It’s a rainy Friday morning, and young children are playing in a wooden kitchen, mixing, baking and selling play-dough cookies and cakes.
Fortunately, with a little help, these kids will soon be able to make the real thing.
The Mary Queen of the Family Parish Catholic Early Learning Centre (CELC) has received funding to continue their work in laying down foundations for life-long healthy habits of the children in their care, and, in turn, their families and the wider local community.
Donna Harding, Director of the CELC sees the poor nutrition, decreased physical activity and increased sedentary play in the local area.
“We are aiming to reduce the health impacts of obesity, nutritional deficiency and poor dental health in preschool children by creating healthy attitudes towards food and physical health to last a lifetime,” she said.
The centre plans to get children ‘hands on’, with kid-sized kitchen accessories, sharing their favourite recipes and learning about the food from other cultures.
There are other benefits as well.
“The experience of preparing and cooking food will develop children’s foundational maths and scientific enquiry skills, as well as developing an appreciation for a wider variety of foods,” Donna explained.
The early-learning centre received a grant under the NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership Program, for refurbishing the centre’s existing kitchen facilities.
The centre, located next to St Michael’s Primary School, Blacktown, was presented with a cheque from the NSW Member for Prospect Hugh McDermott during an event on Friday 12 March.
Mr McDermott played with the children in their play kitchen and bakery, remarking that it felt like the playtimes he has with his own daughters.
In a show of appreciation, the children presented Mr McDermott with a special hand-drawn thank you card on behalf of the centre.
Mr McDermott described the importance of early learning centres in helping children develop life skills, and, in the case of the CELC, nutritional skills.
“The things the children learn here, they can take home with them, which, in a way increases the education level of parents.
“This kind of experience might be something the children might not necessarily have, but it will add to their intellectual and physical development,” he said.
Donna added, “Families who attend the preschool are working with educators to build the healthy eating practices of children by engaging in community garden activities and programs such as the ‘Pay it forward pantry’, where we share food staples with families.”
The NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership Program focuses on infrastructure projects that “deliver positive social, environmental and recreational outcomes, while promoting community participation, inclusion and cohesion.”