Children are developing rapidly at this critical age, and we want to be sure that we’re doing everything we can to support this stage in their life. The food they put into their bodies can have a huge impact on their health, and being taught about the different food groups (what is good, what is bad and what should be eaten in moderation) is key.
In this article, we cover how we get children involved with the food preparation process, a typical day for mealtimes at Kids Love Nature and some information we think you should know.
We get them involved…
We think it’s important that children at our outdoor nurseries know where their food is coming from, so we put a lot of time into ensuring that part of their day is spent helping to gather and prepare food for their lunches or snacks.
At our Lytchett Kindergarten, we are lucky enough to have access to a whole allotment with an orchard and polytunnels. Supported by Sustainable Food City, our teachers work with the children to look after this area, by regularly harvesting their own food such as carrots, pumpkins and butternut squash, ideal for a hearty soup when it’s a little chilly.
At our Marwell Zoo outdoor nursery, one of our favourite activities is baking with the children. With a child-friendly kitchen, we choose healthy recipes such as fruit flapjacks, banana bread, vegetable muffins, and oatcakes.
Children at our Lymington kindergarten love getting involved with the farm animals that live at our outdoor nursery, they’ll regularly visit the chicken pens to collect the eggs for our chefs to include in lunches.
At our Avon Heath kindergarten, we get the children fully involved with growing vegetables in our veggie patch, asking for their input on what they would like to grow, helping plant seeds, watering them and taking care of them, they then help to harvest the fruits, herbs and vegetables which we then use for their delicious lunches!
Not only are these activities great fun for the children, but they teach them important skills about healthy eating, growing their own food and preparing fresh home-cooked meals.
So, what’s a typical day at a Kids Love Nature outdoor nursery like?
With the majority of our children arriving at our outdoor nurseries between 8am and 9am, we usually sit down when they arrive to prepare a morning snack. We allow children the freedom to choose what they would like to eat, but generally, options include;
Homemade wholemeal bread
Cucumber and carrot sticks
Fresh fruit salad
We will then aim to serve lunch between 11:30am and 12:30pm, starting with our younger classrooms first, and in many cases, children will have spent the morning supporting our teachers in preparing some of the vegetables. We ensure that all meals are varied, meat-free, organic where possible and, if not grown on site, purchased locally. Some of our favourites include:
Cod fish cakes with sweet potato wedges
Macaroni cheese with root vegetables
Vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise
Lemon sponge pudding
For our puddings, we believe it is important to lower the intake of refined sugar so we like to be inventive in the kitchen. There are some great alternatives we like to use, such as dates, coconut sugar, and natural fruit syrups.
Scientifically proven, organic food is far better for your child than the non-organic alternative. Food grown organically has far fewer pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms.
Not only is organic food better for our health, but it’s also better for our environment, and we try to promote this message to our children everyday, if they are looking after the environment now, they are supporting their own futures. Here are just a few of the benefits organic food has to our environment:
Zero risk to our soil as organic food is far more biodegradable
Preserves local wildlife due to the lack of chemicals
Reduces the risks of global warming as organic food is generally distributed locally
How does getting children involved help with their development?
We develop their mathematical skills by allowing children to weigh out ingredients using different scales, and using cookbooks helps them to recognise numbers and letters and provides them with a way to visualise what their snacks could look like.
Patience is also a great skill that is taught through food preparation, as baking gives children the opportunity to take turns and work as a team.
The process of cooking/baking also provides them with health and safety knowledge within the kitchen environment, for example, understanding that the oven is hot and that they need to wash hands before preparing food.
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