Menu ideas from Children’s Food Trust by Sarah Neville

8th September 2016

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Sarah Neville has worked in the early years for over 20 years, as an audiologist, childminder, e-book writer and trainer. She is passionate about the ways in which early years professionals including childminders can make a difference to the lives of young children and is always keen to share information and good practice with fellow colleagues. We welcome Sarah to the Childcare Expo blog as she expresses her feedback on the Children’s Food Trust draft menu suggestions.

Sarah’s words

sarah-neville-blog Childminders have reacted with interest to the new draft menu suggestions from Children’s Food Trust and are keen to give their feedback. The menus have been written by food experts, cover 3 weeks at a time and are ethnically diverse and seasonally appropriate. They provide healthy, balanced and nutritious meal and snack ideas for children from 6 months up to 5 years old. They will include, when the consultation period is finished, recipes with cooking times and reflect the government’s latest dietary advice – the menus have been written after a request from Public Health England.

Childminders appreciate how Children’s Food Trust talk directly to us. Children’s Food Trust recognise childminders as valuable contributors to children’s early eating choices, working closely as we do alongside parents from introducing baby’s ‘first tastes’ to writing menus with input from our after school children.

sarah-neville-blog-2 We don’t have any specific laws relating to children’s food in this country but there is lots of good practice information available. For example, there are ‘Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines’ which have been developed with input from childminders. You can find a wealth of good practice advice on the resources page of the Children’s Food Trust website if you want to read more.

We are very lucky in our childminding provision – we have a qualified chef to make our meals and very few fussy eaters. We make all our food from fresh and even the humble tomato sauce used for pasta and home-made pizzas contains at least 3 choices of vegetables, prepared by the children rather than hidden. We always offer alternatives if a child doesn’t like something and we are immediately responsive to allergies and food intolerances as required by the Early Years Foundation Stage, but beyond that our children are up for trying most new things and have a pretty eclectic diet by the time they start school.

Childminder concerns about the new menu suggestions from Children’s Food Trust include –

  • Wastage if the children refuse to try something new – especially if they know there is more food at home if they haven’t eaten what we provide. One of my colleagues’ children said, only the other week, ‘It’s ok if my sister doesn’t eat it, she can have biscuits at home’.

This is where childminders need to work closely with parents and ask them to encourage their children to eat the food they are offered. If you are finding there is a lot of wastage or you are feeling resentful about providing food to scrape into the bin, ask parents to pay a reasonable amount to cover their child’s food.

  • Cost effectiveness of menus with lots of different ingredients.

It is important to buy good quality food but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Check websites for special deals and save money on store cupboard essentials by trying out cheaper alternatives.

  • Time taken to prepare meals from scratch.

Childminders often work on their own and can have up to 6 children under the age of 8 to care for while cooking. Slow cookers save a lot of time – and involving children in preparing and cooking their own food gives them a great sense of achievement and means they are more likely to try what you are offering them.

  • Affordability especially when fees for the Government’s funded sessions for 3 and 4 year olds vary so much across the country.

We cannot ask parents of funded children to top up fees with money for food but we can give them ideas for packed lunches if cooking is no longer cost effective. There are guides to healthy packed lunches in the resources link above.

We hope our childminder colleagues have responded to the consultation and look forward to using the new menus when they are published. We are generally grateful for anything that makes our paperwork life easier and we are sure parents will be keen to use the menu suggestions at home.

You can hear more from Sarah on her blogIf you work in the industry and would like to share your thoughts and opinions then please get in touch

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