Ditch the Screen: Outdoor Activities to Keep Kids Active and Engaged

In today’s digital age, it’s becoming increasingly important to encourage children to spend less time in front of screens and more time engaging with nature and physical movement. As a nanny, you have the power to inspire and facilitate outdoor activities that promote a healthy and active lifestyle for the children you care for. In this blog, we will explore a range of exciting outdoor activity ideas that will captivate their imaginations, foster their physical development, and cultivate a deeper connection with nature.

Obstacle Course

Set up an obstacle course in the backyard or local park using hula hoops, cones, jump ropes, and other household items. Children can navigate through the course, climbing, jumping, and crawling, developing their motor skills, coordination, and balance.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of items found in nature, such as pine cones, flowers, rocks, or different types of leaves. Encourage the children to explore their surroundings and check off each item they find. This activity promotes observation skills, curiosity, and a sense of adventure.

Outdoor Yoga

Take the yoga mats outside and guide the children through a fun and interactive yoga session. Incorporate animal-themed poses, such as downward dog or cat-cow, to make it engaging and entertaining. Outdoor yoga helps children improve flexibility, body awareness, and mindfulness.

Bike Riding

Take the children for a bike ride in a safe and suitable area, such as a park or bike trail. Riding bikes promotes cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and confidence. It’s an exhilarating way to explore the surroundings and develop a love for outdoor physical activities.

Nature Art

Encourage children to express their creativity by creating art using natural materials found outdoors. They can make leaf rubbings, paint with mud and natural dyes, or build sculptures using sticks and stones. This activity fosters imagination, fine motor skills, and an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

Outdoor Science Experiments

Conduct simple science experiments outdoors, such as observing cloud formations, studying insect behaviour, or learning about the water cycle through water play. These activities stimulate curiosity, critical thinking, and a fascination for the natural world.


Engage children in gardening activities, such as planting flowers, watering plants, or growing vegetables. Gardening teaches them about the importance of nurturing living things, fosters responsibility, and provides a connection to the natural world. It’s a hands-on activity that encourages curiosity and patience.

Nature Walks

Take the children on nature walks in local parks or nature reserves. Encourage them to observe and identify different plants, trees, and wildlife. Nature walks promote physical activity, sensory exploration, and a sense of wonder and appreciation for the environment.

Water Play

Set up a water play station in the backyard with sprinklers, water balloons, or a small inflatable pool. Water play is not only refreshing and fun but also enhances motor skills, coordination, and sensory development.

Outdoor Storytelling

Find a shady spot outdoors and engage the children in storytelling sessions. Encourage their imagination by incorporating elements from nature into the stories. This activity fosters language development, creativity, and a love for storytelling.

Outdoor play is not only fun but also comes with a multitude of benefits for children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. As a nanny, you have the incredible opportunity to inspire their curiosity, creativity, and love for the great outdoors. Healthy Living equips you with the knowledge and techniques to design exciting outdoor adventures that shape children’s lives and nurture their overall well-being.

By enrolling in Healthy Living, you’ll learn how to create outdoor activities that promote physical fitness, stimulate cognitive growth, and foster emotional well-being. From interactive nature walks to engaging scavenger hunts, you’ll discover a wide range of strategies to captivate children’s interest and encourage their exploration of the natural world. 

Ditching the screens and embracing the wonders of nature allows children to experience the beauty and serenity of their surroundings while fostering a deeper connection with the environment. Imagine the joy on their faces as they discover new plants and animals, feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, and breathe in the fresh air. These moments will create cherished memories that will stay with them for a lifetime. Furthermore, by completing Healthy Living, you’ll set yourself apart as a nanny who prioritises holistic child care and understands the importance of outdoor play. Potential employers will recognise your dedication to nurturing children’s well-being and providing them with enriching experiences. This course opens doors to new career opportunities and positions you as a sought-after professional in the field.

Healthy Living Course International Nanny Institute

So, let’s embark on this exciting journey together. Enrol in Healthy Living today and learn how to create outdoor adventures that shape children’s lives, nurture their well-being, and create cherished memories of their time spent in the great outdoors. Become the nanny who inspires a lifelong love for nature and makes a lasting impact on children’s lives.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

As a nanny, you play a crucial role in shaping the eating habits and overall health of the children you care for. One way to support their well-being is by providing nutritious and delicious snacks that fuel their active lifestyles. In this blog, we will explore ten fun and healthy snack ideas specifically designed for active kids. These snacks not only satisfy their taste buds but also provide essential nutrients to keep them energised throughout the day.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Ants on a Log

This classic snack combines celery sticks filled with peanut butter or almond butter and topped with raisins. It’s a great source of protein, healthy fats, and fibre, making it an ideal choice for active kids.

Fruit Kabobs

Create colourful kabobs using a variety of fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, grapes, and melon. The skewers make it fun to eat and provide a dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Veggie Roll-Ups

Spread hummus or cream cheese on a whole wheat tortilla and add sliced vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Roll it up and cut it into bite-sized pieces for a nutritious and crunchy snack.

Yogurt Parfait

Layer low-fat yoghurt, fresh berries, and granola in a small cup or jar. This snack is rich in protein, calcium, and fibre, offering a balance of nutrients for active kids.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Apple Nachos

Slice apples into thin rounds and arrange them on a plate. Drizzle with natural nut butter and sprinkle with granola or crushed nuts. This snack offers a balance of sweetness, fibre, and healthy fats.

Trail Mix

Create a custom trail mix by combining a mix of nuts, dried fruits, and whole-grain cereal. It provides a satisfying blend of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, perfect for active kids on-the-go.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Spoon flavoured yoghurt onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until firm. These bite-sized frozen treats are a refreshing snack that provides calcium and probiotics.

Mini Quiches

Bake mini quiches using whole wheat crust, eggs, and a variety of vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms. These bite-sized treats are packed with protein and essential nutrients.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Cucumber Sushi Rolls

Slice a cucumber into thin strips and wrap them around fillings like avocado, cream cheese, and shredded carrots. This snack is hydrating, low in calories, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Energy Balls

Prepare homemade energy balls using a combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a natural sweetener like honey or dates. These bite-sized snacks are packed with nutrients and provide a quick energy boost.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Are you ready to discover a world of exciting and nutritious snack ideas that will shape children’s healthy eating habits for life? By incorporating these fun and healthy snacks into their daily routine, you’ll help them develop a lifelong appreciation for nourishing foods and fuel their active lifestyles.

Our Healthy Living course will help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to create snacks that are packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. We understand the importance of providing children with snacks that not only taste great but also support their energy levels, concentration, and overall well-being. From colourful fruit skewers to homemade granola bars, Healthy Living is designed to equip you with a vast array of wholesome and delicious snack ideas that are both nutritious and appealing to kids. You’ll learn how to stock up on the right ingredients, get creative in the kitchen, and witness the smiles and satisfaction on the faces of the children you care for as they enjoy these tasty treats.

10 Fun and Healthy Snack Ideas for Active Kids

Imagine the joy of watching the children in your care embrace these nutritious snacks and develop a lifelong appreciation for wholesome eating that will benefit them throughout their lives. Enrol today and unlock a world of exciting and nutritious snack ideas that will shape children’s eating habits, fuel their active lifestyles, and bring smiles of satisfaction to their faces. 

Healthy Living Course International Nanny Institute

Planting a Vegetable Garden: Cultivating Healthy Habits for Children

In our modern, hustle-bustle world, where screens seem to rule the day, it’s high time we rediscover the beauty of nature and nurture healthy habits for both ourselves and the little ones we cherish. And guess what? Planting a veggie garden is a fantastic way to make that happen! As a nanny, you hold a special key to ignite a passion for gardening and wholesome living in the hearts of the children under your care. So, let’s dive into this blog and uncover all the incredible perks of planting a veggie garden, and how it can set children on a path to a vibrant, healthy lifestyle.

Hands-on Learning Experience

Planting a vegetable garden provides an engaging and hands-on learning experience for children. It allows them to witness the magic of nature firsthand, from sowing seeds to nurturing plants as they grow. Children can learn about the life cycle of plants, the importance of sunlight and water, and the significance of caring for living things.

Nutritional Education

Growing a vegetable garden offers an excellent opportunity to teach children about nutrition and the importance of fresh, wholesome food. As you plant and harvest various vegetables, you can explain their nutritional benefits and encourage the children to try new foods. This hands-on experience gives them a sense of ownership over their food choices and can help them develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Outdoor Physical Activity

Gardening is a fantastic way to get children outdoors and engaged in physical activity. Digging, planting, weeding, and watering all require movement, coordination, and strength. By actively participating in gardening tasks, children can develop gross and fine motor skills while enjoying the benefits of fresh air and sunlight.

Connection with Nature

In today’s digital age, it’s crucial for children to connect with nature. Gardening provides an opportunity to explore the natural world, observe insects and birds, and appreciate the beauty of plants. This connection with nature has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being for both children and adults.

Environmental Awareness

By gardening, children can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment. You can discuss concepts such as composting, conserving water, and attracting beneficial insects. Teaching children about sustainability and the importance of protecting our planet empowers them to become responsible stewards of the Earth.

Emotional Development

Gardening can have a positive impact on children’s emotional well-being. It offers a sense of accomplishment and pride as they watch their plants grow and produce vegetables. The act of nurturing and caring for living things fosters empathy, patience, and responsibility. Gardening also provides a peaceful and calming environment, allowing children to unwind and de-stress.

Are you ready to discover the transformative power of planting a vegetable garden and create a rewarding experience that leaves a lasting impact on the children’s lives? By engaging in gardening, children have the opportunity to learn invaluable life skills while developing healthy eating habits. Healthy Living will help to equip you with the knowledge and techniques to guide them through this journey of cultivating their own food. From planting seeds to nurturing plants and harvesting the delicious rewards, you’ll be fostering their sense of responsibility, patience, and connection to nature. These little ones will be so excited to witness the seeds they planted sprout into vibrant plants and eventually harvest the vegetables they grew with their own hands. Through this experience, they will develop an appreciation for fresh, nutritious food and understand the importance of sustainable living.

Furthermore, by enrolling in Healthy Living, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of gardening techniques, composting, and eco-friendly practices. You’ll learn how to create a thriving vegetable garden that not only provides nourishment for the children but also contributes to a healthier and more sustainable future. Completing Healthy Living also sets you apart as a nanny who understands the importance of hands-on learning, sustainable practices, and fostering a connection to nature. Potential employers will recognise your dedication to holistic child care and appreciate your ability to provide enriching experiences that go beyond the traditional nanny role.

Healthy Living Course International Nanny Institute

So, roll up your sleeves, grab a shovel, and join us on this transformative journey. Enrol in Healthy Living today and discover the joy of planting a vegetable garden with the children in your care. Together, you’ll cultivate healthy habits, nurture a love for nature, and sow the seeds of a healthier and more sustainable future. 

The Power of Yoga and Meditation for Young Children

In today’s fast-paced and often stressful world, introducing yoga and meditation into the daily routine of young children can be a transformative experience. As a nanny, you have the opportunity to guide and support children in developing healthy habits that promote physical and mental well-being. In this blog, we will explore the benefits of incorporating yoga and meditation into the lives of young children and how it can help them live a healthy lifestyle.

The Power of Yoga and Meditation for Young Children

Cultivating Mind-Body Connection

Yoga and meditation provide a unique opportunity for children to develop a strong mind-body connection. Through gentle movements, breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques, children can learn to be more aware of their bodies, emotions, and thoughts. This heightened awareness can help them better understand and regulate their feelings, leading to improved emotional well-being and self-control.

Enhancing Concentration and Focus

Regular practice of yoga and meditation can significantly enhance children’s concentration and focus. These practices require children to pay attention to their breath, body, and sensations, which in turn strengthens their ability to concentrate on tasks and be present in the moment. Improved focus can positively impact their academic performance and overall productivity.

The Power of Yoga and Meditation for Young Children

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Children are not immune to stress and anxiety. Yoga and meditation offer effective tools for managing these emotions. Deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help children calm their minds and bodies, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. By incorporating these practices into their daily routine, children can develop greater resilience and coping mechanisms to navigate challenging situations.

Promoting Physical Fitness and Flexibility

Yoga poses and movements are designed to promote strength, flexibility, and coordination. Introducing yoga to young children can help them develop these physical attributes in a fun and engaging way. Regular practice can improve their overall physical fitness, balance, and posture. Additionally, yoga can aid in better sleep patterns, leading to improved rest and rejuvenation.

The Power of Yoga and Meditation for Young Children

Fostering Self-Expression and Creativity

Yoga and meditation encourage self-expression and creativity in children. Through movement and visualisation exercises, children can explore their imaginations, express themselves freely, and tap into their inner creativity. This can boost their self-esteem, encourage self-acceptance, and nurture their unique identities.

Cultivating Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence

Practising yoga and meditation with young children can foster mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, without judgment. By teaching children to observe their thoughts and emotions without reacting to them, they can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and empathy towards others. These skills lay the foundation for healthy relationships and emotional well-being.

The Power of Yoga and Meditation for Young Children

Do you want to introduce yoga and meditation into children’s daily routines? Do you want to foster overall health and well-being right from a young age?  Do you want to learn more about these powerful approaches and how they can not only benefit the children but also propel your career forward? Enrol Healthy Living and unlock a world of opportunities to enhance the lives of the children you care for. 

By enrolling in our course, you will gain the knowledge and skills to create a nurturing environment that empowers children with lifelong tools for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Cultivating the mind-body connection, enhancing concentration, managing stress, promoting physical fitness, fostering self-expression, and cultivating mindfulness are just a few of the invaluable benefits you’ll learn to provide.

Healthy Living provides practical guidance on adapting the practices to different age groups, making them engaging and enjoyable for children. You’ll gain the confidence to seamlessly incorporate yoga and meditation into their lives, knowing that you’re positively influencing their development. Moreover, the benefits extend beyond the children in your care. By completing our Healthy Living course, you’ll set yourself apart in the competitive nanny industry. Potential employers will be impressed by your dedication to holistic child care and your ability to empower children with valuable life skills. This course is your key to unlocking new career opportunities and earning the recognition you deserve.

So, take a deep breath, roll out the yoga mat, and embark on this transformative journey of mindfulness and self-discovery with the children in your care. Together, you can create an environment that encourages them to thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. Enrol in Healthy Living today and become the exceptional nanny who makes a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Healthy Living Course International Nanny Institute

How nannies can support families to plan healthy, balanced meals

Both nannies and parents want children to be happy and healthy. Most of us understand that nutrition and what we eat plays a crucial role in this.

However, feeding a family can be a difficult undertaking. Many parents are battling with time pressures, the rising cost of living and their own energy levels.

Employing a nanny can be a wonderful support in ensuring that healthy meals are put on the table every week. Sometimes though, lack of inspiration, picky eating or having allergies to deal with mean that it can be challenging to plan weekly menus.

It might be that making the grocery list, doing the grocery shopping or planning the menu is part of your role as a nanny or parents may ask for your input, ideas or support. Here we take a look at what should feature on a family’s weekly grocery list.

Plan healthy and balance Meals

What is healthy eating?

The definition of ‘healthy eating’ is continually evolving in response to new research, as is what is considered to be a healthy diet or healthy eating.

One definition suggests that healthy eating is simply “eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight” but we should also consider that “healthy eating” is about more than just what we eat because how we eat is important too.

Humans naturally have a close relationship with food, not only is it our source of nutrition and therefore vital to life, but it is also part of most societies’ cultural identity and rituals.

Having a good relationship with food is to do with how and why you choose the foods you eat much more than what those foods are.

If you feel any type of shame, guilt, stress, or fear regarding the foods you eat, you may have an unhealthy relationship with food.

As nannies, it is often part of our job to help children to develop a healthy relationship with food.

What is healthy eating for children?

Plan healthy and balance Meals

When we think about healthy eating it’s important to remember that nutritional needs will vary from person to person, and babies, toddlers and children have different nutritional needs to adults.

There are some similarities between the nutritional needs of adults and children as all humans need vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fat. However, these are needed in different amounts depending on age.

Younger children require fewer calories overall. For example, a 1-year-old child should consume about 900 calories per day, but a 14- to 18-year-old needs 1,800 to 2,200 calories, depending on activity level and gender.

Children need to get these calories from a variety of foods too; a child aged 2 to 3 years should get 30 to 35 percent of his calories from fat but by the time we reach adulthood we should only get 5 to 6 percent of our calories from fat.

What are the benefits of healthy eating?

Plan healthy and balance Meals

The WHO states that “Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health” Whilst “a healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.”

Basically, healthy eating is important because it helps to maintain good physical health, which prevents costs to health services.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying active can also help us to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn helps to prevent health issues!

Deficiencies in some key nutrients can weaken parts of the immune system, making it much easier for us to get ill, so healthy eating helps us to get all the nutrients we need for the immune system to function normally.

Healthy eating helps humans to feel physically and mentally well, and to perform well at school, work and contribute to our communities.

For young children, all of these are benefits in the long term, but in the short term too healthy eating can help small children to grow. Since the early years of childhood are a period of rapid growth this is especially important.

Meal planning

Meal Planning

Meal planning can help to save time, money and disagreements about what to have for dinner, and it is a task that nannies are often assigned and it doesn’t need to be boring, strict or limiting.

Some families really struggle to cook from scratch every night because modern life is extremely busy with after-school activities and homework to complete too, so sometimes we do need shortcuts.

However, we can help to balance those nights where we need to cook a quick, but less nutritious meal with cooking a bigger batch on the days we do cook from scratch and saving a portion to put in the freezer.

This way, when families have a busy night, they can simply pull a healthy meal out of the freezer.

Ingredients to include in a healthy grocery list for families

If you are asked to put together a healthy grocery list for the family you are working for, you should be sure to include foods from the following categories:

Ingredients Plan healthy and balance Meals

Fruits and vegetables

Try to include a portion of veggies or salad as part of the main meals. Fruit can be used as a good alternative to dessert too. Nannies can encourage children to choose fruit or vegetables as a snack by having them prepared and ready to dish out quickly, for example, cucumber and carrot sticks, sliced peppers or prepared mango.


Children need to get a bigger proportion of their energy from fats than adults and dairy is a good way for them to achieve this.

Under the age of 2 or 3 children should drink full-fat milk, but semi-skimmed or skimmed are okay once they are older and growing well.

Cheeses and yoghurts are another good way to get more fat into children’s diets along with plenty of calcium, which contributes to strong bones and teeth.

If the children you are caring for don’t tolerate dairy well or their parents choose not to give it, this is not normally a problem, but nannies should seek some advice on how to best ensure that dairy alternatives meet children’s needs.


Most western countries suggest basing meals around carbohydrate foods which give us energy, so you should ensure that you keep a stock of rice, pasta or potatoes as the base for meals.

Meat, fish or other protein

Protein foods like meat and fish are important for building muscle, try and choose lower fat cuts where possible as these will be better for the whole family. If the family you work for are vegetarian or vegan you can choose alternative protein sources like pulses, beans or soya and seek out some tasty recipes for these.

Pin Summary

Healthy Living Course. OCN-London and International Nanny Institute

When seeking work as a nanny, being able to provide a healthy, balanced set of meals and snacks is a very desirable skill and many families will include being able to cook nutritional meals as essential criteria for applying to their role.

If you need to learn more about nutrition, healthy eating and a balanced diet, our Healthy Living course can help you with this and ensure that you are a more attractive applicant when applying for new nanny roles.

Sign up today to improve your skills and your confidence in supporting healthy lifestyles for children and their families.

International Nanny Institute

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Why should I enrol in a Healthy Living course?

In any career, continuous professional development is vital. Completing ongoing training helps you grow as a professional by gaining new knowledge, reflecting on your experience and mastering new skills to take back into the workplace.

Professional development also demonstrates your passion and commitment to your sector and shows you are dedicated to your chosen career.

When working with young children in private, domestic households, earning an OCN-London approved qualification via our course, Healthy Living, caregivers can ensure they are getting ready for a professional childcare placement.

With a growing public awareness of, (and interest in) health, there are a range of different courses and qualifications available for those interested in healthy lifestyles.

The International Nanny Institute Healthy Living course has many unique benefits and features that make it the perfect fit for nannies and others in the domestic childcare field. 

Tailor-made for nannies

With an array of different courses related to caring for children available, it can be difficult to know which to choose.

The International Nanny Institute Healthy Living course has been carefully curated by a team of experts who are committed to maintaining high standards and staying up-to-date in the field of childcare.

Our experts specialise in a range of different fields and include practical advice as well as academic information. Our courses have been designed with nannies in mind, so they will be well suited to the day-to-day work of keeping children and their families active and nourished.

Learn to support children’s wellbeing

As society has a renewed interest in children’s wellbeing, it’s a great time to ensure that your knowledge is up to date.

We all want the best for the children in our care and while we aim for them to grow up to be healthy and happy, it’s not always easy to know how to achieve this. 

Our ONC-London certified Healthy Living course will help you build up the knowledge and skills necessary to support children and their families with healthy eating, physical activity and all round the best wellbeing practices.

Improve your own wellbeing

When caring for young children, caregivers often forget that their personal needs are also important.

Our Healthy Living course is designed to encourage nannies to consider their own lifestyle while also learning how to support children and their families in making positive choices around exercise and nutrition.

Healthy Living gives students a chance to reflect on their personal wellbeing and inspires them to take small steps towards improving their own sense of wellbeing through managing stress, eating well and getting enough physical exercise.

Broaden your skill set

Being a nanny can be a demanding job that requires a broad set of skills.

Completing our internationally certified Healthy Living course is one way to showcase your understanding of proper nutrition, age-appropriate exercise, and ability to provide children with the building blocks for living a healthy lifestyle. 

Demonstrate a specialism

As the nanying industry evolves, more nannies are specializing in different areas. Some nannies support families with sleep routines while others specialise in newborn care or working with multiple children at once, but increasingly there is a need and demand for nannies who are able to support children in the process of developing healthy lifestyles.

As many families begin to focus on their children’s physical and mental  health, our internationally certified Healthy Living course is a fantastic way to demonstrate that you have developed your skill set in this area, setting you apart from other applicants for jobs.

Healthy Living Course. International Nanny Institute

The Healthy Living course consists of 4 weekly, in-depth training sessions supplemented with a test for checking your understanding.

We also offer an interactive group forum so you can discuss what you are learning with other students in your cohort. This forum can help foster understanding, learning and personal development on a deeper level.

Healthy Living is taught as an online course  100% online and it will take about 60 hours to complete over 8 weeks, giving you a window of time to complete the course and leaving you in control of how and when you study.

If you like what you’ve read about our Healthy Living course and think it might be a good fit for your professional development, visit our website at www.international-nanny.institute!

We can’t wait to have you on board!

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Fussy Eating

Fussy eating is a common parental complaint, particularly during the toddler and preschool years. While most parents understand the importance of healthy eating during childhood and want their children to eat a variety of different foods, many children will go through a phase of fussy eating. Let’s explore what fussy eating might look like, why it happens, what to do about it and when you might need to seek extra help.

What is fussy eating?

Fussy eating, sometimes referred to as ‘faddy eating’ or ‘picky eating’, can develop when children have strong food preferences. Children who are picky eaters will often refuse to try new foods, actively avoid certain foods or be inconsistent with what they will eat. These food preferences can range from a mild, short-lived phase to something much more restrictive and long-lasting. It is typically a distressing and frustrating experience for parents and caregivers who want children to have healthy eating habits.

Why does it happen?

There are various reasons children may begin to restrict what they eat. First of all, there is a strong genetic component involved as specific genes, such as the TASR38 gene, govern taste and affect how flavour receptors determine how strongly certain tastes, such as bitterness, are experienced. (Calancie et al 2018). 

In addition to  genetics, our evolutionary past also plays a role in fussy eating. For example, our caveman ancestors were more likely to survive than other species because they ate a wide variety of foods and were not solely dependent on just a few resources. However, utilising many different types of plants for food sources could also pose a significant risk as some plants proved to be poisonous to humans. Some scientists believe that the need to determine the safety of different plants could be partly responsible for the biological development of fussy eating. In fact, it has been suggested that this is the reason fussy eating tends to emerge in children between the ages of 1.5 and 4 years old, as  during this time, our ancestors’ children would have become less reliant on breastmilk for nutrition, and would have spent more time with older children of the group as opposed to their mothers. Without constant adult supervision, the risk of poisoning from eating dangerous plants would have been significantly higher, so the emergence of caution towards unknown foods around this age could have helped to keep our ancestors’ young children safe.

In addition, the toddler and preschool years are characterised by a change in behaviours including experimentation with boundaries, the development of independence and a newfound interest in exploring the concept of control. Oftentimes, young children can find mealtimes to be an ideal arena to explore these new concepts and behaviours.  Furthermore, fussy eating is more likely to develop where parents or caregivers make food a battleground for control by bribing, rewarding or even punishing children for eating certain foods.

Talking to parents about fussy eating

Fussy Eating - International Nanny

Parents are typically aware of the importance of laying foundations for healthy eating in early childhood, which can cause them to experience worry, distress, frustration or guilt when their children’s eating habits don’t live up to their expectations. It’s also normal for parents to worry that their child is not getting enough to eat or that they may be eating too much of the wrong thing. Many parents feel that a child’s eating habits are a direct reflection on their parenting abilities, so it’s important to recognise these potential concerns when talking to parents about their child’s eating.

Parents may approach the Nanny about their child’s eating habits to discuss any observations or concerns they may have. In these instances, caregivers should remember to use their words carefully and encourage parents to be patient and understanding about the causes of fussy eating, while also reassuring them that this common phase usually passes with time.

For parents who worry that their child may not be getting enough food or nutrients, Nannies can take note of what the child eats over the course of the day or week. Many times, seeing the bigger picture can reassure parents who may be hyper focused on a single skipped meal or an unhealthy snack choice. Nannies can also take this opportunity to remind parents that as long as the child’s paediatrician is not concerned with the child’s growth or development, and the child has enough energy to play, they are likely eating enough.

Lastly, Nannies should remember to keep conversations with parents relaxed and calm as parents may already be concerned, and it is important to provide reassurance before offering suggestions.

Strategies for dealing with fussy eating

Fussy Eating - International Nanny

The most important thing to remember when dealing with fussy eating is that caregivers should not introduce additional pressure or stress surrounding food. If fussy eating is caused by a natural, biological resistance or an unresolved sensory issue, caregivers should remain patient and calm.  In these instances, caregivers need to remember that many children will grow out of this behaviour as they age.  Additionally, if fussy eating is a result of a child’s desire to push boundaries, then elevating stress levels around food would likely cause them to push the boundaries even further!

One strategy that often helps children who are going through a fussy eating phase is for caregivers to involve  them in food preparation.  By allowing children to  mix ingredients, set the table and serve their own portions, they can develop a sense of pride, accomplishment and control around the food they eat. 

Caregivers should also remember that children often need to try foods more than once before they develop an interest in it.  Caregivers can reintroduce foods at regular intervals as children’s tastes tend to change over time.  as they get older. In fact, an individual’s tastes  can even continue to change and develop well into adulthood. 

When trying to tackle fussy eating, being a good role model and having fair expectations of children is very important. Caregivers should eat with children wherever possible and use the opportunity to talk to them about the foods being eaten. Caregivers should be honest with children if they don’t like a specific food and can demonstrate that it’s okay not to like a certain food as long as they try it and continue to eat other food options. Children who have been fussy eaters for a longer period of time may have developed negative associations with mealtimes, so caregivers may have to actively work to change the children’s mindset. When caregivers share their mealtime with children, eating together can help to make mealtimes a positive experience as it offers the opportunity to talk about other subjects, play games and allows mealtime to be a fun, relaxing activity.  Caregivers can also use this time to set good examples by revisiting foods they previously haven’t enjoyed and discussing their changing tastes with the children in their care.  Essentially, the goal is for caregivers to turn mealtime into a nice, stress free experience.  

For example, if you know a child doesn’t like lasagne but continues to serve just lasagne for dinner then even if you don’t pressure by punishing or bribing this is actually a lot of pressure. If however, the child likes garlic bread, chips, and cucumber and you offer a small portion of lasagne, alongside garlic bread, chips and cucumber the child can see that they are not going to starve and may feel more comfortable giving the previously disliked lasagne another try.

When to seek extra help

Fussy Eating - International Nanny

Usually, children will eat when they are hungry and won’t let themselves starve but for a small number of children, this fussy eating could become a problem.  Sometimes, fussy eating can be a sign that a problem exists and caregivers may need to seek professional help.  For example,  one of the signs that could prompt caregivers to seek extra help would be if a child continues to limit the types of foods they eat until there are few food options left. Other times, caregivers may notice that  a child begins to lose weight or become lethargic, which should prompt caregivers to follow-up with a healthcare professional. 

Caregivers should also seek assistance if they notice a big change in the child’s dietary routine such as if they refuse to eat for a few consecutive days. Alternatively, if caregivers notice that a child has become hyper-aware of the differences within food, such as noticing and refusing to eat a different brand or recipe of tomato pasta sauce or if they exhibit an extreme emotional reaction to a new or different food, caregivers may need to consider speaking to a professional.  

In summary, the vast majority of children will go through a fussy eating phase during their childhood but with patience and understanding from their parents and caregivers they will grow to develop a healthy relationship with food. When caregivers maintain a positive attitude, allow mealtimes to be a fun, relaxed and stress free environment and continue to offer a variety of foods at regular intervals, children can overcome their fussy eating and develop healthy eating habits. 

Do you think teaching children to eat healthy is important? You can learn more about living a healthy lifestyle at the International Nanny Institute. Our OCN-London approved course, Healthy Living, discusses how to make positive lifestyle choices for yourself, the families you work with, and the children in your care. The role of a nanny can be demanding, so taking the time to consider your health and the health of your charges is vitally important for effective, nurturing childcare.

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