Children eat healthier in a playful way at out-of-school care

Last summer, 50,000 students between the ages of 4 and 12 participated in the Healthy Smikkel Weeks and no less than 99 percent of all BSO employees indicated that they would like to participate again, despite the high workload and staff shortages. “The crux is that healthy and sustainable eating is linked to playing and experiencing, making it feasible and fun to pick up”, says Marieke Battjes-Fries, Nutrition & Health researcher at the Louis Bolk Institute.

Digital resources are not very popular

Many children between the ages of 4 and 12 receive childcare at the end of their school day at the BSO, where the children can mainly play. Spoony developed a program about eating vegetables in line with this, consisting of activities that focus on playing and discovering together. Marieke Battjes-Fries: “It was noticeable that digital resources were not very popular: employees and children want to roll up their sleeves and have fun together without it costing extra time. This was achieved by learning and experiencing while playing.” For example, the shelter locations went on a vegetable discovery tour and the employees received do-it-yourself packages containing vegetable activities, such as experiments and cooking. Children were motivated by challenges, recipes and eating games.

Take the pressure off primary school

In recent years, attention to food education for 4 to 12 year olds has grown. This is badly needed, because currently about three quarters of 4 to 12 year olds eat too few vegetables and 1 in 7 children are overweight or obese. Marieke Battjes-Fries: “We continue to look for ways to integrate food education within an overburdened education system. Looking at other settings, such as childcare and the neighbourhood, seems to offer important new possibilities. In addition, it may take some pressure off primary schools. In addition, it also sheds new light on food education in primary schools, namely that experiential learning and playing once again proves to be a successful method to teach children about healthy and sustainable eating.” Spoony, initiator of the Healthy Smikkel Weeks, says that this year it will scale up the initiative to 1000 BSO locations with which they aim to reach 90,000 children.

The research was carried out as part of the Healthy Smikkel Weeks – the largest vegetable inspiration program for children in the Netherlands. More information about the evaluation study can be found in the final report of the Louis Bolk Institute.

By: National Education Guide


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