The Children's Kitchen

The Children’s Kitchen Early Years Settings

The Children’s Kitchen aims to:

  • Highlight the importance of building a healthy relationship with food at a young age, focusing on fresh produce rather than sweet treats.
  • Creating growing spaces and a term-based planting plan so that children can learn about food ‘Plot to Plate.’
  • Developing confidence and food knowledge for Early Years practitioners and people who work with children.
  • Linking Early Years food with the wider food education networks and strategic planning for the city, particularly focused on addressing food insecurity.
  • Supporting settings to improve their approach to food through hands on sessions, resources, CPD, training and mentoring.

The Children’s Kitchen is a city-wide Feeding Bristol and Bristol Early Years project which is focused on the areas of the Bristol with the highest levels of food insecurity. The project’s core work is in the Nursery Schools working with children under five, and with their families. The project also works in Children’s Centres and Schools in focused areas. The Children’s Kitchen focuses on giving children opportunities to explore, grow and eat fresh produce, building confidence and curiosity through regular child led experiences. The project also provides recipes, hands on sessions and support for families around healthy eating for children and learning to prepare simple, affordable food at home.

The project establishes regular Food Sessions during the nursery day where children can explore fresh produce which is either Fareshare surplus or home grown onsite. Every Children’s Kitchen setting is supported to create a growing space for edible produce so that children can grow from seed and understand where food comes from. This includes a term based growing programme so that plants can be grown and harvested within the school year. This link between fresh food and growing is key to the project’s approach and to engaging children with eating a wide range of fresh vegetables.

The Children’s Kitchen Food Sessions are not conventional cookery classes; instead, they are entirely led by exploring fresh produce in a multi-sensory way and encouraging children to touch, feel, smell and taste foods that often they have not tried before. This might be fresh peas in the summer or large squash and kale in winter; adults can help them to do this safely using age-appropriate cookery skills. Food Sessions do not follow recipes or expect predictable outcomes; they involve play, enquiry, experimentation, and child led learning. They are never based on cooking cake, biscuits, or other sweet treats as we are always conscious that young children should be eating less sugar and developing a taste for savoury foods.

Often the early years settings are linked to a nearby Food Club and the children explore and taste the fresh ingredients that their parents may be bringing home; they already have experience of a new ingredient before it is served to them in a meal. The project develops the confidence and skills of practitioners within the settings so that they can run Food Sessions themselves and develop a focus on food as part of the setting priorities and curriculum. Professional Development and hands on learning sessions build the skills and understanding of practitioners so that the project becomes a sustainable.

The project is led by chef Jo Ingleby who was the winner of the BBC Cook of the Years Award in 2015 for her work with early years children at Redcliffe Children’s Centre. The Children’s Kitchen brings together several leading organisations and charities within Bristol to focus on early years children and their experience of food. As part of Feeding Bristol this includes being part of focus groups working towards the Food Equality Strategy and Action Plan and developing strategic changes to work towards food justice and equity. Partner organisations include Edible Bristol, 91ways, The Square Food Foundation, Travelling Kitchen and a team of project developers who are experienced food and growing practitioners.

Awards

BBC Cook of the Year in the Food and Farming Awards 2015

Nursery World Best Nursery Food in 2016

Nursery World Award for Health and Wellbeing in 2022

British Nutrition Foundation Community Award Runner Up in 2023

Department for Education Regional Champions for HAF in 2023

Fareshare South West Social Impact Award for Education, Inclusion and Diversity in 2023

The Children’s Kitchen working with families

In early years settings The Children’s Kitchen works with families to encourage healthy cooking at home. Throughout the year families can access workshops or cookery sessions to build skills and confidence and to enjoy cooking and eating together. This work has been funded by the NHS Localities Partnership as part of their focus on child healthy weight. Workshops include healthy packed lunch ideas, encouraging children to explore food at home and learning to cook simple dishes from scratch.

The Children’s Kitchen is a key part of the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme in Bristol and sits on the Steering Group as the Food Education lead. This involves creating resources and training for Activity Providers and supporting them to deliver food education sessions and healthy food which follows the School Food Guidelines. The HAF work includes delivering hands on sessions for children and families in settings across the city through the school holidays, primarily for school age children but often for whole families from babies to grandparents. As part of this The Children’s Kitchen create recipe booklets which are available free for children and focus on healthy, multi-cultural and affordable dishes that families can cook at home.

Watch the Children’s Kitchen Video

The Children’s Kitchen Recipes

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Children’s Kitchen Family Favourites

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Children’s Kitchen Spring into Action Recipes

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The Children’s Kitchen – Eat The Rainbow

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Cupboard Cooking

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The Children’s Kitchen – Eat Together

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Children’s Kitchen Winter Recipes

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Food to share recipe booklet

This booklet, authored by the award-winning Children’s Kitchen, contains over 20 recipes that children, families and practitioners can make and bring to an event to celebrate our Centenary. Equally, it supports practitioners and families with easy and accessible recipes to get children exploring food and cooking at home or in an early years setting.

Read more and purchase here.

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