Nurseries in Bolton are going for gold when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyles.
Seven in the town have taken part in a pilot scheme aimed at improving the health of their babies, toddlers, staff and even parents just by making a few simple changes.
The Bolton Healthy Early Years Setting award is delivered by Bolton Council and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.
To qualify for gold status, participants were encouraged to meet criteria in four areas: healthy eating and oral health; physical activity; emotional wellbeing; and personal, social and emotional development.
All the nurseries were already committed to these areas of healthy living, but a few additional tweaks meant they could achieve the best outcomes possible for their young charges. The award means that they demonstrate excellence in health and have gone beyond the minimum requirements of an early years setting.
Nutritionists worked with the settings to adapt their mealtime and snack menus in order to give the children a varied and healthy diet. Fruit snacks were alternated with toast and vegetables to reduce the amount of sugar intake, and beans and pulses were added to vegetarian meals in order to increase the protein content.
When it came to physical exercise, activity levels were improved to ensure the youngsters were increasing their pulse rate, getting out of breath and feeling warm as a result. NHS guidelines recommend children under five should be physically active for 180 minutes each day (spread throughout the day), including both light and energetic activity.
Each nursery had to document their progress and provide evidence before being awarded the gold standard. The nurseries will be presented with their awards at Bolton Science and Technology Centre on February 24.
The extra effort has also rubbed off onto nursery staff, who have enjoyed the revised menus, and even parents who have taken home the scheme’s principles.
One parent said: “This scheme has really helped with my son, who was a fussy eater. So much so that he now eats most things at home, or at least will try them.”
Cabinet Member for Public Health, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “We have some fantastic early years settings in Bolton that are committed to providing a healthy environment for our youngsters. However, with a few minor changes in the areas of healthy eating and physical activity the nurseries were able to improve the environment further for everyone involved. They all worked really hard and deserve to be recognised for achieving the gold award.
“Simple changes, like reducing salty ingredients such gravy granules and introducing protein to vegetarian meals, and increasing physical activity to result in children feeling warm and out of breath can make the world of difference. Encouraging this behaviour at an early age helps children prepare for school, where we have already championed nutritional, value-for-money school meals.”
Owner of Jelly Babies Nursery in Little Lever, Maxine Phillips, said: “We have enjoyed taking part in the BHEYS award knowing that through this scheme we are doing our best to ensure the children in our care have a healthy start in life. We would encourage more nursery settings to become involved, as this will ultimately have a positive impact on the future health of children in Bolton.”
Nurseries interested in taking part in the next stage of the pilot should contact Lizzie Simister of the Food and Health Service on 01204 463175/462670.
The nurseries which have successfully achieved the Bolton Healthy Early Years Setting Gold Award are as follows: Croft House Children’s Nursery, Daisy Chains Private Nursery, Great Lever Nursery Ltd, Hocus Pocus Day Nursery, Jelly Babies Day Nursery, High Meadows Private Day Nursery and Queensbrook Children’s Nursery.