Healthy Families Waitakere convened stakeholders and educators from the early childhood sector to develop ideas and create early learning environments where children eat well and are more physically active.

Over a series of workshops, six different stakeholders came together with teachers from 70 West Auckland centres. The workshops provided a space for shared learnings and collective thinking towards actions to positively influence the health and wellbeing of under 5’s.

Educators have had success in making significant changes to their teaching practices and centre procedures. Ranui Kindergarten teachers gained an understanding of how to apply culturally relevant strategies to promote physical activity and re-designed their play activities to reflect Māori knowledge and practices.

Teacher Tui Cusack said they were inspired to apply a cultural lens to their sessions to cater to the 55% Māori children attending the kindergarten. “The teaching team looked at ways to weave a Māori physical activity framework into our setting so put what we learnt into practice and the children responded well.” she says.

Glendene Learning Steps focused on improving their environment and resources to increase physical activity in the centre. Teaching staff redeveloped a number of their active play resources, introduced new activities and upgraded their playground. Teacher, Nalina Nand said the new resources added value to their sessions around play, “The kids are more active since the new resources have been introduced”, she says.

Discoveries Educare in Te Atatu Peninsula want to inspire other centres nationwide to make positive changes around food provision. The centre is working towards the gold level of the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award and made improvements to their menu by adding a wider variety of fruit and vegetables.

Staff have also seen less food waste since engaging parents in ways to create healthier lunchboxes.

“Over half of a child’s daily diet is consumed at day care, we want our centre to set an example for all Discoveries day care centres to create consistency across the organisation around healthy food messages and to show children that food is fun and nutritious”, says Manager Jessie Lin.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says early learning environments play a huge role in children’s wellbeing with most children spending up to 6 hours a day in early childhood centres.

“By bringing the early childhood community together to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health, we can make changes to create more health promoting early childhood centres to set the foundations for a healthier future for tamariki”.