Our journey to finding the EYN Partnership

Lynne Daniel, Manager at Tiddlywinks Nursery

As a result of our passion for ensuring that children get the best nutritional start in life and following the government's advice on child obesity, myself and the proprietor of Tiddly Winks underwent the Children's Food Trust Training. This empowered us to continue developing our menus to offer children the opportunity to taste a variety of new flavours presented in a highly nutritious diet. 

When Catherine approached us about signing up to the Early Years Nutrition Partnership we were initially a bit sceptical as we had already done lots of work and we weren’t sure what else the EYNP could offer us.

But the reality is that it has been a different experience to anything we have had before, chiefly because it has been so empowering.

How working with Catherine helped

Throughout our learning journey Catherine has been there at every step and has always been available at the end of the phone to help us with anything we have been unsure about. The difference between working with an organisation, or following the advice of an organisation, versus working with a specific nutritionist, is very significant.

When you think about making changes to your menus for instance, until you really truly understand the food groups and balance of foods, it is very easy to make mistakes. If I was just to download menus, when it comes to changing those menus, even in a tiny way, it would be really easy to make a mistake and swap in something that doesn’t have the same nutritional value. Working with a registered nutrition professional has meant we haven’t fallen into those traps, and that you gradually build your understanding so that you won’t be in that position in the future. You can believe you are making a sensible decision, but its easy underestimate the complexity of balancing a menu.

The whole working relationship with Catherine has paid off not just in terms of menu changes, but also in terms of how we approach food as a setting. The questions she asked us have helped us look at our role modelling, our eating experience, and our teaching about food. That dialogue has resulted in some lovely changes. For example, we now all eat together, team and children, our chef spends time with the children talking about food, and we get the children involved in cooking workshops too. It’s all inspired by conversations with Catherine and the supported learning journey we are on.

One of the other ways that working with Catherine has really helped is in terms of presenting information to parents. Because we can quote Catherine as a registered nutrition professional and the EYN Partnership, parents take us seriously and can see that what we are doing is based in evidence and science. That’s positive both from a marketing perspective and in terms of our relationships with parents of children we look after.

Reflections on the EYN Partnership journey

It’s an interesting time for me to step back and assess how working with the EYN Partnership has benefited us, as we are just about to have our final assessment and hopefully achieve the accredited level of the Quality Mark!

Looking back to when we started this, I never thought we would be this confident already, and that’s definitely down to the structure of the programme giving us that ongoing working relationship with Catherine.

The other thing I would credit is the fantastic face to face training. We did the modules over two days, and eight of us attended; it was a brilliant experience for bringing the team along all together. It’s no good only having the management team behind a change like this, you need everybody on board, and the training is perfect for that. Because it was in-setting, and just our team, everybody felt comfortable asking questions and nobody felt put on the spot. We came away inspired to keep talking to each other about nutrition and to share knowledge with the wider team and new team members.

I think when I look at what we have achieved I can confidently say that we have moved on a very long way, not just in our menus, but in our whole setting approach. I feel strongly that we are doing the best thing for the children, and that we went about this the with the right approach by working with the EYN Partnership who have supported us all the way.