Healthy eating in the Early Years. Part I. The environment and the social aspects of meal times

Early years settings provide an ideal opportunity to encourage young children to learn about food and healthy eating, and to try new food in a positive and enjoyable environment that will help them to develop their social skills.

The timing for meal times should be always the same and there should be 5 of them as children can only have small portions at time. The 5 meals should be three mains breakfast, lunch and dinner and two snacks in between. Another point is that children eat at different speeds and you will need to give enough time to eat their meals.

The areas used for meal times should be clean, warm and bright and they should be free from distraction such as toys or television as the main thing has to be the food. When serving the food encourage children to get their own food independently and give the opportunity to try new foods if they want to. Do not turn the meal times into a punishment or a reward; for example if children do not want to finish their main course do not punish them not giving them their pudding or if they want to have a second do not say not to them, remember portions are small so children will not be overeating.

While children are eating they should not be alone or in company of the television nonetheless adults and other children should be all setting down at the table interacting with each other making the meal times a good experience for everyone. When setting up or tidying up the table ask children to help you, making them feel part of the whole meal time process.

Adults are the children’s role model so sit down for you main meal times, avoid stressful environments and enjoy the great experience that can be a meal time.


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