George Perkins Day Nursery developed its ‘Building Healthy Families’ initiative following the success of its ‘Building Healthy Lives’ campaign in fostering good habits, better concentration, healthier eating and less challenging behaviour in its children.
Realising that parents needed support and children needed consistency, the nursery devised the programme to have a greater impact by involving parents and the wider community, and supporting families in its diverse area to take initial steps to change. It wanted children to be surrounded by good role models all the time, and for the adults in their lives to benefit from healthy lifestyles too.
The strands of ‘Building Healthy Families’ are being active, healthy attitudes to food, emotional health and well-being.
As well as meeting the Chief Medical Officer's guidance on physical activity, George Perkins holds events such as ‘Toddles’ – scavenger hunts or treasure trails in the park on Sundays, as well as a weekly Family Physical Challenge, which parents say gives them the impetus to do active things together.
Children's energy levels are greater, and they are developing confidence and self-esteem from their physical skills. Staff too are working hard to make good choices, instigating ‘GP Joggers’ in the park after work and planning team-building events around Go Ape and Pretty Muddy.
The approach to food has been transformative. Children grow fruit and vegetables at nursery, cook them or take them home to share with parents. Groups plan a meal, choose the recipe, write the shopping list, collect money and walk to the supermarket to buy ingredients, which they prepare and cook for their friends. Children now talk to their parents about healthy choices and balanced diets.
The focus on emotional health includes working with an educational psychologist to deepen understanding of attachment and attuned interaction, and using emotion coaching to support children's self-regulation, behaviour and self-worth. A parents' workshop proved very popular. The nursery says it no longer talks about ‘managing behaviour’ as something negative, but works with, and alongside, children and families, who are finding family life less stressful.
The initiative has also added links with a residential home, with children visiting for activity sessions and residents coming to help with the nursery gardening. George Perkins hopes that the next phase of its campaign will be ‘Building Healthy Communities’. The nursery says, ‘We want others to see you don't need any fancy programme, equipment or radical change to make healthy, happy lives a reality – you just need to put it at the heart of everything you do and believe in it.’
“George Perkins takes a brilliantly holistic approach to being a healthy childcare setting
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Open to early years settings, services and projects that have worked to improve the physical health and/or emotional well-being of children, families and staff