Heart Science Experiment + American Heart Month + CCEI Courses

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Heart health is a subject that I am passionate about because it has affected my family closely for many years.  ChildCare Education Institute offers many health, safety, and nutrition courses for you to become well-informed.  I am excited to share some of these heart-themed activities and resources with you! (Of course, you can do these any time of the month or year, but they are especially perfect for American Heart Month in February!)

Heart health is a huge issue in our country–heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for both men and women(1), and more than half of all Americans have at least one of the 3 highest risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking) for developing heart disease(2).

I think it’s hugely important to teach our children (including preschoolers!) how their hearts work, why they’re important, and how to take care of them.  I’m going to share 3 activities you can do with kids of any age (or adults!) to help them understand how impressive their hearts are and how to take care of them (keep reading…it’s below!).

Before we can teach anything, we need to make sure that we understand it ourselves!

The best ways to take care of our hearts are to eat correctly, stay active, and avoid smoking and alcohol(1)ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) has lots of courses that teach about health, safety, and nutrition. For example:
HLTH 103: Fit For Life is a course that provides hands-on strategies and methods you can use immediately to improve your children’s physical fitness and integrate movement activities into your daily curriculum. When our children are more active, their hearts grow stronger and less fat builds up in their circulatory system, but sometimes it’s tricky to find ways to keep kids active throughout the day. This course fixes that!
NFS 100: Healthy Habits: Nutrition and Fitness Practices  
Good nutrition is an important component of a heart-healthy approach to life, and this course makes it easier for you to guide your children and the children you watch in healthy choices.  It teaches the importance of a nutrition policy, ways to introduce new foods to children, how to create positive mealtimes, how to reduce childhood obesity, the USDA’s nutrition guidelines, and ways to teach nutrition to children and families!
HLTH 100: Preventing Early Childhood Obesity  
Childhood obesity is rising(3), and it is important that teachers and providers be prepared to address obesity and promote healthy choices.  This course contains strategies for preventing childhood obesity that can improve the health of all children!
NFS 101: Nutrition and Food Service in Early Learning Environments is a course that provides information to help caregivers and childcare center staff develop positive, healthy nutritional programs for children. It also helps you understand the USDA food program and meal planning in a childcare setting. Honestly, I think that every parent should take some kind of nutrition-for-young-children course before their child turns one! Learning what kinds of foods young children need and how much they need is an important skill for not only childcare providers, but every single parent.

Other Health, Safety, and Nutrition courses: CCEI has more than a dozen other courses about health, nutrition, and active learning in both English and Spanish!

Courses from CCEI are well-organized, easy to access, and full of useful information and hands-on ideas. They are designed for anyone who works with young children, including family child care, centers, preschool, after-school, and more!
Here are a few of the most-loved aspects of CCEI:

* Their courses are available every single day, 24-7, from anywhere you have an internet connection!

* There are OVER 150 courses in English and Spanish, as well as certification programs like CDA and Director and Early Childhood Credentials.

* CCEI is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and is an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

* 99% of their students recommend them, and they have had students complete over 5 million online course hours!

* You can get IACET CEUs for completed coursework at no additional cost.

While you’re busy learning about health and nutrition, remember to take the time to teach your children too!

I set up this experiment to show my kids how the heart constantly pumps blood, and needs a regular consistent contraction and release of the muscles to send blood from the heart to the rest of the body!

1st Heart Experiment:

Simple Supplies:

* balloon

* scissors

* 2 glass cups

* rubber band

* 2 straws

* colored water (my 4-year old added blue food coloring to our water)

Easy How-To:

1- Fill one of the cups about half full with colored water.  One of my favorite comments during the experiment was from my 9-year old: “We must be Kree since we have blue blood!”  The truth is I just ran out of red food coloring!

2- Carefully cut off the end of the balloon and stretch it over the cup with the colored water, and secure it with the rubber-band.

3- Shove the 2 straws together so you have a longer straw that can stretch between the two cups.

4- Snip a TINY hole in the balloon and squish the straw inside it. The hole needs to be small enough that it clings to the straw and no air escapes. (Though, it does make an interesting side-note to talk about what happens if you have a hole in your heart, a condition that happened to someone we know.)

Your set up should look something like this:

5- When you press down on the balloon (as demonstrated in the picture above), the air pressure inside the cup increases and forces the “blood” into the straw. It gets “pumped” out of the “heart” into the “body,” just like our hearts pump blood out of our heart and into our body.

We let everyone try pumping the heart a few times, and while we did it we talked about how tricky it is to consistently press and release over and over and over. Our heart is amazing!!!  

As our “heart” started to run out of “blood,” one of my daughters asked how the heart gets refilled. I pulled out a diagram to show how our heart has more than one tube (straw, lol!). Some take blood away, and others bring blood back. The biggest blood vessel that takes blood away from the heart is the aorta, and we can feel the blood pulsing through it just above our heart. We can also feel the blood pulsing through the carotid artery on the side of our throats.

The kids actually found a way to “refill” our heart by pressing the balloon in while the other end of the straw was in the water!  

Simple Supply:

* Stopwatch

Easy How To:

Discuss:

Our hearts pump blood to our whole body. But why do we need blood? The blood carries oxygen to our muscles, and we need that oxygen for our muscles to work! 

When our muscles work harder, they need more oxygen. The only way to get more oxygen is for our heart to pump faster!

Help your children find their heartbeats! It is probably easiest for them to feel it on their chests or throats. 

Then watch your stopwatch for 1 minute while everyone runs around the room or does jumping jacks. 

Find your heartbeats again. Is it faster or slower? How can you slow it down? Give it a try!

If you have older children, you may be able to actually let them count their heart rate while you time them!

3rd Heart Experiment:

Simple Supplies:

* Straws

* Play dough

* Water — I suggest using a bucket or a sink!

Easy How To:

1- Discuss how blood vessels carry blood around your body like a straw. Let your children try pouring and scooping water with the straws.

2- What would happen if the straw were blocked with play dough?  Try it out!

3- After your kids have a chance to experiment, let them know that if we eat foods with too much fat (especially trans fats), those fats will stick to the inside of our blood vessels and make it harder to pump the blood. Exercise, active play, and heart-healthy foods (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) help clean out your blood vessels!

NOTE:  Please be sensitive with this experiment if you have children who are overweight or have lost someone from a heart attack.

I hope this post has given you lots of ideas for celebrating American Heart Month, teaching preschoolers and other children about heart health, and learning more yourself! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about what we’ve done! And remember to check out CCEI to see if they have any courses you’re looking for!

References cited:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by ChildCare Education Institute. As always, all opinions are my own and I only recommend companies that I love and am willing to use myself!


Happy Educating,

Carla



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