N is for Nutrition – The ABC of Early Years Education
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are key for mental and physical wellbeing. A balanced diet is an essential part of that, playing an enormous role in how our little ones grow. Therefore, offering a variety of foods during the early years – including starchy items such as potatoes, rice, and pasta, alongside fruit and vegetables, dairy (or dairy alternatives) and meat, fish, eggs, and pulses (protein-rich foods) – is crucial.
Encourage uptake by talking about the benefits of healthy foods and letting children taste and touch the different ingredients. This will help them feel familiar with new cuisines, and more likely to develop good eating habits in future. Stories about fruits and vegetables — which explore where they come from — will also help children to feel confident and safe to taste and eat foods for the first time.
With little ones, it’s often about repetition and patience. If a child is reluctant, continue presenting a type of food and remain upbeat about it.
Nurseries play a key role, alongside parents, in shaping a child’s preferences. So, it’s important that practitioners understand children’s nutrition, taking an interest in what they are eating, and why the nursery’s menu has been designed in the way it has.
It should enable them to communicate with caregivers confidently when covering what their child has eaten or tried. Working alongside parents can also help to further understand eating habits at home and find common ground in terms of healthy choices.
Early years educators play a critical part as role models – encouraging children to not only eat healthy and nutritious meals, but teach them how to develop healthy choices, too.