Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 1.1: Support healthy lifestyles for children through the provision of food and nutrition
Learning outcome: Understand individuals’ dietary requirements and preferences.
Assessment criteria: Identify reasons for: special dietary requirements, keeping and sharing, coherent records with regard to special dietary requirements.
It is important for early years practitioners to be aware of the reasons for special dietary requirements and the importance of keeping and sharing coherent records with regard to these requirements.
The most common reasons for special dietary requirements are medical conditions, allergies and intolerances, and religious, cultural or social requirements.
Medical conditions such as diabetes or Coeliac disease can require children to maintain specific diets to stay healthy. Allergies and intolerances to certain foods can result in children becoming ill if they have contact with them, so it is important for early years practitioners to be aware of any allergies or intolerances that children in their care may have to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Religious, cultural and social requirements can also dictate what children can and cannot eat – for example, some children may be vegetarian or only be able to eat Halal food.
Keeping and sharing coherent records with regard to special dietary requirements is vital for several reasons.
Firstly, it helps to avoid serious incidents – if a child with a medical condition or allergy is inadvertently given something that they are not supposed to have, this could have potentially serious consequences. Secondly, it respects the wishes of children and their families – if a family has requested that their child follows a certain diet for religious or cultural reasons, it is important that this request is respected. Finally, it is a requirement of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – all early years practitioners must ensure that they are familiar with and comply with the EYFS’s requirements.
Dietary requirements should be discussed with parents and carers before a child transitions into the setting. Early Years practitioners should ensure that all of the points above are covered and that the child and family’s needs and preferences are recorded and accessible to all staff.
In addition, food and drink intake should be shared between early years practitioners and parents/carers during handover sessions at the start and end of the day. This ensures the wellbeing of the child because important information will be passed on – for example, if a parent/carer informs the practitioner that a child didn’t eat their breakfast before they came to the setting, the practitioner will be aware that the child may be hungry and may ask them if they would like a healthy snack early in the day.