Food education starts from early childhood: children start tasting foods, discovering different flavours and learning how to eat well. We have met a teacher from an important nursery school in Milan, actively involved in teaching the importance of a healthy diet without giving up pleasure.
What is the school’s role in food education?
It plays a very important role: it’s fundamental to introduce kids to this matter beginning with the very first years of life. Family’s support is essential as well. The goal of the nursery school is to help parents in their role of the food education process. In my class there are 10-month old babies, and this is the age when weaning should start as infants are passing from standard recipes to a new food plan much more similar to that of an adult.
When do children usually become aware of taste?
From their early childhood, they develop very well-defined tastes. They acquire their family’s habits, make them those habits within the school environment. Infants and young children are not as sensitive to the aesthetic aspect: for example, even though you are good at preparing vegetables, if your child refuses them, he will keep refusing them. Playing with food might be an useful strategy to help children to become familiar with new tastes.
How do children interact during meals? Is it important to give them precise rules?
Eating is an important experience for human beings, especially for children. Meals should always be organized in the same way so that they can become a point of reference for children; for example, they should have their own seat, same table, their own cutlery. In this way they feel serene and tranquil and are able to perceive a sense of comfort. Under these circumstances children can naturally develop relationships among themselves: they laugh together, touch one another and play with food which allows them to have a spontaneous, calm approach with others.
What is the dish children appreciate the most?
Do you also offer special custom diets in your nursery school?
Absolutely, in accordance with hospitals and care providers we plan custom diets for allergic babies. We also prepare religious diets, for example, for Muslim or vegetarian babies, if it is requested by their family.
What’s your relationship with food and with your fridge?
I would say it is good, even though I am very careful of what I eat; my approach to foods is not obsessive, it’s healthy and natural. Fridge is a very important reference in my house, mine is large and full of food.
What is your favourite food? Are there any foods you could never give up?
I don’t want to be short at anything, I love doing the shopping and having all necessary provisions. I am careful of the food stored in the freezer, and it is always full: from vegetables to soups, everything you may need in case guests come over.