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At Willow Den, we believe that mealtimes should be happy, social occasions for children and staff alike. We promote shared, enjoyable positive interactions at these times.
We are committed to offering children healthy, nutritious, and balanced meals and snacks that meet individual needs and requirements. Staff will ensure that the day-to-day food experience is carried out in compliance with the Care Inspectorate’s Setting the Table and Food Matters documents.
We will ensure that:
- A balances and healthy lunch and up to two snacks are provided daily for children in line with National Standard.
- Children will not be expected to finish everything on their plate and will be allowed extra if they are still hungry.
- Menus are planned in advance, rotated regularly, and reflect cultural diversity and variation.
- These are displayed on our parent notice board and online on our nursery setting page on the website for children and parents to view.
- All allergens are displayed alongside the menus to show the contents of each meal.
- We provide nutritious food at all snack and mealtimes, avoiding large quantities of fat, sugar, salt, and artificial additives, preservatives and colourings.
- Menus include at least 3 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.
- We encourage parents and children to feedback on meals and to make suggestions for the menus in collaboration with kitchen staff/food provider.
- Fresh drinking water is always available and accessible. In hot weather, staff will encourage children to drink more water to keep them hydrated.
- Staff set a good example of how to engage with each other and the children at mealtimes and role model table manners and etiquette for the children. Staff and children eat together to encourage social engagement. Conversation is encouraged and staff engage well with the children throughout.
- Staff use meal and snack times to help children to develop independence through making choices, serving food and drink, and feeding themselves. Staff support children to make healthy choices and understand the need for healthy eating.
- If children are tired, upset, or too distracted to eat, we will plan quiet time before eating.
- We respect the wisdom of the child’s own body – occasionally skipping a meal will not hurt a healthy child. If refusing meals is happening on a regular basis we will discuss with the parent/carer, agree and provide a suitable menu.
- We will remove the food without fuss after a reasonable time, depending on the needs of individual children, but it is equally important to have a consistent approach.
- We will check the amount of fluid the child is drinking. A child should normally drink 6 – 8 cups of 110 – 150 ml to meet their needs but this may be more in hot weather. Drinking excessive amounts of fluids can increase fullness and reduce appetite for meals.
- We recognize that young children often ask for the same food day after day and we will be patient as we know this should not last. We will discuss any concerns with the parents.
- We will never force a child to eat, or punish a child for not eating.
- We recognize that children may not like the food that is offered and our menus are designed to meet the needs of the children in our care while balancing this with encouraging new foods.
- If we are serving dessert or pudding, we will not make it a bribe to eat the rest of the meal. For example, our staff should avoid saying “Eat your vegetables and you can have dessert”.
- We comfort and reward children with attention and praise instead of food.
- Children are given time to eat at their own pace and not rushed.
- Quantities offered, take account of the ages of the children being catered for, in line with recommended portion sizes for young children.
- We promote positive attitudes to healthy eating through play opportunities and discussions.
- No child is ever left alone when eating/drinking to minimize the risk of choking.
Food and Children’s needs in a fully outdoors setting
We acknowledge that:
- We are taking care of the whole child, therefore we will endeavour to meet the needs of any child who asks, or who staff fee would benefit from a warm drink.
- Children spending all day outdoors generally require more food, more frequently
- Warm drinks enhance a child’s experience outdoors, in particular during cold weather. These are typically made from watered down fruit juice, water and foraged fruits as warm tea, mint tea. Where more sustenance is thought to be of benefit, warm drinks may include milk and occasionally weak hot chocolate.
For children on a therapeutic diet, we will ask the parent/guardian or registered dietitian to supply us with details of the child’s dietary needs. This will include suitable food choices for meals and snacks, foods that should be excluded or specifically included, or supplements that are required.
If we have a child in our care that requires a therapeutic diet we will keep a written record of their specific needs and communicate this to all staff.
Staff show sensitivity in providing for children’s diets and allergies. They do not use a child’s diet or allergy as a label for the child or make a child feel singled out because of her/his diet or allergy. We do use colour coded plates to keep children safe but staff aim to handle this with sensitivity and consideration.
Children’s cultural backgrounds are acknowledged and any special dietary requirements included in planning meals and snacks.
Food Safety and Hygiene
Food provided will be stored, prepared and presented in a safe and hygienic environment. We make every effort to keep the premises risk-free and avoid any food-related illness.
All staff who prepare and handle food are competent to do so and receive training in food hygiene which is updated every three years.
We love to celebrate special occasions, which might include birthdays, transition on from nursery or special holidays. The way we choose to mark each occasion is child-led, this means children choose how they would like to celebrate. This can mean, for example, a treasure hunt or some cooking on the campfire.