Children’s early years are an essential time during which they begin to establish healthy eating habits and a positive attitude to healthy food. At this stage of development, nutritious choices not only lay the foundations for their adult eating behaviours, but also help maximise their growth and the long term health benefits of a balanced diet.
The risk of choking on food is much higher for children under the age of five years, and particularly in those younger than three years old. This is because they have narrower air and food passages and are still learning to move food around in their mouths. In some cases, their biting, chewing and food-grinding skills are still developing.
This policy has been designed to help reduce the likelihood of food related choking happening in our centres, and to meet the requirements of MoE Licensing Criteria.
The policy applies to all food and drink provided by, or served at, Kindercare. The food and drink served must be prepared and served in a way that ensures it meets the nutritional and developmental needs of each child.
It is important to provide a safe physical environment for babies, toddlers and preschoolers while they are eating, and we must also ensure that:
- Children are supervised and seated while they are eating.
- There is an appropriate ratio of adults to children at mealtimes.
- Distractions are minimised, and children are encouraged to focus on eating.
- There is a designated time for children sit down to eat, rather than continuous grazing (getting up and down or leaving the table).
- Children are taught not to talk with their mouths full.
- Children are shown and reminded to sit up straight when they are eating. Sitting down and maintaining good posture is essential for safe eating and drinking.
- No walking, running, or playing is allowed while children are eating.
- Where age appropriate, food is placed directly in front of the child. This helps to reduce and prevent the need for children to twist around to the left or right, which could potentially cause them to lose control of the food in their mouth.
- When children are out of the centre on an excursion or having a picnic lunch in the outside play area, they are always supervised and seated (on their bottoms) while eating.
The following high-risk food must be excluded (all ages). The reason for this is because the potential risk that children will choke is highest with these foods, and they are either not practical to alter, have no or minimal nutritional value, or both:
- whole or pieces of nuts
- large seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds (if bliss blended)
- hard or chewy sweets or lollies
- crisps or chippies
- hard rice crackers (acceptable options listed below)
- dried fruit (if bliss blended it can be used in baking)
- sausages, saveloys and cheerio’s
- popcorn (all ages)
List of crackers that can be served to children:
(for Nourished Beginnings centres, please follow the Nourished Beginnings menu choices)
- Pita bread / toast fingers (10-12 months)
- Rice cakes / mini rice cakes, wholemeal pita bread or wraps, corn thins; plain water thins/water crackers (all ages 1 – 5)
- Cruskits / Crisp bread (4 years and over)
High-risk food to alter - the following table shows which foods to alter, why, and how to do it for different age groups.
Cooking activities in the classroom
Cooking activities in the classroom with children can continue as long as the guidelines from Ministry of Health is followed.
Food records / menus must be kept for 4 years. The Licensing Criteria from Ministry of Education stipulate that records of menus are to be kept for a minimum of 3 months. However, for verification and traceability purposes, under MPI’s National Programme Level 2, these records must be kept for 4 years.
Parents that provide food
If parents/families provide food for any reason, including the reasons below, please promote the healthy eating guidelines and strongly encourage parents to look at alternative food options for their children which aligns with the healthy eating guidelines from Ministry of Health:
- special occasions or celebrations
- for their child/ren for a specific meal i.e., breakfast
- for their child/ren for specific dietary requirements e.g., gluten free / vegan
- lunchbox lunches - sessional rooms
Established February 2021