Blog : Food & Health

Learning table manners and skills

Learning table manners and skills

Dining Out With Children

Here are some helpful tips at eating time that we’ve learnt with our children from Parkside Early Learning Centre.

At Parkside ELC the children enjoy all meals together – this builds a real family feel and builds relationships. Our educators at our centre use this time to discuss healthy eating and encourage children to try new foods. It is also a valuable learning time to practice table manners and using cutlery. All these are life skills – learning these can start from a very you age. During free play time the children at Parkside ELC love pretending to cook in the home corner kitchen or play ‘restaurants’.

cookingeating

Dining out can be a great way for families to enjoy some quality time together, but if things go wrong, it can also be a nightmare.  Here are a few tips to ensure that your family eating-out experiences go more smoothly:

  1. Lay the groundwork:

Children can’t be expected to behave well in restaurants if they are used to being allowed to run riot at mealtimes at home or haven’t been taught the basics, such as how to use the proper utensils. It is safest to give children unbreakable plastic dishes and cutlery to practice but every now and then, and once they are a bit older, move on to proper china but maybe not your grandma’s best! Proper china and cutlery feels a lot heavier and if children are not used to this they may have more accidents.

Prepare your children for proper table manners by eating as a family at home and by teaching, modelling and enforcing positive behaviour while eating. Practising table manners in a safe and relaxed way at home is much easier for you and your child than having a fight or embarrassing moment in a restaurant with lots of onlookers.

  1. Pick your time:

Taking children to a nice restaurant when they are tired, over-hungry and fractious is often a recipe for disaster, so choose your time carefully.  Maybe try a nice brunch somewhere (they can have some toast before hand at home) or go to a café for afternoon tea.  In the Gympie region my favourite place is the Cooloola Berries Strawberry farm. Kids can run around free and are not restricted to staying in a room! Next time move on to bigger events like going out for dinner. Make the evening meal an early one and remind your children about what is expected before hand.

  1. Pick your place:

If there are no other children in the restaurant that you are considering, it might be wise to steer clear.  Children often pick up on an atmosphere that is not child-friendly, and the companionship of other children often encourages better rather than worse behaviour. In Gympie we have a good choice of kid-friendly restaurants like The Royal which has a kids play area!

  1. Order carefully:

Ordering a selection of appetizers rather than main courses not only can mean a shorter wait for the food to arrive, but it also avoids the issue of children complaining that they don’t like the food. Or choose a place that is all you can eat or buffet style. That way children don’t have to wait – try one of Gympie’s sushi trains or Pizza Hut’s All You Can Eat!

  1. The waiting game:

Sometimes it is unavoidable to have to wait – if other children are joining your restaurant get-together then take along some simple games they can enjoy while waiting for their food. How about card games like Pairs/Happy Family or UNO. You could also play games like I spy or make up games like having to find three things that are red. Hopefully this will make time pass quickly and encourage some fun conversations, too!

  1. Finally:

Never use dining out as an opportunity to have your children try something new (unless they are really into trying new foods). Keep your experiments for mealtimes at home – most supermarkets offer a huge choice of multicultural foods. Try a sushi making kit, a curry jar or have a Mexican fiesta at home with some tacos! Then your children will be prepared for a fun dinner out!

 

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Importance of physical activity for pre-schoolers

Importance of physical activity for pre-schoolers

Kids who play sports have better diets

University of Minnesota researchers say adolescents who play sports have better eating habits and nutrient intake than those who do not.

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, more than 4,700 junior high and high school students were studied. Meal and snack frequen­cy, energy and nutrient intake were looked at. Researchers say they found that “sport-involved youth generally ate breakfast more frequently and had higher mean protein, calcium, iron and zinc intakes than their non-sport involved peers.”

soccer

Researchers say this supports the positive association between youth sport participation and health.

So, what does that mean for parents of younger children? It means that we should not just focus on healthy food for preschoolers but we need to equally get them involved in sports. At Parkside Early Learning Centre we program to cover both: We have been providing all meals including snacks for a while and know that our children get the best nutritious meals in town! Cooking and baking is also part of our curriculum so children learn from an early age about the importance of healthy choices. Our educators also plan a variety of physical activities into each day. Most children chose physical play naturally when they are young. At our childcare centre they love the early morning free play time to run, balance, jump and dig. Inside our educators will offer music and movement sessions which support fine and gross motor skills. At Parkside Early learning Centre we also offer weekly yoga sessions with our professional yoga instructor and a sports program which currently does soccer once a week.ballgame

Building a love for sports participation, whether in a team or own their own, is important in the early years of childhood. It creates a habit that will carry children through their youth and most likely will continue into adulthood. The fact that it will also influence their nutritional habits is an added bonus!

 

Gympie has lots to offer for young children to be active: there are soccer and rugby programs, swim schools, martial arts schools, Mainly Music groups or visit some of the facilities like Gympie Ten Pin Bowling or the Gympie Skate Zone for some fun. On the weekends there is horse riding or trail walking on offer for the whole family!

 

 

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Healthy snacks from childcare to school

Healthy snacks from childcare to school

Ideas For Busy Parents For Creative And Healthy School Lunches

There is a wealth of information available about the importance of good nutrition and brain functioning. Parkside Early Learning Centre introduced the provision of all meals a few years back. Our team have really seen the benefits of healthy meals being offered that cover all parts of the food pyramid. Growing kids in particular, need to have a balance of complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and of course, all the vitamins and minerals. Parkside Early Learning Centre has all that covered and saves parents the hassle to come up with healthy lunch box snacks every day!

Fussy Eater Graphic

However, once children finish in child care and start school lunch boxes can be a challenge: schools ask for healthy choices and want to see less plastic wrapper, children refuse those very option and parents often get frustrated when full lunch boxes return home untouched!

The good news is that kids that bring their lunches and snacks to school don’t have to end up with the same old thing every day. There are a lot of simple, quick, and easy ways to make really interesting, tasty and healthy foods your kids will love.

Go Insulated

One of the best things to invest in is an insulated lunch bag. These will be very helpful in keeping cold foods cool, especially when paired with an ice-pack. Many classrooms don’t have a fridge available for all children. By placing the ice-pack in a zip-lock bag, you can prevent any problems with leaks and still keep fresh fruits, vegetables, dips, cheeses and meats at the right temperature.

Healthy Lunches and Snacks

For some healthy yet simple to make lunch options besides traditional sandwiches consider the following:

  • Turkey or chicken or cheese wraps using lettuce, thin strips of red or yellow peppers, and a bit of salsa or sour cream rather than mayonnaise.
  • Pasta salad with mixed vegetables, cheese, diced hard boiled eggs or even diced ham. Use an Italian dressing for something different or a ranch dressing for a more traditional taste.
  • Whole grain crackers with cheese, meat and your kid’s favourite pickles. Each can be packaged separately, and the child can make his or her own “stackers” for some fun finger food.
  • Fresh cut vegetables with a dip made of hummus or plain yogurt with fresh or dried herbs. Try some unique vegetable options such as coloured bell peppers, purple or orange cauliflower, yellow mini tomatoes, fennel and sugar peas for variety.
  • Cube up fresh fruit and provide a creamy dip. This can be made with vanilla yogurt or any other flavour your child enjoys. Remember, fruit and vegetables should be paired with a protein for energy.
  • Homemade trail mix can include dried fruits, berries and nuts depending on your child’s preferences and what the school allows.
  • Mini-pretzels with a side of salsa for dipping are a great snack and healthier that chips or sugary treats.

Cute little girl sitting on a wooden bench on autumn day

Be sure to check with the school regarding any issues with children having peanuts or other types of nuts or foods in the school. Providing a good selection of different items for the child in the lunch is always a good option, as is having your child help you in choosing what they would like to have. Get your children involved with preparing the food for their lunch box. That way they are less likely to say after school that they didn’t like it!

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How to Deal with Picky Eaters in Childcare and Gympie

How to Deal with Picky Eaters in Childcare and Gympie

One of the most common struggles parents have is dealing with picky eaters. This is one of the reasons we offer all meals at Parkside Early Learning Centre that are healthy, taste great vary from day to day. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

 

  • Your toddler takes a few bites of food and announces he’s “done”
  • You can stock your fridge and shelves full but your little one will only eat the same 5 things over and over.
  • Your child asks for one thing, you make it, then she asks for something else then decides she wants something completely different altogether.
  • Coaxing your children to just take “one more bite” is a constant battle in your home

First things first – meal times are supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable so you want to avoid these battles every time you sit down at the table. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 typically have smaller appetites, so if they only eat a little at a time, that’s ok. However, also realize that their appetites can change on a daily basis and even from meal to meal. If they like carrots, don’t be afraid to throw some in at breakfast. Do they prefer eggs? Who says you can’t have eggs for dinner?

 

Dinner time is typically going to be the meal that your child feels like eating the least. It’s the end of the day and they are tired and unless they have been doing a physical activity like swimming or playing outside or at daycare, chances are they aren’t going to be as hungry as they are at other times of the day.

 

If you are dealing with older children who are picky eaters, you may be able to reason more with them and enforce the “one bite rule“ meaning they have to take at least one bite of every food on their plate and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it again.

Here are just a few ideas for dealing with picky eaters:

 

  • Don’t nag or coax smaller children. Pick and choose your battles – plain and simply put, your child WILL eat when he is hungry.
  • Have realistic portions: Many parents set unrealistic goals for their children when it comes to mealtime. A good rule of thumb to follow: If your child is under the age of 5-6, use a tablespoon per year of age. If they ask for more when they’ve finished that then you can always give more.
  • Keep trying to introduce new foods – even if they haven’t liked them before. Tastes change and you never know when you find something new they like.
  • Avoid too much milk, juice and soda in place of food. Many kids will fill up on sugary drinks and have no room for food.

Remember, pick your battles and don’t make meal time miserable for everyone!

 

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Healthy Eating for Children in Child Care

Healthy Eating for Children in Child Care

As a parent, the nutritional needs of your children are obviously a priority, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of differing information out there. Parkside Early Learning Centre have taken on providing free nutritious meals.

The food a child eats in their early years can influence their dietary habits later in life, so it’s important to instill good habits and a healthy relationship with food from an early age. Once your child is eating solid foods, you’re likely to find that some of the meals you so lovingly created are rejected. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, but it is wise to try to get into a good routine as soon as possible.

Ensure your child’s nutrient requirements are met by aiming for three meals a day, each containing something from each food group and up to two snacks. Get into the habit of trying different types of protein with each meal and couple of different vegetables.

Day Care Centres, Child Care Centres, Early Learning Centres should all monitor this closely.

Babies and milk

In the first six months, babies receive all their nutritional requirements from a milk-based diet. Infant formula is the only alternative to breastfeeding for feeding babies below six months of age.  Cow’s milk is not recommended as a main drink for infants under 12 months. However, from six months, children enter the stage of transitional feeding, and progress from a milk only diet towards a varied, balanced diet of complementary foods from four food groups. The food groups that make up this balanced diet are proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables and milk and dairy foods.

Why protein is important

Proteins are essential for a number of important functions including growth, brain development and healthy bones. Of the 22 amino acids – or building blocks that make proteins, children need to get 10  ‘essential amino acids’ from their food.

Fruit and vegetables

Aiming for five portions of fruit and vegetables is a good starting point for children. Easy tips for keeping on track could be as simple as keeping a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer or chopping up a piece of fresh fruit for dessert.

Carbohydrates

Children need a source of carbohydrate in each meal. However, young children under 13 months may struggle to digest wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates, and too much fibre can compromise the absorption of important minerals such as calcium and iron.

Dairy and calcium

Children gain a lot of nourishment from dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese. These foods can provide the body with easily absorbed calcium as well as vitamins A and B12, protein and other vitamins and minerals.

The right kind of fat

While children need some fat to grow and develop, too much of any sort of fat is not recommended. Butter, spreads and oils contribute to the taste, texture and enjoyment of the diet. They are important as concentrated sources of energy for young children who are growing rapidly.

Soft drinks, sweets, confectionery, biscuits, sugary pastries and desserts are high in added sugars and often poor quality fats and salt. Children under five should only eat these foods once in a while, ideally saved for special occasions. The over consumption of snack foods high in added sugar, fats and salt is recognised as one of the major contributing factors to high rates of obesity.

The best breakfast for your child

When buying processed cereals read the labels carefully as they are seldom as healthy as they seem. Many contain higher levels of sugar and salt than is recommended per serving. It’s best to choose an unsweetened, simple oat or bran based cereal and add fruit such as a chopped banana or handful of raisins to make it sweet and to add a nutritious-boost.

If you have time to make a more substantial breakfast, there are a lot of healthy benefits from including protein such as an egg, baked beans or natural yogurt. Proper snacks (not constant grazing) are important to keep your child’s appetite satisfied. The more you can help your child judge when they are hungry, the better able they will be to judge how much food they should be eating as they grow older. When children ask for food, check that they’re not actually thirsty as the two are sometimes confused.

Super snacks and smoothies

  • Dried fruit – such as figs and raisins are good snacks when children want a sweet treat.
  • Raw vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, celery, cherry tomatoes etc. Serve with a little pot of hummus, bean dip, guacamole, tzatiki of some soft cheese
  • Chunks of cheese with crackers
  • Wholemeal bread or rice cakes with wafer thin ham, cream cheese or nut butter
  • Homemade soup with fingers of toast

Smoothies and juices can be a great way to get children to take in a dose of vitamin C and folate – important vitamins for the immune system, energy production and preventing anaemia. The natural sugar in fruit (fructose) can be better for children (and their teeth) than sugar laden packaged/canned drinks. But this doesn’t mean that children can drink an unlimited about of these drinks. Some smoothies contain a lot of fructose and this can result in a ‘sugar high’ which can aggravate mood and energy levels. Water should be the main source of your child’s liquid intake and one small glass of fresh fruit juice per day is enough and you can always dilute fruit juice with a splash of water.

Child Care Centre Gympie – Parkside Early Learning Centre

What is the best child care centre in Gympie?

What is the best child care centre in Gympie?

We’d like to think we are one of the best and here are a few reasons why:

  • We are one of the longest established child care centres in Gympie.
  • We have been servicing our families for 21 years
  • We offer free nutricious meals
  • We really care! The owners Carolin and Andrew run the centre hands-on
  • We offer the Queensland Approved Kindergarten Program
  • We run a free courtesy bus
  • We listen. Our children and families come up with most of the ideas on how we can be better and serve our community with excellence
  • All of our staff are qualified  or studying towards a qualification and are passionate about early childhood development
  • We see ourselves as an extension of our families partnering with parents for best possible learning outcomes
  • We are set in the best location surrounded by park lands in central Gympie

Come and book a tour and see for yourself….