Leading UK organic baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen has launched a nationwide campaign calling on the UK government to take urgent action to improve early childhood nutrition
A policy paper launched to MPs last week calls on Government to introduce sensory ‘food play’ in all early years settings.
The document cites evidence showing that sensory food play can create lasting impacts on willingness to eat fruit and vegetables, which can have lifelong positive health impacts.
Backed by academics and early years experts, including the Early Years Alliance, the Eat. Play. Love. campaign aims to see food play placed at the heart of early years education.
Setting out the current challenges, the experts behind the report say that nearly one in three children are now beginning primary school diagnosed as living with overweight or obesity, with only 18% of children aged 5-10 eating the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, and 29% eating less than one portion. At the same time, weight related illnesses are costing the NHS £18 billion every year – a figure that is rising all the time.
Eat. Play. Love. argues that Government needs to rethink its approach to healthy eating policy and focus on prevention, especially prioritising the early years, where long-term habits are formed.
Acknowledging that the barriers to healthy eating are complex and wide-ranging, the report says that a dislike of fruit and particularly vegetables in early childhood is a key factor. Sensory food play, it says, is an educational tool which allows children to explore fruit and vegetables in a fun, engaging way that stimulates the senses. This, in turn, harnesses the developmental power of play – especially strong in the early years – helping to build confidence and curiosity around fruit and veg, and developing healthy habits which can last throughout childhood and beyond.
To help give every child the opportunity to play with their food, Ella’s Kitchen says it is calling for the Early Years Foundation Stage, the equivalent of the curriculum for early years settings, to be updated to include sensory food play. The company is also asking for Government-approved guidance on sensory food play for early years educators, and funding for the least affluent providers, where the need is greatest and most impact can be had.
Main image: Ella’s Kitchen