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Investigation of dietary and physical requirements for children under age 5 in Early Year’s childcare setting.
Healthy eating and positive exercise attitude are crucial factors which are necessary for healthy growth and development of young children. Therefore, it is very important that healthy eating patterns are developed in children in a sensitive way from an early age at home as well as in childcare settings.
To ensure that children in childcare environment maintain their healthy weight is to help them to be physically active and to develop healthy eating patterns. With healthy life style in mind, children will be able to fully participate in social life as their social skills and confidence increase.
This research project evaluates physical and dietary requirements for children under age five in childcare setting. A questionnaire method was used to analyse these requirements.
The findings indicate that parents are overall very satisfied with healthy diet that is provided to their children in the setting. Moreover, all parents agreed that children undertake enough physical activity during day while in childcare.
- Aim and objective of research project
The purpose of this research project is to investigate dietary and physical requirements of children attending Early Year’s childcare setting – KS Childminding Service.
The objectives are as following:
- To formulate questionnaires used for evaluation of dietary requirements and physical activity in the setting.
- To analyse dietary requirements in the childcare setting by using questionnaires
- To analyse physical activity in the setting by using questionnaires.
- Review of literature
Taking care of children can be compared to the cultivation of plants. Both activities require care and growth environment (/www.startsmart.gov.hk/files/pdf/nutritional_guide_en.pdf). To love our children means not only to show them the right path but also to create a healthy environment where they can growth and develop to full potential. Therefore, knowledge and skill about dietary habits must be linked to positive attitudes towards healthy eating. In other words, the food that children eat in early years will affect their dietary habits later in life. The encouragement of good habits and a healthy relationship with food must be done as early as possible.
“The Eat-well guide”, drawn up by Public Health England, outlines the recommendations of diet proportion with regards to five categories: fruit and vegetables; carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and potato; proteins including fish, eggs, beans and meat; dairy and alternatives; and oils and spreads. According to the Guardian, nearly 4 million children in the UK live in households that struggle to buy enough fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to meet these official nutrition guidelines (www.theguardian.com).
According to Abraham at all (2018) unhealthy nutrition affects children health and academic success later in life. On the other side, a healthy balanced diet, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight may partially reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Moreover, food and drink addressed to children also affect their oral health, particularly in early childhood (NHS Health Scotland, 2018, p. 11). NHS on their website states that by age 5 years, 23.3% of children had tooth decay and 22.6% were overweight in the UK in the academic year 2016 to 2017 (www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england-2018/chapter-4-health-of-children-in-the-early-years). It is estimated that NHS spent £6.1 billion on overweigh or obesity related ill-health in 2014-2015 (www.gov.uk).
Current nutritional health status of young children in the UK from 2018 says that:
- The diets of UK children are particularly lacking in fruit and vegetables, oily fish and fibre.
- Children in households receiving state benefits and those from manual work social class groups are more likely to have low fruit and vegetable intake (www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/childrens-diets-still-lack-nutrition).
- One in ten children is obese by age 5 and one in five by age 11 in the UK.
- One in four children has tooth decay when they start school.
- £7.8 m was spent on tooth extractions for children age 5 and under.
The observation study involved 9 children age under 5 who attend KS Childminding Service in 2019. A total of 8 parents participated.
Parents of each child provided information about healthy eating and physical patterns of their children in Early Year’s childcare setting through questionnaire.
Participation was voluntary and parents had a right to decide not to involve the child into the study.
Ethical agreement to participate in this research was given by parents of each child taking the part. Information about child and parent was confidential and in agreement with GDPR. The identification information is not available to anyone who is not directly involved with this research. The data were anonymised and kept in the lock cabinet.
The questionnaires were constructed to assess information on physical activity and dietary needs evaluation of children in the setting. The questionnaire in this project is shown in details below.
We would like to give you the opportunity to complete a questionnaire with aim to help us to improve our service. We have designed the questionnaire based on the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework and. Please complete it. Thank you.
Strongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree
Strongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree
Strongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree
If you answer disagree or strongly disagree, do you think that your child receive a lot of junk food here?
Thank you for taking the time to complete our questionnaire.
Name (If you wish to remain anonymous, please, use only your first and last letter of your name and surname)
________________________________________ Date: ______________________
A total of 9 children (aged 5 and under) and 8 parents participated in this research project. The main characteristics of child’s participants are shown in the table 1. All children attended the childcare setting for more than 3 months prior to their starts.
Table 1. Characteristics of children
The findings of the study are shown in graph below.
100% parents agreed that their child in the setting consumed nutritious meals with a 5 day fruit and vegetables dose during their stay. Moreover, all parents were satisfied with amount of physical activity their children performed during the day. Apart of it, 100% parents felt that the setting was stimulated for their children.
One of 8 parents answered positively for question whether his/her child should receive more food in the setting. The rest of parents were satisfied with amount of food. None of parents thought that the child should have received less food than it was offered here.
Variety and novelty of food was also investigated and parents of participated children were satisfied maximally.
100% of parents thought that children had access to fresh drinking water at all time during the day while in the care.
30% of parents were keen to talk more about dietary requirements of their children and half of parents (50%) would not have received more information about diet and nutrients that children received in the childcare setting.
The study investigates well-being of children in Early Year’s setting.
The results suggest that each child is nurtured in high-quality provision. KS Childminding Service meets nutritional requirements for children aged 5 and under. The setting tries to support a healthy weight management in children by taking part in regular physical activity and providing healthy and nutritionally balanced meals.
The research surprisingly shows finding that less than half parents want to discuss dietary requirements of their children with childcare provider with regards to the fact that full-time child receives 90% of daily food in the childcare and up to 40% for part-time children. Therefore, it would be good to work more closely in partnership with families with aim to increase their potential interest of dietary cooperation with childcare practitioners. Accuracy of this funding can be increased by obtaining more information about parent’s profiles such as background and education.
The findings of this research also suggest that information about diet provided to parents of children attending the setting is sufficient. KS Childminding Service uses a daily diary for this purpose. However, it would be interesting to investigate whether parents of full-time or part time children would like to obtain more additional information and then this information applies to future potential parents.
- Used literature
- Abraham, S., Noriega, B.R. and Shin, J. Y (2018). College students eating habits and knowledge of nutritional requirements. Journal of Nutrition and Human Health (2018) Volume 2, Issue 1.
- NHS Health Scotland (2018). Setting the table. p. 11
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