ECE Services

Working Together for Healthy Change

Topkids Regent Early Learning Centre in Whangarei has embraced the healthy lifestyle journey.

At the beginning of 2016, the staff at Topkids decided to kick off the year by engaging their wider learning community in healthy eating and phsyical activity. Organising a healthy picnic, they took part in active games and even featured in the local newspaper for their efforts.

With the success of this event behind them, staff wanted to continue engaging with their families and so invited their local dental nurse to speak with children and parents about the importance of a healthy diet. This information was so well received, the team quickly realised the opportunity for further education and support, organising a talk and healthy cooking demonstration from their resident teacher and clinical nutritionist, Dawn Whitford.

Still seeking more ways to make healthy eating a long-lasting part of their centre, Topkids Regent decided to join the Heart Foundation's Healthy Heart Award, signing up for the second level - the Whānau award. The Healthy Heart Award helps early learning services to create a sustainable environment that promotes healthy eating and physical activity to under 5's and their families. A perfect fit.

Centre manager, May Padonan, recognised the importance of involving all staff and parents as they worked towards acheiving a Healthy Heart Award."We wanted to go on this journey together." They started by developing healthy eating and active movement policies, then new lunchbox guidelines, all with the consultation of parents and staff.

To make their committment to the journey a long-term one, Topkids created a vegetable garden where children and parents could learn to nurture and harvest their own produce. This valuable learning experience has provided the opportunity to grow, prepare and share healthy, wholesome food together.

The staff at Topkids are proud about the postive changes they have seen since starting this journey."Our parents openly shared their feedback on Storypark about how their family diets have changed since we started our Healthy Heart Award campaign, says May. They are now more intentional in their shopping for healthy meals and lunchbox preparation. As a result, we are seeing children coming to centre with no lollies, chippies or packet foods, just healthy sandwiches, rice, yoghurt, fruits and a bottle of water."

Active movement has been a significant part of the centre culture, holding regular events to establish phsyical activity as a fun, normal part of everyday. One example was a recent mini-Olympic games, complete with medals.

The centre has been supported to complete their award by Heart Foundation Health Promotion Coordinator, Abi Alger who recognises a shift in the centre's culture. "Physical activity and healthy eating are now embedded into Topkids daily practice and flow through everything they do as a centre."Abi paticularly acknowledges two staff members, EJ Obillos and Kim Barnes who have been instrumental in making Topkid's journey a success. "Having passionate staff to drive healthy change is so vital" she says.

Recently, the centre received their Whānau level Healthy Heart Award and to celebrate, planned a combined bush walk, clean up and healthy picnic as part of NZ Conservation Week.

"Through extending the learning to the wider community, we hope to spread the message and inspire others to join us in this journey," says May.

"Achieving our first Healthy Heart Award has given us the passion to continue to work together with the Heart Foundation for the benefit of our children and families. At Topkids Regent, we are one in saying that a happy healthy heart, creates a bright, great start!"