I had a run in with my son's kindy last week and now I am going to get on my soap box - join me for a while if you please. I'll set the scene; Marley goes to a really great little kindy, wonderfully caring staff who, in general, listen. I have helped them to remove all the unnecessary sugars from their menu and their new manager has made great steps in changing the food the children eat on a daily basis. Outside of this they have been extremely understanding of my preferences for Marley's nutrition on a daily basis...basically, if it's got sugar, he doesn't get it. He is now four and understanding about birthday cakes and 'sometimes' foods and in general understands why mummy and daddy want to feed him the best food they can for his growing body. From day one his teachers have called me if there was birthday cake or some other treat food being given (mostly I would say no) and he was happy with an alternative as it was just about him having 'something' not the specific food. More recently, Marley will now ask his teachers to call myself or my husband to ask if he can have a little bit of birthday cake when it is brought in. He is now allowed a very small piece and he knows that's it.
I should also say now that I also do not believe in giving food to children as a reward.
I arrived at kindy last week to be told they had had a treasure hunt and that there were MINI CHOCOLATE BARS in the treasure box. These chocolate bars had then been taken off the children and put on the side and left to parents discretion as to whether their child got to take one home or not. Tick for the treasure hunt - kids love things like that, tick for not feeding the chocolate to them there and then but HUGE fail for rewarding them with chocolate in the first place! Surely some stickers from a $2 store, balloons to blow up and play with or some other fun little token item in the treasure chest would have been a much better option.
Needless to say we didn't take a chocolate bar and Marley was a little sad but after lots of conversation on the way home we discovered he wasn't sad about the chocolate but about not being able to take something from the treasure box. We even discussed mummy giving his teachers a healthy option for next time which he was completely satisfied with so long as he got something out of the box.
This whole scenario gets me going BUT its what I was told next that really drove me nuts! There has been recent debate about birthday cakes being brought in for sharing and that there were too many and the children were getting too much crap food (parents after my own heart). We have also removed deserts such as jelly and ice cream from the menu. BUT apparently some parents are now complaining that there are NO treat foods on the menu!!! so in trying to please everyone the chocolate treasure hunt had taken place.
Really? There are about three children that are in that kindy that attend five days per week so there is plenty of time for 'treat' foods to be given at home. And surely we send our children to places such as these for them to enjoy and be educated for future life - to me this also includes education on healthy foods. If you want your children to eat crap feed it to them in your own time don't enforce it upon other children. Every child in that center is under five years old and only knows what we teach them - these children trust us as grown ups to raise them and feed them in the best most nutritious way for their growing bodies and to instil in them great practices and habits - and its not just about the sugar, have you read all of the other crap we find in junk foods??
So, to the teachers; guide these children and do the right thing. You are exactly that, their teachers, and it is your job to teach them what is best and ideal. You wouldn't change the academic or play that you teach to something that is substandard because a parent complained. You are educated and have a responsibility to pass on this education to the children AND their parents where necessary.
To the parents; get educated, these children are our futures and we have an obesity epidemic. We are heading towards a time where our children may not outlive their parents due to poor nutritional choices and sedentary disease. You had a child, now you have a responsibility to educate yourself in the best practices in every aspect of their lives. And to put it simply, sometimes foods are just that, sometimes..... not every Wednesday and Friday on the kindy menu.
I truly believe that our children are the key to our future health and there has never been a better time to educate mothers (and fathers) in the impact that their own health and fitness beliefs have on their children.
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