This help centre article has been written for Koru Kids' Home Nursery service
The importance of nutrition in a home nursery
We believe children won’t learn well without great nutrition.
Without the right nutrients, a child’s rapidly developing brain is not supported.
Our Early Educators know that eating well affects mood and behaviour.
Nutrition has a direct effect on how children feel. Serotonin (which helps regulate sleep, appetite and moods) is mostly produced in the gut, meaning the digestive system also guides emotions.
Active, growing children need great food to fuel their adventures.
The physical benefits of proper nutrition are endless. The right food gives children the energy to live life to the full, protects against malnourishment, maintains the immune system, prevents obesity and reduces the risk of chronic disease.
We know giving children a positive relationship with healthy food is vital.
It is important to help children develop healthy habits to continue throughout life.
We believe a simple meal is a fun and exciting learning experience. They can learn about shape, colour, texture, flavour and taste.
Eating together as ‘a family’ strengthens a child’s social and cultural relationship with food and helps them feel deeply connected to the group. It is an opportunity to learn table manners and social skills around sharing and enjoyment of a moment together.
Our home nurseries typically serve lunch and tea, not breakfast.
Children often need to eat as soon as they get up and so you are likely to have fed your child before drop off anyway.
Offering breakfast complicates the Early Educators morning as children are arriving at different times and often just want to play straight away.
Not serving breakfast means they can focus on properly greeting each child and chatting to parents, as well as planning the morning’s adventure.
Some offer children a ‘second breakfast’ - something light such as a piece of toast - do speak to your Early Educator if you feel your child would benefit from this.
Most make lunch the main meal of the day.
Most of our home nurseries like to make lunch the centrepiece of the day and a real social gathering.
Children respond well to a full, hot meal at lunchtime. It allows them to refuel after a busy morning and having a good meal helps them nap well after it.
Our Early Educators eat with the children so that they can model healthy attitudes towards food and table manners.
Tea is around 4.30 pm and is typically a lighter meal.
Our Early Educators will ensure it is complete before children begin being collected.
It, therefore, makes sense to make this meal lighter as children will not be so hungry.
This also means that parents that would like to eat dinner with their children at home can do so. They can take the 4.30 pm tea as simply a snack.
Our home nurseries serve water and milk only.
We believe teaching children a love of water is a great gift.
It is good for children to learn to enjoy plain water as their main fluid. This prevents them from having a taste for sugary drinks that can lead to unhealthy habits.
Our Early Educators model a love of water by predominantly drinking water themselves.
Children will be reminded to drink.
Your child should have their own cup or bottle of water with their name on.
You may wish us to serve milk to your child so your Early Educator will discuss when and how much they should drink. Milk is very filling and serving it with food or in the day ahead of mealtimes can mean children don’t eat well - affecting their overall nutrition.
Snacks are kept light
Children can be fussy over their main meal if they are not hungry. Hungry children eat well. It is easy to get a varied nutrition into them when they are ready for each and every meal.
We serve snacks once in the morning and once in the afternoon and keep it light and not too filling.
Chopped up fruit and vegetables are the most common snack served.
Some Early Educators make snacks with, not for the children by baking once a week.
Sugar is a treat but never a reward.
We never serve sweets or cakes as a regular snack. Home-baked snacks might be serviced but recipes will be kept low or no sugar (e.g. sugar-free banana bread or flapjack)
Sweet puddings, such as rice pudding, sponge and custard or a sweetened yoghurt may be served but this is the only time children should be regularly getting sugar in the setting. If you’d rather your child didn’t have pudding let your Early Educator know.
Birthdays and special occasions are a nice time for children to be treated to sweets and cake. But your Early Educator will always check with you before letting them have these treats.
The eating environment
Safety is our first concern
Our Early Educators will decide which areas they are going to keep out of bounds (e.g. kitchens)
If the kitchen is accessible (for example, used for messy play), cupboard locks etc are used to keep it safe for little people
We believe the most important aspect of a safe home is guiding children to behave appropriately around hazards. Children can learn quickly.
We teach them about ‘hot’ and ensure they can recognise sources of heat, such as the oven or fire and know not to touch.
For example, we might teach, “it's only okay to go into the kitchen with a grown-up”, “the kitchen cupboards are only for adults”.
Children eat as a family
Children tend to eat better in the social setting of a nursery as they are influenced by their peers, so sit children around a table.
We keep things simple by serving all the children (allergies allowing) the same food and letting them eat as much or as little as they like without making a fuss.
Serving from central bowls helps children have control over their eating.
We include babies in family mealtimes
Babies benefit from social engagement with the Early Educator and other children even if they are not eating the same food.
They will be naturally curious about the food the other children are eating. Our Early Educators can begin to introduce them to new foods and flavours and gently transition them to eating alongside the other children.
Our home nurseries use an adult table with high stools or a low table and low chairs.
Either way, our Early Educators always eat with the children
Dietary requirements & allergies
Our Early Educators are all trained in managing allergies
As part of your child’s settling in, your home nursery will gather information about dietary requirements and allergies
These are stored in your child’s personal records and many display the allergy info in their kitchen as a reminder
As part of first aid training, your Early Educator knows how to deal with most allergic reactions - but you should always speak to them about your child’s specific allergies and their reactions
Your Early Educator will take your child’s allergy into consideration in their meal planning and shopping.
They keep a receipt for all the food they buy so lists of ingredients can be referred to if necessary
They avoid cross-contamination if the allergen appears in food to be served to other children
If you prefer to provide your child with food, that is fine.
Your Early Educator is trained in food hygiene so can safely reheat food if necessary.
It’s normal for children to refuse to eat - or even try - some foods.
We ensure your child eats some food from the 4 main food groups.
We gradually introduce other foods and keep going back to the foods the child didn't like before. Children's tastes change. One day they'll hate something, but a month later they may love it.
We keep offering a variety of foods – it may take lots of attempts before your child accepts some foods.
We experiment with serving foods in different forms if they refuse a certain type - for example, try grated rather than a chopped carrot or cooked rather than raw pears.
If your child’s picky eating is an issue, your Early Educator will of course speak with you.
We know children get excited about the food they know more about, so we help children learn about how food grows.
Where possible, our home nurseries will create some ‘grow your own’ activities. This could be a full-on veggie patch or just a trug with a few carrots and beets, some easy to grow herbs or greens, like rocket or spinach or even just some cress on a window sill.
We help children to learn where meat, dairy and eggs come from.
Your home nursery will try to visit a farm at some point and talk to the children about how animals are raised for us to eat. It is best, to be frank about these things and not allow children to become squeamish or have guilt around it - although it's okay for them to feel sad.
We talk about the fact that animals eating other animals is natural in nature and the food cycle.
We teach children about milk coming from cows, as well as other mammals.
Children get excited about the food they have control over.
A big part of understanding food provenance is understanding shops, markets and shopping.
Your Early Educator will regularly take children to shops, markets or vegetable and fruit stalls to allow children to choose produce and pay for it.
Buying, then chopping carrots will make those carrots much more exciting when they arrive on the plate at dinnertime.
Having the freedom to take children to shops is a real benefit of small groups and something we can offer over a pre-school or nursery.
Children love being involved in food preparation.
Many of our home nurseries make cooking or baking a regular activity in the week.
Children learn a lot about measuring and the sensory experience of mixing is a fabulous learning opportunity.
Children love to eat food they have had a hand in preparing.
Children can be taught to handle sharper knives safely and get involved in chopping and it’s great fine motor skill practice.
We know that children under one vary enormously, so we always work with the parents on routine and food.
Babies wean at very different rates and so an individual child’s milk and food routine will be different depending on their age and when they join the setting.
Our Early Educators will serve either puree or follow baby weaning, as per what you do at home.
If your babies still have milk, your Early Educator will speak to you about what to give and when.
Formula milk is provided by the Early Educator as part of their all-inclusive fee.
The Early Educator will provide a certain brand (which will vary at each home nursery - feel free to discuss this on your tour).
If you would rather the Early Educator use a different brand, you are welcome to provide this yourself, however, it's important to note that there will be no reduction in the fee you pay.
For children over the age of 1, cow's milk is provided by the Early Educator as part of their all-inclusive fee. They can provide either whole or semi-skimmed milk according to your preference.