Overcoming childhood obesity — & why it matters

We previously covered the importance of healthy eating and exercise in children’s early years. Both play clear roles in a healthy lifestyle and in fighting potential weight and fitness problems. In today’s post we’ll take a closer look at obesity in young children, how to recognise it, and why it’s important to try to overcome it.

Obesity occurs when excess body fat accumulates in quantities that can be detrimental to health.

How to Recognise Obesity in Children

Apart from any obvious, physical signs, the easiest way to check whether your child has possible weight issues is to check their Body Mass Index (‘BMI’). While it’s not a perfect system, it’s an easy starting point to get a quick overview. The NHS has a great tool for measuring your child’s BMI, which you can access here. It’s quick, simple and free. Select the ‘Child’ tab at the top, enter their height, weight, date of birth, sex and the date of the measurements and then click the ‘calculate’ button at the bottom. Simple! The results are almost immediate and also include some useful Exercise & active play are key tools for fighting obesity in young childrenguidance and links. Your child will fall into one of 4 possible categories:

  • Your child is underweight;
  • Your child is a healthy weight;
  • Your child is overweight;
  • Your child is very overweight.

You may find that BMI results reference centiles. These are a way of comparing a child’s BMI to those of other children of the same age. They use data from Nationwide surveys, which offer a useful comparator. For example, a boy who is on the 60th centile weighs more than 60 out of 100 other boys of the same age in the survey. The healthy weight category for children falls between the 2nd and 91st centiles — quite a wide range.

If you are at all concerned about your child’s BMI or weight (whether overweight or underweight), consult your GP. They may be able to offer guidance or a healthy lifestyle programme referral. However, not all weight issues stem from incorrect food or exercise levels and can occasionally be the result of an underlying medical condition — another reason to check with your GP.

Why Does Childhood Obesity Matter?

The reason this is important is summed up perfectly by the NHS:

“If your child is above a healthy weight now, they’re more likely to be above a healthy weight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life.”

Statistics around childhood obesity, and their ramifications, are startling:

  • The age at which children are becoming obese seems to be getting worse i.e. reducing.
  • By the time they start school, 1 in 5 children in the UK are either overweight or very overweight.
  • Between year 6 and the age of 15, 1 in 3 children are overweight or very overweight — a very concerning statistic.
  • Once children are obese, there’s a much greater chance that they will remain so as they grow older.
  • By the time they reach adulthood, obese people are 7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart disease and depression are also statistically more prevalent in obese people.
  • Premature death is twice as likely if you are obese.

Healthy, balanced eating habits also help to fight obesity at any ageSocio-economic background matters too:

  • Under-fives from deprived backgrounds are 2 times more likely to become obese.
  • 11-year-olds from low-income backgrounds are 3 times more likely to become obese.

And society is suffering due to obesity too:

  • More is spent by the NHS each year tackling the adverse effects of obesity than is spent on the fire service, police and judicial system combined.

All in all, fighting obesity early really matters!

How to Tackle Childhood Obesity

There are two clear ways that parents, guardians, carers and childcare professionals can help to ensure that children avoid weight problems and potential obesity. In essence, both come down to the child maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Through regular exercise, ideally starting from a young age so that good habits are formed early. Read our Guide to Early Years Exercise & Why it’s Essential here for full details.
  2. Through a healthy, balanced diet; one that contains the right food groups in the right amounts. Again, children should be doing this right from an early age so that eating healthily comes naturally as they grow older. Read our Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers here for further information.

Both are great guides with some excellent background information, tips and more. So, perhaps bookmark the links and feel free to share any of our articles on social media or online. All we ask is that you link back to our original post(s).

A Healthy Start at Treetops Nursery in Willesden, London NW10

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenThe childcare professionals at Treetops Nursery do, of course, follow exactly this approach. We supply healthy, balanced, meals and drinks, which are freshly prepared on site each day using only the best ingredients. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers also get ample, rich opportunities for active play and exercise as part of their tailored learning and development programme. All this, together with the excellent early years curriculum at the nursery, gives them the very best start in life and clean, healthy foundations to build upon once they leave us to begin school at age five.

If you are searching for the best nurseries for your baby or child in Willesden or near Willesden Green, Kensal Green or Harlesden you’ll find Treetops Nursery very hard to beat. Facilities and resources are excellent and the setting has a wonderful Ofsted report. If you’re considering a place here for your child, please contact us. We’ll be happy tell you more and to show you around. Please choose from the following:

The Top 25 Benefits of Breastfeeding

When it comes to breastfeeding vs. formula milk, there’s a good reason why the phrase ‘Breast is Best’ holds true. In fact, there are many benefits to breastfeeding including several for both baby and mother. Here are our top twenty-five:

15+ Breastfeeding Benefits for Babies

  1. Breastfeeding benefits babies enormouslyBreast milk is nature’s totally natural food for newborns and little ones, containing nothing artificial or added.
  2. It’s tailored perfectly to the needs of the growing infant, adapting to their needs as they grow.
  3. It passes on antibodies straight to the newborn baby.
  4. It contains everything the baby needs for healthy development, including all the right proteins, vitamins, fats and even hormones.
  5. Breast milk also contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for the baby’s developing brain.
  6. Data suggests that at least 6 months of breastfeeding protects against the possible development of childhood leukaemia.
  7. It’s also likely to protect against the development of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (‘SADS’).
  8. Premature babies are also more protected against the bowel disorder Necrotising Enterocolitis (‘NEC’), which can be potentially serious.
  9. Babies are more protected against asthma if they have been breastfedBabies are also more protected against asthma if they have been breastfed.
  10. Breast milk protects children against allergic rhinitis.
  11. Children are less likely to suffer from severe eczema, wheezing and respiratory infections if they were breastfed as babies.
  12. Children who were breastfed as babies are also statistically less likely to suffer from ear infections.
  13. Evidence also suggests that continuing with some breast milk once a child starts weaning onto solids (usually around the age of 6 months) may protect them against the development of some food allergies.
  14. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop gastrointestinal infections and diarrhoea.
  15. Many of the benefits of breastfeeding during early childhood actually continue to benefit the individual once they’re adults, which is remarkable.

10+ Breastfeeding Benefits for Mums

  1. Breastfeeding also benefits mothersBreastfeeding a baby reduces the chance of mothers developing Type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer.
  3. They’re also less likely to develop ovarian cancer.
  4. They’re less likely to develop osteoporosis.
  5. Breastfeeding mums are also less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
  6. Their weight is also more likely to return to its normal level following pregnancy if they breastfeed.
  7. Breastfeeding a baby reduces the chance of mothers becoming obese.
  8. The uterus of mothers who breastfeed also returns to its normal size far sooner.
  9. Periods return later in mums who breastfeed, which could help with family planning.
  10. Last but not least, breastfeeding allows closer bonds to quickly form between baby and mother.

Treetops Nursery offers a private space for nursing mothersOur top 25 benefits of breastfeeding really only scratch the surface. Breastfeeding and breast milk have many more benefits including anything from saving money and being more convenient (nothing needs buying or preparing) to being better for the planet. With breast milk, there’s no packaging to throw away and it’s a totally sustainable food source, direct from nature. Incredible when you think about it.

Milk at Treetops Nursery, Willesden

Parents/guardians of babies and children at Treetops Nursery are welcome to supply their own preferred milk, whether that’s bottled breast milk or specific types of formula milk. If supplying the latter, there’s no need to make it up as we can prepare it for your child, so that it’s more freshly prepared and the right temperature etc. Please do label your child’s milk/bottles/etc. with your child’s name, though. It’s also best to supply them in a cool bag, please, also clearly labelled. Nursing mums who wish to breastfeed their child at the nursery are also offered an appropriate, private space in which to do so.

Our Outstanding Nursery in Willesden, near Harlesden & Kensal Green

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenAre you looking for the best nursery for your child? If so, you’ll find Treetops Nursery very hard to beat. Our nursery is in Willesden, so is near to Willesden Green, Kensal Green and Harlesden in London NW10. It’s suitable for babies, toddlers and children aged up to five. Fees are competitive, facilities and equipment are excellent and we received a glowing report from Ofsted. If you’re potentially interested in a nursery place for your baby or child while some are still available, please get in touch. We’ll be happy answer questions and show you/your child around too. Please select from the following as preferred:

Raising a Vegetarian Infant - Rough Guide

More and more parents are bringing up children as vegetariansMore and more parents are bringing up youngsters as vegetarians these days, so we thought we’d put together a rough guide to raising babies, toddlers and preschoolers as vegetarians. When doing so, certain considerations will need to be made, including ensuring that meals are nutritious, containing all the necessary food groups, vitamins and minerals needed by the very young.

Breast Milk

Babies will usually have breast milk or formula milk up until they are at least 6 months old. If they are only receiving breast milk, it’s recommended that they are given a suitable Vitamin D supplement, available as drops.

Vegetarian Formula Milk

There’s no need for Vitamin D supplements, though, with high quality, age-appropriate formula milk, as it’s already included. Formula-fed babies under six months should, of course, be receiving ‘First Milk’ (otherwise known as ‘First Infant Formula Milk’) and this contains everything they need during the first six months. It can be supplemented by solids once they start weaning, usually from the age of 6 months through to a year old.

Formula milk is available for vegetariansThe good news is that formula milk that’s suitable for vegetarians is available. Parents may ask their midwife or health professional for any recommendations in regard to types or brands, particularly if one formula milk disagrees with the baby. However, whichever brand and type is chosen, the formula milk must be formulated for the baby’s specific age. This is usually obvious on the product label.

Vegetarian formula milks are usually based on cow’s milk although many other alternatives are available. Parents who wish to limit how much dairy products their infant consumes therefore have quite a wide choice but, if they’re avoiding dairy, they need to ensure that the formula milk is fortified with extra calcium and is unsweetened. They also need to read up because formula milk is a surprisingly big topic and can be a little bit of a minefield. There are several concerns over soya milk and rice milk, for instance, but those are just two examples. Check out our Formula Milk Guide for much more information about all the different kinds available as well as which formula milks to avoid.

Moving to Solids

There are four main food groups that need to be covered in a child's dietFrom around the age of 6 months, your baby will usually start the process of weaning off of milk and begin to eat solid foods, albeit given in puréed or liquidised form initially. This is when parents then need to be mindful of their child’s nutritional needs and this is even more pertinent when bringing up a child as a vegetarian.

The four main food groups that need to be covered are:

  • Starch, which can come from foods like pasta, cereal, potato and bread;
  • Fruit and vegetables, whether fresh (ideally), tinned, frozen or dried;
  • Protein, which we’ll come to in a moment;
  • Dairy, which is OK for most vegetarians but not vegans. Dairy products need to be pasteurised, though, and full-fat versions are appropriate for little ones.

Sources of Protein for Vegetarian Children

Protein is often seen to be the most tricky of the food groups to cater for when bringing up a child as a vegetarian. With meat and even fish out of the picture for avid vegetarians, what options are available?

  • Many fruits and berries are great sources of Vitamin CWell, tofu and other soya products will contain good quantities of protein.
  • Nuts will too but you need to avoid whole nuts due to the potential choking hazard. So, smooth peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter or seed butters will help with protein. Walnut butter is a wonderful source of Omega-3 too.
  • Perhaps consider serving them on rye crackers.
  • Indeed grains are high in protein but should be provided in ground form for babies to avoid choking. Similarly oats, barley, rice and quinoa are great protein sources, quinoa itself containing all 9 of the essential amino acids.
  • Lentils, pulses, peas and beans are also great sources of protein.
  • Houmous (based on chickpeas) is also great for protein but, again, keep it smooth to avoid choking hazards in the very young.
  • For those not going the more strict vegan route, eggs and dairy products like cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein. Eggs are a brilliant source of Vitamin B12 too, while dairy products are a great source of calcium and Vitamin D.

Your infant should have at least two portions a day of protein and these are essential in the absence of meat or fish, otherwise your child could miss out on not only the protein but also Omega-3 fatty acids, iron and amino acids (essential and non-essential varieties). So, protein from a variety of sources is advised.

What About Quorn?

Many vegetarian parents will eat Quorn (a popular mycoprotein) to replace meat. Is this any good for babies and infants?

While it is a great source of protein, it’s not recommended as a regularly eaten meat alternative for children under three because it can fill them up without giving them the necessary energy. That’s simply because it’s high in fibre but low in fat.

A Note About Iron

Some foods block the absorption of iron but there are ways to counteract that, including eating foods rich in Vitamin CIron is essential for growing children and can be found in many of the foods mentioned above. That said, it’s worth mentioning that some foods block the absorption of iron. Such foods include tea as well as whole grains and legumes containing ‘phytates’, dairy products containing ‘casein’ and eggs and dairy products that contain particular forms of calcium. The simple solution to many of these is as follows:

  • a) ensure the child has a varied diet,
  • b) for them to eat such foods away from main meals,
  • c) to include Vitamin C in the diet (as it will counteract the affect of phytates by binding to them) and
  • d) to soak, cook or sprout the grains, pulses or seeds.

In regard to giving Vitamin C to help increase absorption of iron, children can try satsumas, oranges or tangerines after meals, a drink of well-diluted fruit juice (e.g. 1 part fruit juice to 10 parts water) or to include vegetables and fruit high in Vitamin C as part of their meals. These include many fruits and berries plus many vegetables including asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach, leafy greens, green or red peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and squash.

Vitamin Supplements

Age-appropriate vitamin drops may give parents peace of mind if their children are being brought up on a vegetarian diet. In fact, some parents on one or more specific benefits can receive free vitamin drops for children aged up to 4. These contain Vitamins A, C and D are suitable for vegetarians, also containing no milk or eggs. Note, however, that vitamin supplements are not required for children drinking the appropriate amount of nutritionally complete, age-appropriate formula milk each day.

We hope that this rough guide to raising an infant as a vegetarian is useful. It should only be used as a quick, introductory guide, though, so parents should do further research to get a more complete picture. It is also always wise, of course, to ask a health professional, GP or Health Visitor for their opinion on anything health-related for their individual child.

An Outstanding Nursery in Willesden

Treetops Nursery, Willesden, near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden GreenTreetops Nursery offers the highest quality, freshly-prepared food using the very best ingredients available to our in-house chef each day. Children’s dietary requirements are all catered for and that includes those on a vegetarian diet. This is all part of the excellent weekday childcare services and healthy approach to nutrition provided at our nursery and pre-school. We cater for babies and children aged up to five.

If you are looking for an outstanding nursery, pre-school or childcare service in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Harlesden, Kensal Green or London NW10, please contact us by selecting a button below. We’d love to hear from you and to show you and your child around the nursery, so you can see for yourself what an excellent setting it is and how well your child will fit in. Please make contact as soon as possible to avoid disappointment, while a few places remain available:

A Guide to Healthy Eating for Preschoolers

In today’s busy world, fast food and ready meals are a quick, easy and convenient choice. It’s common knowledge, however, that home-cooked food using fresh, high quality ingredients is always a better choice for adults and children alike. Freshly prepared food avoids many of the nastier things like additives, colourings, too much sugar, salt and processed ingredients. However it’s tricky, as we don’t always have time to start meals from scratch when we’re juggling the many demands of today’s frenetic world. Eating healthily is important, though, and even more so for very young children. We’ll explore this in today’s article …

Fresh vegetables & herbsHealthy, Balanced Meals for Children

Eating more healthily requires a balance of factors. These include:

  • ideally using fresh, healthy, quality ingredients whenever possible;
  • meals that, over the course of each day, represent a balanced diet for children;
  • care to ensure children are eating the right portion sizes.

Getting the balance of these right benefits growing children enormously. These include obvious benefits, like maintaining a healthy weight, along with some surprising benefits like the avoidance of certain diseases later in life. We’ll take a closer look …

Healthy eating has many benefits for toddlers and preschoolersThe Benefits of Healthy Eating for Children

Eating a healthy, balanced diet from an early age:

    • helps children to get into the habit of healthy eating as they grow older;
    • gives children the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that, critically, their growing bodies need for full and optimum development;
    • helps children maintain energy levels needed for their activities each day;
    • helps to maintain cognitive function, mood and good mental health;
    • helps children avoid obesity and the health risks associated with it;
    • helps children to have a better self-image and thereby to be more confident with better self-esteem and mental wellbeing;
    • means that children are less likely to be bullied for being overweight;
    • helps children to avoid diseases later on including heart and blood pressure issues, diabetes and perhaps even cancer. That’s an incredible, often overlooked benefit!

What should young children be eating?What Should Children be Eating & Drinking?

Pre-school aged children should have six to eight drinks every day. These should ideally be water and sometimes milk, but not sugar-rich drinks.

They should be eating three meals and two or three healthy snacks. Ensure that the meals comprise a balanced diet i.e. one that gives them all the things they need to be healthy, to grow and to thrive. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that four food groups are always covered in each day’s food intake:

Food GroupPossible SourceNotes
StarchPasta, rice, cereal, potato, breadContains starch (for energy), Vitamin B and calcium. You can introduce wholegrain varieties if added gradually
Fruit & VegAny fruits and vegetables, ideally fresh but frozen, canned or dried is also OKContains Vitamin C & many other nutrients. Serve approx. 5 hand-sized portions per day
DairyCan include milk, yogurt & cheese (full fat versions for toddlers, semi-skimmed from the age of 2)Contains calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B and potassium. Serve approx. 3 portions a day
ProteinEggs, fish (occasionally include oily fish), meat, pulses, nuts, tofu, soyaContains iron, zinc and much more. Serve approx. 2 portions per day

What are the correct portion sizes?Portion Sizes

There are some useful ways to measure portion sizes for young children:

  • For fish, meat, or the vegetarian equivalent, a portion size is about the size of the child’s hand.
  • For fruit and cereal, a portion is about the size of the child’s fist.
  • For vegetables, a portion size is anything from the size of the child’s cupped hand upwards. There is no upper limit so they can eat more if they like it — indeed vegetables are useful to fill a hungry stomach between meals if they’re feeling peckish, or when they ask for seconds.
  • For starchy foods like rice or beans, one portion is about the size of the child’s cupped hand.

More detailed guidelines for portion sizes can be found here (external link).

“Children’s food preferences and eating habits are formed early in life and the time that they spend in early years settings provides an ideal opportunity to shape healthy behaviours.”

Toddler eating fruitHealthy Eating at the Nursery

At Treetops Nursery, we recognise the importance of healthy eating in under-fives, particularly as healthy eating early in children’s lives can often set a pattern for life. In view of this, our in-house chef prepares balanced meals each day for the children. Only fresh, high quality ingredients are used and all special diets are catered for. We serve 3 high quality meals per day along with healthy snacks (fresh fruit/vegetables) mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Fresh drinking water is available at any time and all food and drink is included in our standard nursery fees. Take a look at a typical menu here.

A Nursery Place for your Child in Willesden, NW10

Perhaps you are looking for nurseries in Willesden or a nursery near Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green in London NW10. If so, please do consider a childcare place for your baby or child at Treetops Nursery. Select an option below and we’ll be in touch by return to confirm next steps.

Microgreens: fun, nutritious, food growing for little ones

There are now microgreen farmsThere is one class of edible plant that can be grown all year round and is perfect for kids to grow indoors, for example on a windowsill. Some types of this food will sprout in as little as a week. What’s more, it’s tasty and highly nutritious. Growing it is super-easy and a perfect way to keep kids entertained, educated about nature and eating healthily. It’ll also be a welcome addition to mealtimes for the whole household.

Growing Microgreens

We’re talking about Microgreens (also referred to as micro leaves). These are the early, edible, sprouting leaves of very young herbs, leafy greens and some root vegetables that might usually be thought of in a larger, more mature form. The tender new leaves are cut just days after they first sprout and can be made into wonderful salads, garnishes or meal accompaniments. They also bring some very tasty flavours to mealtimes. The young micro leaves are full of vitamins and minerals, look fantastic on the plate and will grow back time and time again after snipping. The secret is simply to harvest the immature micro leaves and to stop them from growing to full size. Just harvest … re-harvest … and re-harvest.

“Micro leaves are usually eaten fresh and raw, and the fresher the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain. Each little leaf is a gold mine of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as iron, folic acid and potassium.” (Gardeners World)

Various microgreen leaves sproutingHere are just a few examples of plants that make suitable microgreens and can easily be grown by children indoors:

  • Basil — their tasty baby leaves are full of flavour and can be harvested just ten days after seed planting. They’re wonderful on salads, pizzas and can even be made into pesto sauce.
  • Coriander — their tiny, delicate leaves pack a unique and punchy flavour that’s perfect with salads, stir-fries, chopped onions and curries. They can be harvested a couple of weeks after sowing the seeds.
  • Rocket — ready to harvest just a week after first sowing, rocket microgreens are another flavoursome and slightly peppery leaf to add to salads and put onto pizzas. Very tasty!
  • Mustard leaves — these may not be to every child’s taste, but many adults will enjoy the slight heat they’ll bring to salads, stir fries and Eastern dishes. Ready to first harvest in 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Salad with microgreensFennel — just 10 days after first sprouting, leaves from young fennel seedlings will give a pleasant aniseed tang to dishes like pasta salads, risottos, soups and even stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves — the sprouting microgreen leaves from the beetroot take just ten days to appear after sowing. With their rich green leaves and red stems, they look wonderful in salads and lend their mild, earthy flavour to garnishes for some fish dishes.
  • Radish leaves — in just a week, the young, fiery leaves from the radish seedlings will be ready to snip and add to salads, stir fries and sandwiches. For some, their microgreen leaves are even tastier than the traditional root.
  • Spinach — tender leaves from young spinach plants can be harvested in ten days or so. They’re really good for you too. With their mild flavour, they’re a perfect addition to leafy salads, risottos, pastas and noodles.
  • Broccoli leaves — these will be ready to first harvest in just a week and have quite a different flavour than their fully-grown counterpart. With their slightly spicy taste, they’re also great in salads, risottos and omelettes.
  • Red cabbage microgreens are packed with nutrientsRed Cabbage micro leaves have one of the highest Vitamin C concentrations of any microgreen. They also contain Vitamin K, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. As with many of the microgreens, many top chefs use them as an attractive and tasty garnish. They can be sprinkled over soups, salads, grilled vegetables, stews and cooked meats. After sowing, they take only days to appear.

How children can grow microgreens at home

Your children will need very little to get started. You’ll need to buy them some packet seeds, which you can get at your local garden nursery or online. If you’re unsure who to order from online, Suttons are probably the best-known supplier and seed packets there seem to start from as little as just a pound or two. You can also find mixed seed packets. (If you’re on a really tight budget, you can alternatively take a look at the excellent post about growing food virtually free of cost, by our sister nursery in Streatham).

Along with the seeds, your child will need some multi-purpose or seed and cuttings compost (peat-free is more eco-friendly) and something to sow the seeds in. If you’re going to grow the microgreens on the windowsill, you could use flower pots, slim seed trays (perhaps left over from plants or herbs you have previously bought), containers, yoghurt pots with drainage holes pierced underneath, egg cartons, or even the cardboard cores from used kitchen rolls, cut down to a suitable size. Any of these will need something to sit in, to catch any draining water, for example a saucer or seed ‘drip tray’.

Lemonbalm micro leaves sprouting in compostYour child will need to fill the chosen containers with compost, not quite to the top. Tap it to level the soil, then pat it down just a little to firm it. Some gardeners also indent the compost where the seeds will go. The seeds then need to be carefully placed or lightly sprinkled into the indented areas. It’s important that your child spaces the seeds out so there is no clumping, otherwise significant problems can occur (the crop might get diseased or even completely fail). The seeds don’t need to be covered but a light dusting of sieved compost will keep them in place while allowing light to get through. The seeds then need to be lightly watered. It’s best for your child to do this part outside, just to avoid potential mess indoors, taking care not to over-water nor to wash the seeds away. A way to water them indoors is to simply stand the vessels in some shallow water for 30 to 60 minutes, so the compost naturally draws up the moisture.

The rest is also very easy. Your child simply needs to place the potted seeds on a light windowsill and ensure that the compost is always kept damp, taking care not to over-water. Also consider a label for each pot for identification purposes, particularly if several different seed types have been planted. Some people cover the seed pots or trays with a single sheet of kitchen towel, newspaper or even cling film to keep the moisture in while the seeds initially germinate. Your child will need to check under the covering every day. The moment little shoots can be seen, the covering will need to be removed, so long as the soil is kept moist thereafter, so it never dries out. Ensure the potted plants get full light and ventilation too. Within a week or two depending on the seeds chosen, the young shoots will grow baby leaves and can then be harvested. Snip them near their bases before mature leaves start to replace the baby leaves. If you want to benefit from them for longer, snip them like this rather than pulling up their roots, so they can sprout and re-sprout time and time again.

Eat & enjoy!

A sandwich with microgreens as a garnishOnce rinsed, the tender young micro leaves can be enjoyed in meals by the whole family. They’ll add often exquisite tastes and textures to meals as well as adding much-needed vitamins and minerals to the family diet. That’s even more important for growing toddlers and preschoolers, of course. And, throughout the growing journey, the children will absolutely love seeing the new shoots grow into young plants. They will have learnt new skills, had great fun getting to know more about nature and have a real sense of achievement. Chances are, too, that they will love the taste of the micro leaves.

Treetops Nursery in Willesden

We hope you and your family enjoyed this article and will have fun growing your very own microgreens. The post was brought to you by Treetops Day Nursery in Willesden, London NW10. We are a childcare nursery and pre-school, suitable for babies from 6 months and children up to 5 years of age. We’re also convenient for parents and carers who are looking for high quality weekday childcare near Willesden Green, Harlesden, Brent, Kensal Green, Brondesbury Park, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Dollis Hill, Church End, Roundwood, College Park and Park Royal. Please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a possible nursery place for your child.

For further details, contact Treetops Nursery:

Fighting food fussiness in under-5s. How to encourage toddlers to eat

Many parents will be all-too-familiar with how fussy toddlers can be when it comes to food. Some children will even avoid certain foods, absolutely refusing to try them, based solely on how they look. This can be infuriating! In the extreme, it can also potentially pose a risk to the healthy balance of a child’s diet.

Give peas a chance!

Many adults, myself included, will recall that we were just the same at some point during childhood. Later on, we may realise how delicious something really is, even if we thought we didn’t like it when we were young. I recall believing that peas were incredibly dull and should be avoided at all costs, for example. I now believe them to be amongst the tastiest vegetables on the planet! Nothing material has really changed about peas, so it’s my perception of them that has changed; I simply needed to give them a chance.

Acquired tastes

Other foods can become an ‘acquired taste’. For example, many youngsters initially perceive olives as being quite disgusting. Later on as adults, however, many of the same people end up adoring them. Sometimes, it’s just a case of mentioning this weird facet of human nature to your toddler. Trying to reason – and empathise – with them in this way may well register with them eventually. Despite appearances, children often take such messages in, even though they might refuse some foods, point blank, at first. This eventual acceptance often gradually occurs as they become more mature in mind as well as in body.

Food refusal is normal, so don’t stress

Is your toddler a fussy eater?If your child’s refusal to eat certain foods is making you stressed, take a moment to realise that this is perfectly normal. Indeed, many toddlers go through such a phase in their earliest years. If they’ve recently been breastfeeding, they will have become accustomed to a sweet-tasting diet. When they are weaned onto solids and suddenly become mobile, it’s natural for them to be wary of eating just anything — it’s so new to them. In fact, refusing some foods is an instinctive survival mechanism. It’ll take time for them to become accustomed to new tastes and textures.

If your child gives you a resounding no, try, try and try again.

What’s more, it’s known that it can take about 10 to 15 instances of exposure to a particular food before many young children will accept it. So, if your child gives you a resounding no, it’s really best for both of you to try, try and try again. After all, it would be such a shame for them to miss out on something delicious and nutritional for the rest of their lives.

What else can parents do?

As well as the straight forward perseverance approach outlined above, there are a number of things that parents and carers can do to encourage preschoolers to eat a more varied diet and to give new food types a try.

Food bridges

Food ‘bridges‘ are a subtle trick where you add different foods to those that your child already enjoys. So, if your child loves mashed potato, for example, perhaps try adding a little grated cheese on top or mixed in with it. If they like roasted potatoes or ham, try adding a little cooked apple. A little bit at first may fly under their radar and get them used to the taste before increasing the amount over time.

“We eat with our eyes first.”

Changing appearance

Similarly, changing the appearance of food is a highly useful tool to fight fussy eating. It is said that we eat with our eyes first, so try and make meals look as appealing as possible. For example, you can harness the rainbow colours of fruit and vegetables and the different shapes and sizes of foods. You can even make pictures with food on the child’s plate or cut food into shapes to make it more appealing. These are great ways to get children to become engaged with their food, to make food fun and to get children to become positive about it.

Get sneaky

Maybe if a certain food type isn’t liked, try hiding it. For example, you could puree a particular vegetable that they don’t like. Once you’ve done that, you could add it as part of a pasta sauce, for example, or as a dip, topper or garnish. This is a great way of children building up a taste for it without even realising.

Get children involved

Get children involved in food choice and preparationInvolving children in planning meals, shopping for food and even preparing the food can encourage them to eat more food types. For example, they could help when picking vegetables or have a say in how food is displayed on the plate. You’ll also be teaching them new things along the way.

Make it fun

There are a great many ways in which parents and childcare providers can make eating fun.

  • Choosing plates, bowls and cutlery that have fun designs is a great way to start, particularly if you allow the child to have a say in the choice. Perhaps there is a picture on the bottom of the plate that is only visible once the food has been eaten. Or perhaps their spoon or fork has a design on it that is shaped like an animal that the child particularly loves.
  • You can also theme meals. The child could perhaps pretend to be a character from their favourite book or film. Then, the food can be themed to suit. For example, a space rocket shaped from food could be given to budding astronauts. Or maybe use a Treasure Island theme for all those pirates out there. It’s amazing what fun you and your child can have turning vegetables like sweet corn and peas into pieces of “treasure”. Rainbows are another popular theme and here you can use the different coloured fruit and vegetables to create your masterpiece.
  • The youngest children will, of course, always enjoy the tried and tested ‘here comes the train’ approach (“Choo Choo!”). Some may enjoy a similar approach with an aeroplane coming in to land. This type of thing can easily be turned into an enjoyable, playful game.

Positivity & a gentle nudge

Make food a positive experienceUsing positive phases like yummy, tasty and so good when eating will help to build positivity around food. Talking about how food was prepared or how an item of fruit or vegetable grew in the garden may spark an extra level of interest in the child. Making food sound generally positive is a good approach. Remind the child how good the food will make them feel, how it will recharge them and make them energised and ready for the day’s tasks. For example, you could explain how they will have lots of energy for the swings, or park or when playing ball etc.

Reward them

Rewarding children for trying new foods and eating healthy options is a great way to encourage them. This is the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ approach (remember; you want to build positivity around food, not negativity, so reward them when they get it right, rather than punishing them when they refuse food). Reward charts with set food goals can be a great way of approaching this if the child is being particularly fussy in their eating. For example, your child could be rewarded for trying new foods or for clearing their plate. Rewards will make food fun and positive. The choice of reward can be anything that you think may sway your child, for example a trip to the park, their favourite dessert or a small gift perhaps.

Be a good role model

Infant creatures across the world learn about food from their parents — and humans are no different. So, let your little one see you eating different foods yourself, including any they’re refusing. Being a good role model will help your child to see that new foods are safe — and even enjoyable. Sometimes, you just have to show them! Also look out for their favourite TV stars, or even best friends, eating foods that they are currently refusing — good role models can make a huge difference. However, never forget that it can take multiple attempts, so you need to remember to be patient and not to force it.

Healthy eating at Treetops Nursery

Healthy eating and quality ingredientsWe confess that we’ve been known to employ a few of the tips above at the nursery! Healthy eating is very much in our DNA at Treetops Nursery in Willesden, NW10, so we do all we can to ensure that our under-fives are getting the right sized portions, healthy food and a good dietary balance. Our in-house chef prepares tasty meals using only the best, most fresh ingredients. All special dietary needs are catered for, including vegetarian and vegan options when required. Children attending all day will receive three high quality meals plus a snack in the morning and another in the afternoon. Drinking water is available on tap all day. All food and drink is covered within our standard fees. Learn more about our approach to nutrition, healthy eating and see some menu examples here.

Looking for a nursery place in Willesden, London NW10?

If you are looking for a nursery place for your baby or toddler in Willesden, Willesden Green, Harlesden or Kensal Green, call us on 020 8963 1259. Alternatively, book a nursery visit here or email us here. We have places for under-fives available at time or writing and will be happy to welcome you to the setting and to answer any questions.