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Nutrition Programs In Early Childcare

Children’s nutrition is an important foundation of what we provide at Kids Club Early Childhood Learning Centres. Healthy eating is a core aspect of National Quality Standards set by ACECQA, to which Kids Club works hard to align our services practices to. Yet it’s so much more than merely aligning with dietary guidelines or food and dietary policy when it comes to the foods that children receive in the centres.

For us the most important aspect is that we, as a service, provide a framework that helps guide best practice from health and nutritional professionals. Still, a big part of the process is, and will always be, considering the input from children and families, especially around specific dietary requirements.

Our internal philosophy is “at the heart of everything we do, we place the child first”. This mantra is the foundation from which we build all of our programs, and has been at the core of our nutritional practices.

co-designing nutritional programs for kids

Food As Fuel for Learning

Throughout my time working in the Early Childhood Sector I have often reflected on my own nutritional habits and how my early experiences with eating have formed later influences in my life. It’s not a long bow to draw to see how experiences we have as a young, developing mind greatly impacts our later life outcomes.

Nutrition forms close bonds between many aspects of a child’s development. Not only in relation to fuelling their physical activity, but also to aiding focus in a learning environment. As children’s brains absorb so much, it is important to consider all the factors that help support that development and provide the right fuel. Food is fuel when it comes to retaining new information, developing skills, and igniting curiosity along their learning journey[1].

Children have greatly influenced our nutritional practices to be specifically designed to provide the best foods for each child’s needs and development; not just for today, but for the rest of their lives. It is also at the core of  why we have dedicated in house chefs, commercial grade kitchens and strong networks with world renowned nutritionists to ensure that our food is not only healthy, but also freshly prepared with the highly qualified staff and partners.

Physiological & Psychological Development

Fuelling young minds with the right foods is only one aspect that needs to be considered when developing nutritional programs. In teaching children form an early age about healthy eating habits, they’re equip with the skills and tools they need to make positive future life choices and develop positive patterns. Having an integrated education program rooted in good nutrition practices, helps their little bodies physiologically develop to become adjusted for healthy eating, as well as psychologically developing to seek out healthier alternatives in their eating habits[2].

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” – I am sure we have all heard this before and I really love it’s illustration; particularly with the point I am trying to make here! This statement resonates so much with me when I think about how the in-house chefs and educators across our services work closely with children when it comes to developing health eating habits.

drawing in crayon of fish metaphor to reflect nutrition teaching

Not only are nutritious meals prepared daily for the children, they are also encouraged, in the older age rooms to engage in their own food preparation! Equipping children with the tools they need to prepare healthy foods gives them insights into the simplicity of clean eating. The interaction with healthy meal prep also provides kids with a good foundations for positive wellbeing[3]. This is as it creates a new avenue to not only learn, but also to discover underlying passions that aid mental health and development. As noted by Jeanne Whalen, Deputy Bureau Chief, Health & Science from the Wall Street Journal;

“Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively, socially and intrapersonally. Physically, cooking requires good movement in shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as good overall balance. Adequate muscle strength is needed in upper limbs for lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping. Furthermore, sensory awareness is important in considering safety while dealing with hot and sharp objects.”

[1] Bellisle, F. (2004). Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children. British Journal of Nutrition, 92(2), S227–S232

[2] Reisdorf, Ana. “3 Reasons We Need to Teach Children Healthy Eating Habits at a Young Age”, Creative Child https://www.creativechild.com/articles/view/3-reasons-we-need-to-teach-children-healthy-eating-habits-at-a-young-age

[3] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009a, p. 30; ACECQA, 2011, p. 63