Healthy eating - and healthy drinking - are an important part of an early years provider’s day. We provide healthy, nutritionally balanced food and fresh drinking water for the children – we talk about healthy food and drink with the children and their families – we support children to learn about food and try new tastes… and much more!
Ofsted inspectors regularly comment on a provider’s healthy eating ethos in inspection reports. For this reason – and to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating and drinking in childminding provision - I have recently completed a series of ‘Food and Drink’ Information Guides for Childcare.co.uk gold members which you can download from here -
The guides cover all aspects of healthy food and drink provision for children in childcare provisions and give lots of ideas for updating menus and providing children with activities which will help them to learn more about healthy eating and drinking in a childminding – and group – provision.
The guides link to the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for early years settings from Children’s Food Trust which include practical tips and resources and an early years ‘Code of Practice’. As more providers prepare for the 30 hours funding from September 2017 it will be important to set out your food ethos very clearly to parents so they understand the importance of sending their child with healthy options in their lunch box.
Children's Food Trust - http://www.childrensfoodtrust.org.uk/blog/resources/ey-guidelines/
If children are going to bring food from home because their parents do not want to pay for food – they want to access the 30 hours free for their child – then you will need to share information with them about the types of food they need to bring each day.
You might give them a copy of your menu and then say that their child will benefit from eating the same types of food as their friends so they do not feel ‘different’. You might then go on to list ‘appropriate’ foods and reassure parents their child will always have access to fresh drinking water throughout the day.
Foods you might suggest include, for example –
- Breakfast – cereal and a sealed container of milk or bread and spread in a small pot (we will teach your child how to toast their bread).
- Lunch – sandwich, roll or wrap with meat, fish or cheese – or pasta salad, falafel or couscous; small pot of salad or fruit (grapes must be cut); milky pudding or fruit jelly.
- Tea – we do have facilities to heat food in a microwave but it must be provided in a microwave safe box. We will provide you with our menu so you can see the types of food the children who buy our food eat – please try, where possible, to replicate this.
Let parents know that food that is not part of your healthy eating ethos such as chocolate, crisps and high sugar foods will be - for example - placed back in the child’s bag and returned home at the end of the day. Give parents a copy of the portion sizes information (below) and ask parents - please do not bring nuts (we have a child with an allergy) or drinks as we will provide fresh drinking water throughout the day.
You might find it helpful to share your healthy food and drink learning intentions with parents. In our childminding setting our learning intentions include –
- Providing children with 3 healthy meals a day – breakfast, lunch and tea
- Encouraging children to drink water from age-appropriate cups
- Taking children to the local shops to buy healthy food
- Preparing healthy food with the children from scratch
- Ensuring our menus are well balanced
- Involving parents by sharing information about healthy eating which they can use at home
We also link children’s learning to other areas of the curriculum including –
- Dental hygiene and encouraging tooth brushing
- The importance of exercise and recognising the changes to our bodies during exercise
- Learning about food from around the world etc…
Here is an example of our daily routines to teach children about healthy eating and drinking –
- Children arrive and choose a healthy cereal – they pour out a portion and add milk or they might choose to eat toast – they always have a fruit pot with their breakfast and a cup of water.
- During the morning, we make bread rolls to eat with lunch and fruit buns to eat as a pudding after tea.
- Children help to prepare lunch – we talk about the food they are putting on their plates, including lots of different curriculum areas such as maths (size, shape, weight), colour, learning about the world (where the food comes from) and using all the senses to explore the food.
- Children help to prepare tea and serve themselves, learning about healthy portion sizes and using tools and equipment to manipulate the food.
- Throughout the day children are encouraged to help themselves to water from our dispenser and they are reminded to drink more water when they are hot and after exercise.
Portion size guidance - https://www.infantandtoddlerforum.org/toddlers-to-preschool/little-peoples-plates/portion-sizes/
At the end of the day, we provide parents with information about what their child has eaten and drunk in their emailed diaries and let them know about the main allergens in their child’s food. We involve parents in all aspects of our food provision, from asking them to comment on our menus to providing them with recipes on request.
If you make any changes to your menus or healthy eating ethos as a result of reading through the ‘Food and Drink’ series of Information Guides or after doing further research it is important to reflect them in your self-evaluation. Don’t just list the changes you have made - talk about the impact of the changes on the children. For example, children might be more aware of the importance of healthy eating – they might ask to take part in cooking activities – parents might be more involved in contributing ideas for menus – you might have feedback from parents after sharing healthy eating and drinking information which they have used at home etc…
Chat soon, Sarah.