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This report will discuss my reflection on a health and wellbeing project designed to promote diet and nutrition in an early years setting. It will take into account advice from relevant literature, government information and guidelines and my mentor's report.
It has been stated in Healthy Eating, Active Living that '...since 1996, there has been no change in the intake of saturated fat, fruit and vegetables, bread, oil rich fish and breakfast cereals.' This shows the needs to be a greater movement towards educating and empowering people to make the right decision with regards to nutrition and to eating healthily. In an Early Years setting, it is important to get the 'healthy eating' message across from the very beginning. Naidoo and Wills (2009) agree with this notion, stating:
Young people are a key target group for the provision of information and encouragement of responsible and health-promoting attitudes and behaviour. The habits acquired in childhood and adolescence may prove influential for the rest of one's lifespan.
Many different strategies and concepts can be used to promote health and well-being. Advocacy is an example of one of these concepts and can be defined as 'Representing the interests of people who cannot speak up for themselves because of illness, disability or other disadvantage.' (Scriven, A. 2010) This means that other people will speak on behalf and in the interests of disadvantaged groups. I found after my first mentor meeting that this approach was not going to fit in with the nursery setting or my project aims and on reflection I think that rejecting this approach was the best choice to make.
Another strategy in promoting health and wellbeing is the educational approach. This is where work is done with individuals to equip them with the knowledge of how best to improve their health. Naidoo and Wills (2009) describe the educational approach as being '...to provide knowledge and information, and to develop the necessary skills so that people can make an informed choice about their health behaviour.' My mentor and I decided that this was the best strategy to use in such a short time space to get the most effective outcome. On reflection, I think that this was the best strategy to use and in the future when working with young children I shall continue to use this strategy to promote health and well-being, as I feel that it was a successful and logical approach to use.
In many of my observations (numbers 6, 7 and 8), the children used language to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of healthy eating. This is in line with the Curriculum for Excellence Early Level Outcomes as one of the outcomes from Health and Well-being states: '30a - Together we enjoy handling, tasting, talking and learning about different foods, discovering ways in which eating and drinking may help us to grow and keep healthy.' (Early Level Outcomes and Experiences, Scottish Government). Taking the outcomes into account, when aiming to promote health and well-being I think that I have been successful in providing meaningful and educational experiences to all the children. This can be backed up by my mentor's comment that I was able to provide the children with 'excellent experiences of Early Level learning activities and play.'
Looking at the placement's Food and Nutrition Policy, it states that some of the learning objectives for children are to 'learn about healthy lifestyles' and 'learn to make healthy choices at snack time'. These were suggested by my mentor to be the key focus of the project by enabling the children to make the right choices by giving them the knowledge they required. I think that this was a good decision; however the children did not have the choice at snack time to ever make an 'unhealthy' choice so I felt that this was something that I did not really need to focus on.
Observations 1 and 2 show observations of two snack times. Here, I wanted to discover what the children already knew about healthy eating. I think that this was a good start to my project as it let me understand what the children already understood about healthy eating and made it easier to plan for the future. It was also good for promoting health and well-being as during my placement time, I did not observe a staff member ever sitting with the children during snack time and I think that the children enjoyed having a conversation with me about what they were eating. This was one of my first observations so I did not know the children well and found it that this made it slightly difficult to interact with them. I did however find out that the children could identify bananas, apples and grapes as being fruit. None of the children, however, could name any other fruits. This may have been due to the small choice of fruit that was provided at snack times, only ever bananas, apples or grapes.
Observation 6 (fruit tasting) was very successful in promoting health and well-being as the children had the opportunity to try new fruits and to learn about choice. I think that this activity worked well and all the children tried at least one type of fruit that they said they hadn't had before. As Scriven notes:
People make health choices in the context of their own environment, subject to all the pressures and influences that surround them. If this environment is conducive to a healthier lifestyle, clients have greater freedom to choose the healthier alternatives and change their behaviour. (Scriven, A., 2010)
This advice shows that if children are exposed to and taught about a healthier lifestyle then they may try to follow it. Many children were observed only trying new fruit because their friend was doing it too. I think that this peer influence is very important in young children and should be taken into consideration when promoting health and well-being.
The NHS live-well website states that the five-a-day fruit and vegetable promotion: is based on '...advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.' This advice shows the importance of eating fruit and vegetables and this was the message that I was trying to get across to the children through a range of experiences and activities. Observation 9 shows the children exploring different vegetables by use of a 'wonder basket'. I think that this helped to achieve the above statement by educating the children about different types of vegetables that are available to them. This activity was successful in promoting health and well-being and my mentor said that I had performed well and that I have a 'quiet demeanor when working with the children and this worked well as she built positive, caring relationships with them' this shows that I was able to build up a rapport with the children which gained their trust and therefore their belief in what I was telling them about. On reflection, if I had had more time with this activity then the children would have been able to gain more from it. Next time when promoting health and well-being, I shall try to take more time to work up even more series of activities so that the children have more retention of what we have been learning about as I found that some of the children could not remember from day to day what we had been working on. This could, however, just be down to the age and stage of development of the children in the setting.
For future development I will aim to have an even more in-depth knowledge of the early level outcomes. I shall also aim to work on communicating with children in the early stages of a relationship with them, as I find that this can be a hard task when I do not know the child or their background. Another area for future development will be my ability to communicate with parents as I felt very much like the 'student' as this was what the staff told the parents; accordingly I felt that less consideration was given to my opinions by some staff members at the nursery even though I am already a qualified nursery practitioner. I plan to do this by aiming to be more confident whilst on placement and voice my opinions and ideas more firmly.
In conclusion, I feel that my placement project was an overall success in promoting diet and nutrition as I have taken into account government advice, relevant literature and my mentor's comments and found that my approach and outcomes were the right ones. I have reflected effectively on my practice and now have aims for my professional development.
Early Level Outcomes and Experiences, Scottish Government:
Accessed from: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/myexperiencesandoutcomes/healthandwellbeing/foodandhealth/index.asp
last accessed 25/11/10
Healthy Eating, Active Living: Scottish Government, 2008
Naidoo, J. Wills, J. (2009) Foundations for Health Promotion, 3rd Ed. Bailliere Tindal: London
NHS Live Well - Why 5 a Day? Last reviewed 2009.
last accessed 25/11/10
Scriven, A. (2010) Promoting Health A Practical Guide, 6th Ed. Bailliere Tindal: London
Placement: Food and Nutrition Policy, 2008