The idea to conduct a Kindy Kitchen Program began when one of our educators visited the Mia-Mia Child and Family Study Centre Open Day at Macquarie University in late 2015. She was inspired in many ways and brought numerous ideas back for her colleagues to then reflect upon within their own practice. She was intrigued by and fell in love with the involvement and value placed upon the cooking staff within this service, and the benefits children gained from participating in the preparation of the centre’s meals. Healthy eating habits are important for a lifetime of good health and it is paramount to start instilling these choices in our children as early as possible. Not only do staff at AHCC frequently talk with the children at meal times about what they are eating, but with the Kindy Kitchen Program children can also take pride in knowing they have prepared this food for their peers. To be able to work with and learn with the children in developing knowledge about food and keeping our bodies healthy was a key vision of this educator.
With a productive vegetable and herb garden already established at the centre, the children have a foundation in the process of growing and caring for this space – however, upon reflection, how often do we cultivate and use the produce for our own consumption?
What happened next?
After discussion with management and staff, it was decided a kitchen program would be a great addition to our service. With knowledge of centre NQS requirement standard 2.2 ‘Healthy eating and physical activity’, and awareness of programs like Munch and Move, The Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood from the Department of Health, and Kitchen Garden Foundation to name a few, Kindy Kitchen would aim to enhance and compliment the ideals upon which all these are based.
Where to now?
In 2016, it was decided that Kindy Kitchen would run on a Monday with children rostered on from each of the three rooms to participate each week. A small group of six will promote peer learning, co-constructing together and participation for all in working towards making a centre meal. Those families will be informed prior to their child’s session, to promote discussion at home and preparation for a change in routine.
What typically happens during a day?
Kitchen cooking routine
|8.30am||Gather half of the rostered children (3), and then:
|10.00am||Gather rostered children (6) to prepare one of the following:
|2.30pm|| Trolley and fruit preparation for one classroom, by the remaining three children
from the roster.
|Between times||Caring for worms and vegetable patch, as well as harvesting seasonal vegetables
and herbs to use in our cooking.
Activities or discussions for a session might include:
- Kitchen safety, using equipment safely and learning about hygiene.
- Discussions about the foods we are cooking – look, feel, taste, texture and how our families use those foods at home.
- Learning about new foods and their origins.
- Talking about nutrition and healthy eating.
- Harvesting herbs for families to use at home.
- Harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs from our kindy garden and observing the life cycle of fresh vegetables and herbs.
- The science of food: e.g. how does it change when heat is added or it is put in the freezer?
- Maths skills in learning terminology, quantities and fractions.
- Discovering our likes and dislikes – tastes, visual and cultural differences. Learning about inclusion and our personal differences.
All of AHCC’s policies and procedures are adhered to while the Kindy Kitchen program is being run.
The AHCC Kindy Kitchen vision
In Australia, we currently face an increasing problem with overweight and obese children. The intention of Kindy Kitchen is not to specifically target this, but to build a foundation for establishing healthy lifestyle choices in children in relation to healthy eating. Arming children with knowledge about foods will contribute to preventing weight problems and children will optimally develop positive attitudes towards food and eating food.
Having a hands on approach makes cooking pleasurable and connects children with the social constructs that come with being in the kitchen, preparing food for others and eating together.
Self-pride and recognition from peers is achieved, and along with that comes knowledge about themselves and others.
The centre aims to connect the five Early Years Learning Framework outcomes to real life, playful activity:
- Developing a strong sense of identity can be achieved through hands on cooking and gardening experiences that promote children’s connection to family, community and culture
- Caring for plants and animals (worms) helps children to connect with and contribute to their world. Respecting the environment and embedding sustainable practices in daily routines allows children to care for and learn about the land.
- Learning about healthy lifestyles, including nutrition and personal hygiene encourages a strong sense of wellbeing in children.
- Children become confident and involved learners as their active involvement changes what they know, can do and value. It transforms their learning.
- Working alongside others, and building respect for listening to each other in a small group setting, provides children with the skills in becoming effective communicators.