Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

How does your body feel?


Tuesday 08 January 2019

Open your hand and make it into a fist, that’s roughly the size of your stomach. A child’s stomach is the size of their fist. It's easy to see how children can easily be overfed but undernourished. A child’s relationship with food starts from day one. We must listen to children when they are saying and showing signs of hunger or fullness. We want children to see food as a source of nourishment, to avoid food and weight problems in the future, but we must balance this with food being enjoyable and an essential part of culture and rituals. Research is continually telling us that childhood obesity is increasing. The Growing up in Ireland data tells us that one in four children in Ireland is overweight or obese. The reasons are not straightforward, and one approach or strategy will not reduce levels of childhood obesity. A multidisciplinary approach with everyone working together is needed. We all have a part to play. In Early Learning and Care settings, the education and care provided must include the health and total wellbeing of every child.

However, before we start to support children’s nutrition, we must first look inward and think about our own relationship with food and how this can impact on our ability to help a child’s nutritional needs. For example, by imposing strict food rules on yourself, your relationship with food can turn rebellious; this is the same for children. It is more beneficial to show children how to balance eating for nourishment with eating for pleasure.

Within ELC settings, it is essential to support healthy habits in children. Children are born intuitively knowing how much food their bodies need. However, we can quickly end a child’s ability to control how much food they eat. When we use milk/food to comfort babies and young children, the message we send is that you need food to help you manage your feelings. Alternatively, you can use soothing words and hugs to comfort a child. We should avoid using food as a reward, attention and positive words support a child more holistically. It is vital that we don’t insist on a child finishing everything on their plate or use bribes such as dessert. By providing a safe, supportive and nurturing environment, you support children to cope with their feelings positively. By talking about how hunger can make us feel tired, angry, frustrated; we encourage the child to recognise how their body feels. But also, when we explain how food works in words that make sense to them, they can start to understand how the body works and all the amazing things it can do.

Also, I would argue that when we solely focus on nutrition, we forget our food culture. Here in the office at Early Childhood Ireland, food brings us together, we share breaks and lunches together, celebrate birthdays, fundraisers, you could say we have our own traditions and ways of celebrating with food. These beautiful social moments that food engulfs are ritualistic. Likewise, mealtimes in a setting are an excellent opportunity to model to children about nutrition, to connect and share conversations on and about the food we eat, but also to share stories and share food together. We can also encourage children to enjoy their food, smell it and look at it. Creating habits that keep them in tune with their body. By involving them in the preparation of food, they’re more likely to try new foods they picked. By role modelling a balanced lifestyle without restricting the enjoyment of food, we ensure a balance of ‘sometimes’ and ‘everyday’ foods.

The development of lifetime healthy eating and physical activity habits begin in childhood. As adults, we oversee the diet and activity habits of children in our care. It is not up to the children to take responsibility for this. All children are different, but all children live in their bodies all the way through life. Together we must teach children to trust, listen and love their bodies and lay the foundations for body confidence and healthier outcomes as they age.



Milica (Mili) Atanackovic is a Practice and Training Manager with Early Childhood Ireland. Her background in the early years is rooted within a passionate interest in Creative Arts. Mili originally studied Design Communication before moving into Early Childhood Care and Education in Australia.  Considering training and mentoring as a key element of quality in the early years, Mili has worked as an Educator, Service Manager and Trainer, she also combines experience from a range of creative disciplines to her work.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

University(1) play stories(1) journey(1) NAEYC(1) risk assessment(1) Love(2) Diversity(1) Independence(1) Learning Stories(7) Maths(4) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Frustrations(1) Vertical grouping(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Exploring(1) Obesity(1) outdoor space(3) Health(1) Afghanistan(1) Playdough(1) Fabric(1) Trick or treat(1) Brain(1) Craft(1) Family(1) Awards 2018(3) Exploring and Thinking(1) MECPI(1) baby room(1) collaboration(1) friendships(1) Smiles(1) Academic Skills(1) Mixed age groups(2) community(5) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) refugees(1) Scents(1) Routines(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Communications(1) Quality(4) Leprechauns(1) Reggio(1) reading(4) Games(1) Japan(1) Mental Health(3) Care-giving routines(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Scéalta Blog(84) Facebook(1) Childhood(1) Academics(1) Giraffe(2) Maria Montessori(1) christmas(8) National Awards 2018(2) Laughter(1) ECEC(1) Thinking(1) First 5(1) Margy Whalley(1) Home Corner(1) Irish(1) educating(1) science week(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Kids Own(1) Inter-generational(1) dining experiences(1) Children(1) Party(1) preschool(2) Weather(1) Light table(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Study Trip(1) Wrapping paper(1) Book Club(2) Children's Research Network(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) TOY Programme(1) Self Help Skills(1) Recycling(2) Support(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Mealtimes(1) Interests(1) Competent(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Death(1) Self-regulation(1) SPICE Framework(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Well-Being(7) Italy(1) Arithmetic(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Technology(2) pets(1) Sustainability(3) Mark Twain(1) overhear(1) Policy(2) Online(1) books(4) Learning Story(1) ERASMUS+(3) Trade Unions(1) Certificate(1) Design(1) maternity health(1) Empathy(1) IGL(1) Performing(1) Bereavement(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Socioemotional development(1) RIE philosphy(1) play(30) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Music(3) UNCRC(1) Autism(3) Appreciation(1) environments(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Early Years(1) Blocks(1) Buddy Bench(1) Visitors(1) worries(1) Engineering Ireland(1) transitions(10) Maths Week(1) curriculum(5) documentation(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) scéalta(25) Biting(1) Pen green(1) First 5 strategy(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) ears(1) Engagement(1) Kilkenny(1) feisty(1) stories(2) Horizon 2020(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Awards(2) Early Learning and Care(1) Research Seminar(1) Sleep(1) Traffic Lights(1) Leargas(1) Challenges(1) National Holiday(1) Wonder(1) conversations(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Treasure(1) eating(1) Magda Gerber(1) planning(1) The Jelly King(1) Queues(1) PIP(1) bonds(1) Plastic(1) Limerick(1) College(1) Community involvement(1) listen(1) research(6) Prexit(1) Ariana Pucci(1) INTO(1) Time Out(1) Santa(2) Care routines(1) food(1) Thanks(1) dublin(2) learning(15) Consent(1) Little Buddies(1) listening(1) Plants(1) Participation(1) Nutrition(1) Easter(1) Sweets(1) emotions(2) Meet the Members(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Primary School(2) relationships(15) development(8) Flowers(1) Treasure Chest(1) routine(2) Through the looking glass(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Sustainable(1) Orla Kenny(1) Celebrations(4) AsIAm(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Gardening(1) educarer(1) Summer(1) social media(1) Investment(1) child-centred approach(1) Spiders(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) TRAP(1) Jenga(1) Oireachtas(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Malaguzzi(1) Mantra(1) Interaction(1) Creativity(4) Learning Story Awards(1) Upcycling(1) curiosity(3) Seas Suas(1) education(2) Patterns(1) Thank you(1) Budget 2018(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Graduation(1) Imagination(3) Glitter(2) Performance Management(1) Feeding(1) Workforce(1) EM Standing(1) Professionalisation(4) dogs(1) Arts(1) Siolta blog(2) Exercise(1) Breathing(2) ICBN(1) ECCE(6) Mathematicians(1) EECERA 2016(1) Magic(1) early years research(1) Mo Scéal(1) Visual Impairment(1) Employee(1) linc(1) animals(2) San Miniato(4) Favouritism(1) experience(1) Children's Rights(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Communicating(1) Potential(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Rituals(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) supportive environments(2) Traditions(2) European Project(1) Art(6) Capable(1) Inspirational(2) Lego(2) RTE Investigates(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Magnavacchi(1) Family wall(1) trust(3) Story(1) respect(5) New Appointments(1) outdoor play(6) Creative(1) early childhood educator(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) toddlers(3) Liz Kerrins(1) STEM(2) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Cork(1) Learning journals(1) Norway(2) Workplace Relations(3) DCYA(4) Winter(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Builders(1) Meal time(1) Titles(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Mount Everest(1) Time(1) HR(1) AIM(2) outdoors(3) Trigonometry(1) Yoga(1) Training(2) Recycle(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Nonverbal(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Map(1) Aistear(108) Graduate(1) story time(1) Social Skills(1) Sculptures(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) value(1) Behaviour(3) Valerie Gaynor(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Painting(1) Arlene Forster(1) Universal Design(2) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Self-Esteem(1) Confidence(1) Wilenski(1) San Minia(1) ReCreate(2) Trade union(1) Change(1) Drawing(2) GDPR(1) Laugh(1) Early Years Educators(2) Twitter(1) Childcare(2) Research Conference 2019(1) Funding(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Sport(1) Maternity Leave(1) Advocacy(1) Mayo(1) Engineering(2) purpose(1) MA(1) CPD(1) Leadership(1) Celebrate(1) Maynooth(1) United Nations(1) Halloween(2) Adoption(1) science(3) Impact(1) Storytelling(2) Growing up Outdoors(1) Shoes(1) budget(1) Fantasy play(1) Degree(1) blog(28) Intention(1) Anxiety(2) Reflective Practice(1) Line-ups(1) role playing(1) communication(4) Shapes(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Running(1) parents(5) Xbox(1) Albert Einstein(1) Masterclass(2) interacting(2) Dance(1) NCCA(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Wendy Lee(2) CIT(1) Exclusion(1) Vietnam(1) risky play(2) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Motor neuron disease(1) CCTV(1) Touch(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Culture(2) mushrooms(1) Body Language(1) Cognitive development(1) Síolta QAP(1) Exit interview(1) babies(7) Decisions(1) Child mental health(1) Belonging(3) Ceremony(1) Environment(2) Inter-generational learning(1) Decision Making(1) Syria(1) Sequins(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Iceland(1) Confident(1) Qualifications(1) Identity(5) Snack Time(1) Event Guide(1) Interactions(2) Settling in(4) Relaxation(1) Staff Motivation(1) Role play(1) grandchild(1) Grief(1) memories(1) Playschool(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Supernanny(1) Loss(1) Buddies(1) Budget 2019(2) UN(1) under 3's(3) Síolta(104) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Maynooth University(1) Positivity(1) Engineers Week(2) Christmas Creativity(2) dining(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Inclusion(3) Photographs(1) Stress(2) Leaders in Practice(1) Names(1) Teamwork(1) emotional environment(1) Affordability(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Administrative Burden(1) Snacks(1) Valentine's Day(3) Eritrea(1) Educators(1) Mud kitchens(1) Gratitude(1) Our Little Seed(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Pobal(1) UD(1) Montessori(2) Iraq(1) risk(2) Awards 2019(1) Mindfulness(2) Window(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Kerry(1) Whole Group(1) National Awards 2019(1) Workplace well-being(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Penguins(1) meals(3) Wesco(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Human Resources(1) Snakes(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine