A group of children squeals as their hands and feet find a way to catch up to their excitement. They repeat the catchy song lyrics back to Sophie, their entrusted daycare assistant. Sophie has been nurturing children’s imaginations during their time at Central Daycare for over six years. She shares, “When I was little, the manager, Michelle, used to look after me. When I finished college, she said to get in touch, and that’s how I started out here.”
Located in one of the most disadvantaged wards within the UK, Sophie and her Central Daycare colleagues strive to support the health and development of every child who walks through their doors. Before COVID safety lockdowns, they looked after upwards of eighty children a day.
Ensuring the children receive healthy food is a main priority. Sophie notes that the nursery might provide the one hot meal a child eats on a particular day. Promoting healthy eating choices may also mean swapping out unhealthy items from the lunch pack they brought from home. “Some children do have a quite bit of fruit in their pack, which is nice to see, but then there have been other children who have two or three chocolate bars,” she says. “We limit it, so they’re not having all three of them, and give them a piece of fruit.”
Through a partnership with Vitamin Angels UK, the daycare now provides additional fresh and nutritious foods to supplement available snacks and meals. This added benefit helps fill nutritional gaps in children’s diets and reduces over-consumption.
Additionally, Sophie and the Central Daycare staff teach the children how to put all those healthy options into their bodies while sharing a meal around a mini table and a small fork and knife in hand.
It can be a difficult adjustment, Sophie shares, “Some children don’t always like to start with coming to the table because it’s something they’re not used to. They don’t always know how to use a knife and fork yet.” However, the dedicated team patiently applies strategies to help each child learn. “We get them to serve themselves, and if they’re struggling, we use hand over hand, so we put our hands on theirs to scoop it onto the plate. For the fruit, they get to pick the one they like – orange or banana,” she says.
The astute daycare assistant finds that many children’s behaviors change for the better. They are excited to try new foods. For instance, Sophie shares that, “There was a little boy who was peeling an orange, and he was so determined to get it peeled!”
Reflecting on her role at the daycare, Sophie shares, “It feels rewarding that you’re actually doing something for them while they’re here… I just love the children’s imaginations, seeing them grow and develop while they’re here. Then, when they go to school, I miss them being here. But then it’s a good thing they’ve gone to a new step.”
Vitamin Angels UK is privileged to play a vital role alongside Sophie and her colleagues to provide a hopeful and healthy “next step” for children in the UK and beyond.