Going squash-free with EYNP!

By Karen Nash, Childcare Manager, Brambles Day Nursery, Solihull

Thanks to the EYN Partnership, we have made some significant changes in our setting approach to nutrition and hydration.

We are proud to say that we are now a squash-free setting! We tried to cut down on squash and juices about 6 years ago, going for 1-part squash and 10-parts water, but we didn’t manage to make the change. The team were concerned as the children didn’t seem to be drinking as much, so we went back to our old ways, and that was really disappointing. This time though with the help of the EYNP and our dedicated nutritionist Gill, we’ve managed to cut out squash completely.

Two members of our team have completed the EYN Partnership’s Level 3 CACHE award unit. What they learned really helped them to see nutrition in a different way, and they went on to share their knowledge with the rest of the team. They also both said that it helped them at home with their own families which was an unexpected bonus. One of them has a daughter with a kidney defect, but she hadn’t wanted to drink enough water. Now though, she’s been able to make changes that have led to her daughter starting to drink enough, and I think that personal success inspired her even more.

Our learnings about hydration have been key in lots of ways, now all our team join in and encourage the children, and each other, to drink enough water. I think the staff probably have a greater appreciation of how they act as role models, children naturally imitate adults, after all, it actually does matter what they see the staff drinking.

Our Learning Coordinator has been really enthusiastic about the opportunities created by our partnership with EYNP. She has created an information board for parents, which has been a huge help in terms of facilitating conversations, and also for showing to prospective parents too so they can see how committed we are to this.

Initially, some of our parents weren’t sure about us making changes, particularly about sugar reduction and what they saw as taking away ‘treats’ such as the squash. Now we’ve got a display up showing the damage that can be caused by sugary drinks, compared to the advantages of water. The imagery, such as of smiles with bright white teeth, has really worked, and the children love pointing it out when they get picked up!

The fact that we have now been awarded the EYNP Quality Mark shows the progress we have made and we are proud of what it says about us. Our first year with EYNP has been so successful that we have now signed-up for a second year. We want to work towards the Advanced Quality Mark!

We’d definitely recommend EYNP to any setting. I think it’s quite likely that nurseries will feel they can’t afford to sign up, but we would say that you get so much out of it, it is definitely value for money.

We feel we have really changed the children’s’ mindsets when it comes to food and drink. A lot of our parents are telling us that the children are now asking for water at home which is good to hear. I do believe it’s a generational thing, start them early and the attitudes will stick. It’s great to get positive messages established from the start of their lives. It’s exciting to think that the changes we are making here will benefit this generation and probably even the next as these children will hopefully go on to raise their children with a healthy eating attitude too.

We’ve also been able to bring healthy eating into other areas of nursery life. The children are fascinated by the photos we have of animals drinking water – we’ve been discussing elephants and their trunks, for example, which is a nice link! And they also enjoy being creative too, the team found a water song that helped with our squash transition, and we love The Healthy Eating Song that the EYNP sent us!

We have always been keen to promote healthy lifestyles and our work with EYNP has just helped us to hone our messages. We run regular fun days where we celebrate iconic sports personalities and invite parents and even grandparents in to get involved in the fun. Because we are now so focused on healthy eating, we are better at making connections with physical activity, so it has helped us focus what we tell the children and families about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Gill has been so helpful. She’s always available on the phone, and often pops in too. She has helped us enhance and strengthen our attitudes towards healthy eating, but her support is so much more than that. She has loads of great ideas that have helped inspire us to make whole setting changes that go way beyond just menu changes.

We are so proud of how far we have come and excited for our second year. We would encourage all settings out there to go for it and join now, as we really haven’t looked back!