Good nutrition is essential for children to support their growth and development. Children who develop healthy eating habits from a young age are more likely to continue these healthy habits as they grow older.
Services have a responsibility for the nutrition of children while they are in care. This is whether food is brought from home or prepared on site.
Early childhood services also play an important role in teaching children about healthy food and eating. Services can provide families with information about the benefits of healthy food and drinks for their children.
- Early childhood national nutrition guidelines
Offer children in care nutritious meals with a wide variety of foods from the 5 food groups. There are some key documents that can help services provide the right balance of nutritious foods. There are also many menu planning tools available.
Breastmilk is the healthiest food for infants. National guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Breastfeeding is recommended for 12 months and beyond if mother and baby desires.
Services have an important role to play in supporting mothers to breastfeed. Returning to work is a common reason for stopping breastfeeding or for deciding to not start breastfeeding. Services can let mothers know that they support breastfeeding in their service.
There are many things that can affect a mother's decision to continue breastfeeding while children are in care:
- mother not being close by the service to breastfeed baby
- inability to express enough breastmilk
- baby not able to take expressed milk from a bottle.
It is important for all staff to encourage any breastfeeding. This could look like:
- mum breastfeeding at pick up and drop off but providing infant formula whilst in care
- breastfeeding on the days that baby is not in care
- continuing early morning and evening feeds.
Services can work with the mother to make her feel supported in whatever is going to work best for both mum and baby.
- Develop policies that encourage and support breastfeeding
- Display a ‘breastfeeding welcome here’ sign
- Ask about breastfeeding at first contact and at the time of enrolment
- Provide a comfortable and welcoming environment for mothers to breastfeed or express breastmilk
- Ensure your service stores and handles expressed breastmilk safely
- Provide families with accurate nutrition and feeding information. This should reflect the feeding practices of the service
- Develop an individualised feeding plan for each breastfed baby
Munch & Move provides a range of resources to support your service to promote breastfeeding including:
- Fussy eating
Some children can be fussy eaters, but remember:
- adults decide what foods to offer children and when to offer them
- children decide how much they will eat.
It can take up to 15 times for children to develop a liking for a food, so it is important to keep exposing children to the food even if they refuse it at first.
To help deal with fussy eaters at meal times try these tips:
- Offer plenty of healthy choices at meals and allow children to choose or serve themselves
- Offer familiar foods with new ones
- Everyone eats together, including educators
- Encourage younger children to feed themselves
- Praise children for trying new foods even if they decide they don’t like it
- Don’t make a fuss if a child refuses to eat. Provide them with praise for trying new foods, even if they decide they don’t like it
- Get children involved in food preparation (growing foods, food preparation and cooking)
Download the Fussy Eating Educator Booklet for more information and ideas.
- Healthy eating learning experiences
This manual provides early childhood educators ideas for fun and developmentally appropriate healthy eating learning experiences. Incorporate these ideas into daily routines, interactions and curriculum.
Learning experiences can include:
- songs; rhymes and music
- group games
- vegetable garden experiences
- cooking and food preparation experiences.
There are a lot of children’s books which promote healthy eating. When you have your Munch & Move hat on, you can incorporate healthy eating into any story!
- Cook's information and support
Services should offer children in care nutritious meals with a variety of foods from the 5 food groups. Meals in care should provide 50% of the Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI’s).
To help services provide correct nutrition, your Munch & Move Support Officer can provide:
- recipe ideas and
- menu reviews and support.
The Caring for Children manual includes tools and checklists to help meet nutrition requirements.
- Healthy lunchbox information
A healthy lunchbox contains foods from the 5 food groups:
- wholegrain breads and cereals and
- meats and alternatives.
Some parents may want extra support to pack a healthy lunchbox every day, We have a range of resources that include:
- quick and healthy snack options
- ideas for including vegetables and fruit in the lunchbox
- why water is the best drink.
- Staff role modelling
Role modelling is powerful – adults are constant role models to children. It is so important to role model healthy eating habits in your service as children look to staff for cues. Role modelling helps create a supportive healthy eating environment for children. Here are some ways educators can role model healthy eating to children:
- Eat with the children and encourage them to try new fruits and vegetables
- Show children you like to eat healthy foods as well
- Talk about healthy foods on the menu that day or in their lunchboxes in a positive way
- Drink plenty of water with them at meal times and during water breaks.
Having a service policy that reflects the Munch & Move messages shows your service's commitment to Munch & Move and the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Your Support Officer can assist your service to develop or review policies. We have sample policies that includes all the key nutrition elements including breastfeeding. Download the sample policies to use or adjust to reflect your service’s practices.
- Staff training
We offer free training options and resources for educators and cooks working in centre-based early childhood services and Family Day Care Service Providers/ Coordinators in Western Sydney.
- Information for families
Munch & Move has a range of resources you can use to assist families with their food concerns and questions.
Ideas for providing information to families:
- Display information near your menu
- Display Munch & Move key message posters
- Display boards with information on a nutrition topic (see examples below)
Our Munch & Move resources page has information you can share with families.
- Munch resources
We have a range of resources available to support healthy eating messages at your service. The resources include:
- policy guidance
- menu planning support
- posters that you can display and send to families
- classroom activities that promote healthy eating.
New South Wales Child Health Survey 2009-2010
Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence. What NSW children eat and drink. Report of the Chief Health Officer 2017, Population and Public Health Division. Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health, 2017
Australian National Infant Feeding Survey 2010-2011