When Maria Garrido and Sarah Taylor reached out to the Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP), they had already done much to improve nutrition practice in their setting, Aberdeen Park Nursery in Highbury, London.
But they knew there was even more they could be doing; they wanted to grow their confidence and help bring their team along on their healthy eating journey, and they were determined to provide the best possible food and hydration for the children in their care. That was where the EYNP came in to help.
With help from Lucy Shipton, their dedicated EYNP Registered Nutrition Professional, they began their work towards the EYNP Quality Mark Award, as well as both signing up to the Level 3 CACHE accredited award unit ‘Promote nutrition and hydration in early years and childcare settings’.
To ensure the changes they were making had the maximum impact, they involved the parents, even opting to bring Lucy in to run a parent workshop, to encourage the healthy changes to extend beyond the children’s time at nursery.
Now they are working towards gaining their Accredited certificate, and the team and parents are delighted with what they have achieved.
Maria recently told us how their work with the EYNP helped them more than they had imagined, “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 visited Aberdeen Park Nursery in June 2018, to see how their work with the EYNP has made a difference in their setting. What was clear from the very beginning, was how much hard work the team have put into making healthy eating and healthy living central to everything the children do throughout the day.
The garden has lots of things growing, including a herb patch with oregano, lemon balm, basil and sage, and the children are encouraged to dig and interact the food that grows around them.
They have an outdoor drinking fountain which they installed to encourage the children to stay hydrated, creating an easy pit stop for water rather than having to ask for a drink to be poured for them.
At lunchtime, we saw the children sit down with the team to a lovely nutritious meal of lamb tagine, with rice, peas and carrots. The children served themselves and clearly enjoyed the positive mealtime environment and social occasion.
At dessert, the children ate a rainbow of different fruits, including bananas, kiwi, oranges, blueberries and grapes, and they were all encouraged to try every single one.
When snack time came around, they decided to take it alfresco, and ate a colourful array of vegetable crudités with oat biscuits and milk. The children loved this, and tried everything that was offered to them.
Maria told us that she believes that all settings should be working with the EYNP, “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. 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.”
As a special treat for all the hard work put in by the team at Aberdeen Park, we organised for Ben Faulks, also known as Mr Bloom from Cbeebies, to pay a visit to the children, to teach them The Healthy Eating Song.
The children loved meeting him and getting involved in learning the words and doing all the actions. Ben is a long-term advocate of the EYNP and said, “It’s great to visit a nursery that have clearly put so much effort into making eating healthily the norm, and you can tell it’s having such a positive effect on the children – they’re all incredibly happy and love eating all the different fruit and vegetables on offer.”
Aberdeen Park Nursery’s commitment to improving the future life chances of the children in their care by providing healthy and nutritious food, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Not only are they working towards achieving the Accredited Quality Mark Award by the EYN Partnership, but they have also been awarded the ‘Healthy Early Years Islington Award’ and are now working towards achieving the ‘Healthy Early Years London Award’!
We’re delighted to see this early years setting thriving and hope we can help many more settings around the country to achieve similar success.
To find out more about Aberdeen Park Nursery, and how the EYNP has supported them, read their blog.