How can Early Years practitioners teach children where food comes from?
Teaching children where food comes from is a great topic for early year’s practitioners to explore. For many children they just see the food arrive on their plates and they don’t fully understand where the food before them actually comes from. Therefore why not begin teaching children where food comes from at an early age. Teaching children where food comes from will help lay the essential foundations for making healthy eating choices later on in life. It covers many aspects of the Early Year’s Foundation Stage and for the young children it can be all about making those healthy connections.
This great early year’s topic is full of learning opportunities such as learning about other countries and cultures, learning new vocabulary, looking after living things and learning about how food is grown, harvested and produced.
Helping to educate children about where food comes from is a great and simple way of helping children to be interested in what they are eating. Also for parents it may help their children become better eaters and less fussy for example a child may refuse a nice green apple from your fruit bowl but if they have picked one from an apple tree they are more likely to eat it.
How can early years setting promote this area of learning further?
Many nurseries are fully aware that it is important to educate children about where food comes from, but how can this be implemented into early years practice?
A good starting point is for managers to ensure that their team fully understand this subject. Do your practitioners know how to grow and cook food and do they actually know where certain food comes from? Look at incorporating resources such as reference books and posters and place them at children’s height for children to refer to. These resources are great to use in early years as a good discussion source and they can help develop some good conversations.
Some early years settings are fortunate to be situated on a working farm of which lends it’s self to teaching children where food comes from. These first hand experiences are ideal in demonstrating real learning opportunities. Children are more inclined to be interesting in where food comes from if they can actually see the whole process from beginning to end. For all other nurseries it’s about looking at how best to introduce this subject and plan exciting learning opportunities. However it’s not all about planning those activities there are many ideal opportunities during the day where you can help introduce the topic of where food comes from for example during lunch time you can talk to the children about the origins of their food and during breakfast you can talk about where their milk comes from.
As we all know children today are the ones that will be buying their own food in the future, therefore if early years practitioners can help instil where and how food is grown this will help them make healthy choices rather than using convenience foods.
Examples of ways to teach children in the early years about where food comes from
A simple an effective activity is to grow your own fruits and vegetables with children and when they are ready to harvest let the children pick them. To extend this experience further why not ask your chef to cook the food, this will show the children the whole process from growing to picking to cooking to eating the food. You don’ t need a huge space to grow your own food, research growing potatoes in tyres or tomatoes in hanging baskets there are many ways round growing fruits and vegetables in confirmed spaces. If you are really struggling for space why not contact your council to see if there are any allotments available to visit or own. Don’t forget to ask your parents/grandparents as they may own an allotment that you could regularly visit.
Trips out to local bakery’s or supermarkets are a great learning opportunity, to help make this trip interactive why not get the children to write their own shopping lists prior to the trip and then they can use their lists in the shops. Visiting local supermarkets gives adults plenty of opportunity to discuss and talk about the different food, the only issue is children are only seeing the foods on the shelf ,they not actually seeing how it is grown and harvested. Where as if children can visit a real working bakery and see how bread is grown this will allow children to see how bread is actually made from beginning to end. A discussion of where the ingredients to make bread come from is down to practitioner to explain in detail possibly using books and pictures as reference.
Cooking with children in early years is important as children get to see how the raw ingredients get transformed. This experience ticks all the boxes of the EYFS from maths to physical to understanding of the world- cause and effect and learning new vocabulary. This experience can be incorporated into your practice weekly or daily depending on your routine. Even the young children can get involved and explore textures further.
Look at your environment are there ways you can enhance it eg can you add fruit and vegetables to your home corner and why not on occasions add real ones. Can you create a supermarket in your home corner? It has been known that early years settings have created an indoor interactive gardening area using trays of soil, wheelbarrows, plant pots, fruits and vegetables, spades and pieces of paper to create labels.
Why not join in National Children’s Food Festival; this is a yearly festival teaching children in early years about where food comes from. Nurseries up and down the country plan activities and experiences over a week to help children gain a further understanding of where the food they are eating actually comes from.
Use story books to illustrate where food comes, there are some great stories such as The Enormous Turnip, or Handas Surprise. Children will thorough enjoy acting out these stories; you could introduce other vegetables that grow in the ground into the story of The Enormous Turnip.
There are many other activities and experiences that can you offer the children, however one important thing to remember is that it’s all about the quality of the learning experience.
A great collection of books that can help teach children about their food