Making early childhood environments safe and healthy

Community and Public Health supports health, wellbeing and safety in early childhood settings by providing:

  • Advice on strengthening early childhood settings as healthy environments where children, whānau and staff can flourish. This includes supporting a strong cultural identity, positive mental wellbeing, being active, healthy eating and good oral health.
  • Health and safety assessments on new or existing centres as requested under the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Centres Regulations. This assessment is from a public health perspective – looking at compliance with legislative requirements and assessment of health risk. Please note: there is a charge for this assessment.
  • Health and safety advice to early childhood centres, including for new proposed centres or renovations to existing centres.
  • Advice on placement of childhood centres.
  • Specialist advice on public health issues such as water, disease outbreaks, and chemical hazards.
  • Support to promote good oral health in Canterbury and South Canterbury.


Effective interventions to support healthy environments in early childhood settings

Development during early childhood lays the foundation for health, education, social, employment and economic outcomes throughout the life course. Many young New Zealand children spend time in early childhood education (ECE) settings, making them an ideal location for health promotion.

Community and Public Health has undertaken evidence reviews on the effectiveness of health promotion interventions in several areas delivered in ECE settings.

Protecting under fives from infectious diseases

Early childhood centres present health risks to children, staff and other people who spend time at the centre. There is potential for disease transmission because:

  • Children under five years (because of their developmental stage) are likely to have poorly developed personal hygiene habits;
  • There is a high level of physical contact between children;
  • Nappy changing is considered to be a high risk activity;
  • Food may be shared; and
  • Children tend to place items in their mouths and may contaminate those items – spreading the risk of disease.

Disease transmission within early childhood centres may have implications for the wider community, particularly parents, caregivers and friends of children attending. Health and safety risks in early childhood centre environments will be reduced by maintaining effective public health oversight through assessment, enforcement and health promotion.


Watch more videos in this Taonga Mokopuna series from Regional Public Health (Wellington).



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

Menemene Mai/Smile online Oral Health Kit

Menemene Mai/Smile is Canterbury’s first online oral health education toolkit for early childhood kaiako. The toolkit includes practical activities, key messages, and a ‘Teeth Tools’ kit that is available for loan.

The kit was developed with and for kaiako by Canterbury DHB health promoters Jenni Marceau and Belinda Smith.

Mindful Eating Activity Resource

This resource provides mindful eating activities for four-year olds, including colouring sheets for tamariki and whānau. Notes for kaiako are also provided.

Breastfeeding in early childhood education settings

Early childhood education settings play an important role in supporting mothers to continue breastfeeding, as returning to work is one of the most common reasons for discontinuing the breastfeeding journey.

Early childhood teachers in Canterbury showing the way in sun protection

All settings spoken with in a 2018 survey with health promoters had sun protection policies, and provided spare hats to children. 96 percent provided a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen and ECE managers self-reported that 96 percent of staff model sun protective behaviour very well. Few early childhood settings knew about the new Cancer Society PD module for early childhood educators.

Page last updated: 05/03/2024

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