It is alright to play with your food!
New Year brings New Beginnings. The chance to start afresh and stick to those resolutions. Our Cooking & Roleplay toys are one of the most popular ranges in our collection, and features all sorts of scrumptious toys for youngsters to get their teeth into (not literally!) So we have decided to write a post - including some wonderful information on the 'Feeding Young Imaginations' campaign by the Pre-School Learning Alliance group, and how using play food helps promote a healthy balanced diet. A good diet is particularly important for young children as their early food experiences will impact on their eating patterns and habits latter on in their adult life. Youngsters need high energy foods and nutrients including protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals to help their bodies work correctly and grow. Foods and eating can also provide wonderful opportunities for learning, such as numeracy, reading & writing, art & design, science, ecology, geography, history and even religion (just check out our Great British Bake Off post). So, why is a healthy diet so important for youngsters? - It helps to improve their concentration, learning and behaviour - Promotes physical growth and development - Builds up their strength and immune system €“ and helps fights off colds and viruses - Gives plenty of energy (though sometimes we wish they would have less of it €“ it is important!) - Plays a paramount role in shaping a child€™s lifelong attitudes towards food. Did you know? After approximately three years old, children model the nutritional behaviours of those in their environments €“ especially their parents€™ food presences and attitudes. What should feature in a youngster€™s diet? - Lots of choice and balance €“ it is important to allow children to make their own choices on foods €“ allowing them to evolve their learning and decision making. - Lots of fruits and vegetables €“ these are packed with vitamins, nutrients and all those important! - Lots of starchy foods €“ bread, rice, potatoes, pasts (though do be careful not to - Foods that contain calcium and iron-rich foods €“ milk & dairy, meat, fish, eggs, beans - Regular healthy meals and snacks - Low salt and avoid added sugar foods. Did you know? A child€™s initial rejections of new foods do not represent innate food preferences, but transient reactions that can be changed and developed through learning and experience. Top tips for starting healthy eating - Encourage your child to try lots of different foods - Try not to exclude particular food groups €“ (the more you exclude, the more likely the child is going to want it... and we all know that children tend to get what they want, one way or another!) - Offer healthy alternatives to sugary or fatty treats - Make food and eating times fun and social €“ talk about your food, educate them about how the foods arrived on the table. - Encourage your child to drink lots of water as it will help with their concentration, learning and behaviour Did you know? Children learn primarily through observational learning, especially their parents€™ attitudes and behaviours. By eating a variety of foods and often trying new ones €“ youngsters are more likely to mimic this behaviour. How can toys be used to help food and eating experiences? In a play setting, parents should encourage children to prepare healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, soup etc. By pretending to consume these healthy foods, and by interacting by commenting on how delicious they are can help encourage youngsters to try them in future (food familiarity). This food familiarity allows youngsters to become accustomed to foods they see on a regular basis. Importantly, children€™s preference will be honed in on these foods they see and interact with regularly. In the safety of a play setting, parents can also familiarise children on how to act and behaviour in a kitchen setting i.e. chopping up vegetables, stirring a pan, and even opening and closing the oven door. With all this said, it is also important to allow children to indulge in treats once in a while. By allowing children to eat these €˜treats€™, it emphasises the importance of a balanced diet and that they should not be eaten in replace of meals. clicking here!