Nicki’s Clever Cookies, a Kindergarten and Early Learning Service, have been an active member of the Achievement Program since 2020.
Their efforts have resulted in recognition of the Healthy Eating and Oral Health priority.
Healthy physical environment
The Service worked hard to create a healthy physical environment by offering a variety of vegetables in their meals. The in-house cook reviews the menu every two terms to ensure proper nutrition is provided to the children as well as analysing the children’s likes/dislikes and discovering other ways she could encourage vegetables in the meal. Educators also ensure meal spaces are comfortable and cosy by setting up natural materials on the table (such as tablecloth and potted plants), allowing children to have their meal in a calming environment. During mealtimes, educators engage with children in healthy eating conversations, giving lots of encouragements and teaching children the importance of a healthy diet. Each child also has their own individual water bottles, labelled and filled at the start of the day. These bottles are always placed at a convenient location that is easily accessible by children.
Anna, a Toddler Room Leader, reports, “Our children were more interested in the fruits and vegetables once we involve them in the routine (washing fruits, cutting veggie sticks).”
The service supports a healthy culture by ensuring educators and management are aware of the dietary requirements and preferences of each child, and substituting birthday cakes with awesome birthday celebratory hats and healthy homemade pancake stacks. Oral hygiene discussions and annual dental visits, where the dentist talks about teeth and gum health, are a priority at the service.
Child teaching and learning
To increase exposure to healthy eating, each room engages in an age-appropriate healthy eating activity with the children. For instance, the 3-year-old Kindergarten has a ‘Vegetable/Fruit of the Week’ activity where children use their touch senses to identify the vegetable or fruit hiding in the box. Once it’s revealed, the children were very keen to try what they’ve identified! A veggie garden has also been planted on both sides of the building which encourages more conversations around healthy food options. The children are involved in the process of planting, nurturing, and watering, and harvesting once it’s ready.
The Service reports that allowing children to be a part of the process encourages them to have more interest in giving the vegetable or fruit a try. Sometimes, they harvest their food item and pass it to the Cook for it to be prepared in their meal.
Kindergarten Teacher Amanda says, “Children have been more willing to try their fruits and vegetables and that’s the most important – to try.”
Supported staff and educators
The recipes used by the Service Cook are sourced by multiple organisations: Nutrition Australia, Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS), Heart Foundation and Healthy Kids. Each room also has age-appropriate healthy eating activities, and the educators and staff members access professional development on planning healthy menus.
Families and community partnerships
The Service partners with families and the local community by providing information about good oral hygiene and healthy eating at home. A recipe book, with children’s favourite dishes, is given to the families along with lists of activity ideas to encourage healthy eating at home. As the staff at Nicki’s Clever Cookies learn of the different cultures around the Service, they have adapted them into the cooking as well. The Cook tries to incorporate as many elements as possible of culture into her cooking, using different herbs and spices to enhance flavours, which the children love!
Information displayed or provided to the families are from reliable sources such as Dental Health Services Victoria and HEAS. Lists of local food supplies such as Foodbank, Fare Share, Second Bite and The Community Grocer have been compiled if families require it.
“Consistent positive encouragement and support is so important in promoting healthy eating,” says Ms Larisa, Service Cook.
The Service Cook has also spent lots of time conversing with children and exploring their likes and dislikes. She is so often so positive and patient - always encouraging children who are a little more selective in what they choose to eat.
Nicki’s Clever Cookies are continuing their Achievement Program journey by working towards recognition for the Physical Activity and Movement health area.