorbs knowledge directly into his psychic life. Simply by continuing to live, the child learns to speak his native tongue”. Children are born with an innate ability to learn that depends on their environment, experiences and interactions.
It refers to that period of time when a child is immensely focused and his brain urges him to learn a particular skill or immerse in an experience. It can be recognised in situations like a child’s interest in repetitively doing the same task till he masters it. The Montessori programme provides a child with an extended period of activity without any interruption. As a result, children follow their interest and progress naturally. The role of a Montessori teacher is to carefully observe these periods and based on this, the child can be guided towards the material that is best suited to his interest and the stage of development.
From her extensive research on the learning process of children and their development, Dr. Maria concluded that children learn best through independent learning in a prepared environment. The Montessori Method provides children with engaging activities and opportunities to learn and explore materials of their choice. The prepared environment in a Montessori preschool is focused at child-centred learning where educational experience and materials are available in a systematic way.
Dr Maria believed that children have the ability to educate themselves when provided with a carefully prepared environment. When children are actively involved in a prepared environment with no interruptions, and a freedom of choice, they absorb and learn from their experiences. The role of the teacher is to facilitate the learning and guide the children without making her presence felt too much.
The children’s house is an excellent Montessori centre that has adhered to the Montessori method of teaching for more than 30 years and still believes in it. Founded in 1986 by Nan Civel, the organisation has held on to Dr Maria’s educational materials in five curriculum areas: Practical Life, Sensory Activities, Number Work, Language and Culture. The curriculum engages students in a wide range of activities and values required for the holistic development of the child.
The children’s house ensures that all the furniture and material is scaled down to the size of the child and the environment is completely child friendly. By engaging children in purposeful activities like Tots Arts, Tots Music, Tots Gym and Sensory Play, the school aims at physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of the child. The well-planned classrooms and lower teacher child ratio encourage optimal learning and ensure complete care and attention to your little one.
It also collaborates with the parents to help them understand and share the joy of their child’s progress. Apart from conducting parent-teacher meetings on a regular basis, The children’s house encourages the participation of parents in the learning journey of their children. Parents are invited to events like cultural day celebrations, annual events (such as festival celebrations) and parent involvement projects (planting of vegetables). The children’s house believes that parental engagement is an essential factor for the all round development of the child. It fosters love, care and an enriching environment of mutual respect for the growth and development of the child.