ECE services

Abacus Montessori Preschool

There is an old saying that "it takes a whole village to raise a child" and this proverb sits at the heart of Abacus Montessori’s approach to raising heart-healthy children. The Christchurch nursery and preschool knows that promoting good nutrition must involve the parents and whanau – not just the children. 

“We are consistently working with the staff and families, especially new families. We’ve noticed a huge change in what children are bringing to school in their lunch boxes. There are more of last night’s left-over dinners and less packets,” says owner Melany-Jane Dougherty.

One boy, who used to come to school with about five packets of biscuits, crackers and muesli bars, has now lost interest in packet foods.

Behind these changes is the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award programme, which helps early childhood education (ECE) services teach their young ones about healthy eating and physical activity. Since taking part in the programme, Abacus Montessori has updated its food policy, planted an edible garden, put its staff through a Healthy Heart workshop, and introduced NuDe food (food that is not wrapped in foil, plastic or commercial packaging).

The Heart Foundation hears lots of great stories about our Healthy Heart Award but we recently decided to carry out a survey and find out how effective the programme really is. Our results showed that families from ECE services with the Healthy Heart Award are almost twice as likely to gain knowledge about healthy eating compared to families from other ECE services.

We also discovered that half of families from ECEs taking part in the Healthy Heart Award give their children healthy food, compared to only a quarter of other families. Check out this great infographic showing how effective the Healthy Heart Award is.

Like the Heart Foundation, Abacus Montessori believes good habits learned in the early years can last a lifetime. Mel says it’s a wonderful thing to hear children talk about healthy choices when they’re opening their lunch boxes. 

“When asking them questions about their hearts some of the comments are, ‘You have to look after your heart so it doesn’t break’, or ‘If you keep your heart healthy then you get to keep it’, and my favourite is ‘You have batteries in your heart and you have to exercise to charge up the batteries’.”

“It’s up to us as teachers, parents, and whanau to lay the foundations,” Mel says. “It is our aim to continuously grow a healthy, happy, energised culture within our community.”

If you’ve been inspired by Abacus Montessori’s story and would like to know more about the Healthy Heart Award, simply give us a call, we’d love to hear from you!