Kids and healthy eating.
It can be quite a difficult thing to get them to actually do and I also think it can be a tricky to teach.
I struggle big time with my eldest who hates fruit and adores chocolate. Trying to explain to her about balance and energy and not eating too much chocolate is a daily challenge.
I sometimes want to scream at her, if you carry on stuffing your face like that, you will end up overweight and unhealthy but this I NEVER do. The connection between body image and food is going to be unavoidable of course but I don’t want that message coming from me or anyone my eldest looks up to. I have never made the connection between what I eat and how I look and although I think she already kind of knows, I steer clear of that conversation with her.
We talk about food in terms of energy and health benefits. I try to not tell her about “bad food” and aim to talk about the balance of eating different foods but I still worry and it is still hard, as she just loves her sweet stuff.
I was asked by the little monkey’s teacher to go and chat to her class about food and healthy eating and thought it would be a brilliant opportunity, although I was bricking it slightly. I have zero experience working with kids, as work in adult dietetics and I knew 4 and 5 year old have attention spans of goldfish. I think I was told by the teacher I’d get about 10 minutes if I was just talking AT them which made me laugh. I could push that a lot with fun and interaction, so of course I went down that route.
Despite these nerves, whenever I have gone into the classroom to do stay and play I have really enjoyed it. Reception are a brilliant year; so funny and cute so I was kind of excited.
What Did I Teach Them?
So where did we start? Once I had stopped feeling nervous (I don’t this ever goes away with any form of public speaking?!) I started with digestion.
The first section, as I split my time into three parts, was the journey of food. I wanted to make it simple so asked the class what their favourite food was. Crazily I think they all said some form of salad vegetable which made me chuckle. I think one little one said celery!!
I then asked them to imagine eating that food and to tell me where it went after being swallowed, using the picture below.
Many knew the terminology of parts of the digestive system and to make it really fun, I measured out the length of the small and large intestine, using string to show them how long it was!
We then rounded up the session talking about where food ended up. Which kids don’t like talking about pee, wee and farting eh?
What Do We Need Food For?
I wanted to make this session really interactive and thought of 4 main areas for why we need food.
Energy for Our Muscles
I got the kids to all get on their feet and copy me. We jumped, hopped, waved and wiggled. Then I asked them how we moved? What did we use? Our arms and legs and they did identify their muscles and realised that they needed food and energy to move.
Energy for our Brain
I wanted to explain how important it was to eat for good brain function so using flash cards, asked the children to identify the numbers shown. They were spot on with this and could tell me they needed their eyes and with prompting, their brain to read and recognise the numbers. I then asked who had had their breakfast and explained how important it was to feed their brains for school.
Energy to Heal
I then asked the class who had a good bump, bruise or scar. They had some great ones. I asked them about being ill and what happens. They could tell me for both things, that they just get better. I asked them what do they need to heal and get well? They could tell me it was food and the energy from food.
Energy to Grow
Before I came the grem’s teacher had asked some of the parents to upload some baby pictures of the children so we could play “guess the baby”. This was good fun and they realised that we needed food and energy to grow and develop.
I then re-capped over all 4 points with the class.
General Healthy Eating
This was the point that was probably going to be the hardest, as I didn’t want to delve massively into food groups with some 4 and 5 year olds but I did need to do something!
I used the Eat Well Plate as a visual guide and started with fruit and vegetables. One of my best mates is a teacher and suggested a “guess the fruit” game. I had a bag and 5 bits of different fruit and veg. I asked one of the teachers to try first. They were blind folded and had to feel into the bag to guess the fruit or veg. This was good fun and the kids did a great job. When all 5 were guessed, they all came and stood at the front. We counted how many there were to illustrate the 5 a day concept and looked at how they were all different and different colours.
I then brought in some food models of foods from the other foods groups; meat and protein containing foods, milk and dairy, carbohydrates and sugary and fatty foods.
I asked for volunteers and a child picked one out of the bag and tried to find it in the food groups. We then simply talked about each group:
- Carbohydrates are the main energy foods.
- Protein being important for growing and strength.
- Milk and dairy for calcium and strong bones and teeth.
- Sugary and fatty foods as being fine to have but important to have less than other foods. The children were a bit obsessed with their teeth getting damaged but didn’t mention getting fat and spoke about getting unwell if they ate too many of these foods. I was really pleased about this.
We were then finished. I rounded up the talk by bringing stickers which they all went mental over and that was that. Lessons learnt as well: don’t give 4 and 5 years old choice with stickers!!
I really enjoyed going in to reception, working with the children and hopefully looks like it will be something I will be repeating for future classes.
They are like little sponges, taking everything in, full of enthusiasm and excitement. It’s so important to help them develop a healthy relationship with food and even though I worry about my chocoholic daughter, I’m sure I’ll get there!