Maria Garrido (Manager) and Sarah Taylor (Deputy Manager)
In the media there is a lot of information about childhood obesity. If your job is childcare you are probably aware of it, we certainly were, and knew we needed to prioritise healthy eating at Aberdeen Park. After all, there is lots of evidence that how a child eats when they are little is likely to be how they eat as an adult.
As a nursery, it is our responsibility to provide the best menus, and to have the best overall approach to healthy eating and hydration that we can.
But to do that we know we need to ensure that we first have deep knowledge and understanding of what it really means to have a good healthy diet in the early years.
Working with the EYN Partnership
When we first heard about the EYN Partnership we had already started work in this area, and we had been working alongside a local nutritionist in Islington. We felt working with the EYNP would be the icing on the cake! We knew that we would be ensuring the best outcomes for the children if we got the EYN Partnership involved as well and inputting into what we do. So that’s why we decided to take it on.
We both signed up for the Level 3 training as we felt that would give us the deep level of knowledge we needed. We also both believed that it would be a positive experience from a personal development point of view.
Detailed knowledge, informed choices
Anybody can say they eat healthily or encourage healthy eating. But there is so much to it. Making the right healthy choices is hard, in the supermarket and in the nursery. Are you really looking at sugars and saturated fats, are you picking the right cereals? Now, because we have done the Level 3 course we can make informed choices on all of these questions. And we now know where to seek out policies and guidance, and other sources of credible information that we can direct people to. Although we were relatively well informed before, that’s a level of detailed information that in all honesty we wouldn’t have been accessing prior to this.
All of that knowledge then gets poured into how we approach food in the nursery. So that is everything from how we shop, how we manage mealtimes, how we present snacks, how we balance our menus, the list goes on.
A whole approach to health
We’ve taken real inspiration from our work with the EYNP and extended our approach to healthy living. We’ve trained all our staff on the importance of good oral hygiene, prompted by our learnings on the Level 3 course about the sugar content of food and drink. It really struck us that you are not just talking about physical health. If you have a child who has too much sugar and has bad teeth as a consequence, that can have a significant social and emotional impact too. So as well as looking at sugar consumption, we have all learned toothbrushing techniques, and we are working to get all the children registered with a dentist.
We are also promoting activity for the children, and we are encouraging families to walk to the nursery or come on their scooters or their bikes.
All these healthy living factors fit in together and we are happy that we are now promoting a well-balanced lifestyle. We have enhanced our whole nursery ethos as a result of starting down this road and that is also positive for our relationships with parents.
Sharing benefits with families
We have made sure all our parents are aware of what we are doing with the EYNP. So we use newsletters and leaflets home where we can, to tell them we had signed up and to share our journey too. We even decided to do an added value parent’s workshop which was great. We ask them to get involved, suggesting different menu ideas etc. We have a little area for food preparation for the children in the nursery and we get parents to come along and spend time with the children there.
We have a lovely community atmosphere here, and we are working hard to engage parents. It's brilliant to see that they are all really behind it.
Another one of our practitioners now wants to the do the Level 3 training too, and our chef is so excited to start the Level 2 qualification soon. It’s going to make a big difference again to us when she is trained. At the end of the day she is the one in the kitchen preparing all the food and so she needs to be on board too. She is raring to go!
So, the year ahead looks pretty exciting! Not least because we are hoping to achieve our EYNP Quality Mark soon!
Ultimately, we know that the work we are doing will have a positive effect on children’s lives, and on their families’ lives as well, and that is a fantastic feeling.
But on top of that, there are other benefits that we did not anticipate, the inspiration to enhance our whole approach to healthy living, the empowerment of gaining new detailed information and knowing how to tackle this, and also the fun we have had! We have loved involving the children in our learning, we’ve had a lot of fun with that as have they.
We would say to anybody thinking about doing this, please do, you have no idea how much you will get out of it. Just go for it, it’s so important, and you won’t regret it for a minute.
Maria Garrido (Manager)
Sarah Taylor (Deputy Manager)