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Healthy Eating – Getting Children off to the Right Start

According to Aistear, The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, ‘The Theme of Well-being is about children being confident, happy and healthy’. This theme focuses on developing as a person both physically and mentally. See Aim 2 of the Well-being Theme: ‘Children will be as healthy and fit as they can be’ and Learning Goal 6 of Aim 2: ‘In partnership with the adult, children will make healthy choices and demonstrate positive attitudes to nutrition, hygiene, exercise, and routine’. Pre-school provides a great opportunity to promote positive habits around healthy eating and being active.

Develop a Healthy Eating Policy

Everyone may have different ideas around what healthy eating should entail. This includes the individual parents of children attending the service and individual care workers who work at the service. A good way to ensure that everyone is in agreement about healthy eating is to have a written policy in place. If you have a written policy in place it gives everyone a chance (from parents to staff) to read, discuss and agree what the guidelines are. It will also help with new staff and parents to understand what your ideas on healthy eating are before they sign up to your service. Include both parents and staff in the discussions around the writing of your policy, ensure staff are fully trained in order to implement your policy and ensure that everyone has a copy of the policy so that they are aware of how the policy relates to them. Most importantly, ensure that your healthy eating policy follows the guidelines presented by Tusla in order to be compliant with the regulations. Our Meal Planning and Healthy Eating Pack includes a Healthy Eating Policy document you can use as a starting point and edit for the needs of your service.

Healthy Eating Should Be Made Fun!

For the children it is a great age to begin learning about a healthy lifestyle. There are lots of different ways that you can incorporate healthy eating into your daily routine. The main thing is to make it fun for the children. Songs, stories and rhymes help to set the stage to a really playful environment in which children are inspired to explore new foods. Here are a few ideas that you may like to use in your setting to get you started on your Healthy Eating Journey.

Healthy Eating: Eat The Rainbow Challenge

Create a chart where every day is labelled a different colour, i.e. Mon – Red, Tues – Green, Wednesday – Orange, Thursday – Yellow, Friday – Blue/Purple. Introduce the children to a different colour fruit or vegetable each day. Allow them to explore by touching, tasting and smelling the various foods. Talk about the food and explain to the children in simple language how the food can help make them fast, strong, smart etc. Explain to the children that they should eat foods that are colourful – that they should eat the rainbow!

Healthy Eating: Create A Vegetable Patch

Find an area that you can create your very own fruit and vegetable patch. Give the children ownership of it by allowing them to plant the seeds, water and care for the plants. Use the vegetable patch as an opportunity to talk about where food comes from and how it grows. Once the children begin to discuss between them, ensure to note any emerging interests they may have around healthy eating that you can use for the following days and weeks in the learning environment.

Healthy Snack Makers

Use old magazines and brochures to allow the children to cut out some healthy foods. Once they have them cut out they can make healthy snacks from them. For example, carrots sticks with mashed avocado, cheese on crackers, scrambled eggs on toast, fruit and yoghurt.