When we started House on the Hill, it was very important to us that we have well balanced and nutritious food for the children. We designed the menu together with leading UK nutrition therapist, well-known author and one of the founders of The Food Doctor, Ian Marber. It is focused on meals that keep the children feeling full and happy, with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins to give them energy as they go through their day.
The House on the Hill Nutrition Programme
The first meal of the day is the morning snack, which is served after morning outdoor time. This is always fresh fruit. In Singapore, we have the opportunity to have seasonal fruit from all over the world, from blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries, to very fresh tropical fruit such as mango, lychee, longan and even chiku or Spanish persimmons. We try to keep the options as varied as possible – the only fruit we haven’t served yet is durian!
At lunch, there is always a carbohydrate, protein and two to four types of vegetables to eat. We only use 100% brown rice, wholemeal bread and whole grain pasta.
In the afternoon, we have two snacks. The one at 3pm is usually something refreshing, like fresh cucumber, edamame, fruit with yogurt, carrot sticks or baby corn. At 5pm, we usually give them something with a little more carbohydrate, such as home-made cake with fruit sweeteners, banana cake, home-made cookies with honey, steamed pumpkin or sweet potato. It gives the full-day children an energy boost, but not so much that they are too full for dinner when they get home!
The importance of healthy meals
We dedicate ourselves to creating healthy meals for children because we understand the health and behavioural consequences of nutrition for preschool aged children. Numerous studies show that balanced diets help children to be focused and energized in the classroom, a must for the daily exploration taking place in our Montessori environment! We must not only feed them healthy food now, but teach children to appreciate and choose healthy food in the future.
Susan Baker, MD, PhD, writes that “food preferences, eating behaviors, and decisions about pleasurable foods begin early and probably last throughout the life” making it essential that as educators we help preschoolers develop healthy food habits, beginning with introducing children to healthy foods that they love to eat (source).
Learning while eating
At House on the Hill, we believe that food is never just food. There are many opportunities to learn and develop whilst we eat. For example:
As a proud Montessori school, we are passionate advocates of encouraging independence from young. At mealtimes, this is practiced in a number of ways. Children are taught to serve and feed themselves, even starting from our infant age classes. Using child-sized utensils helps to give them autonomy during meal times. In class, the older children top up their own water bottles, they help to set the table for the class, and even help to dish out servings for their classmates. Even when making their own smoothies, they are empowered to choose and decide what flavours, consistency and size they would like their drinks to be.
Children are also given opportunities to be responsible in looking after the class environment including washing their bowls and placemats, as well as cleaning and wiping down of the tables and chairs. All these actions are helping to develop the valuable life skill of being independent, fostering confidence and gaining in self-awareness.
When a child is in control of their food intake, they learn to be aware of their natural hunger cues. They learn to stop eating when they’re full, an important life skill.
2. Motor and Sensory Skills Development
When children feed themselves, they are developing fine motor skills through touching, grasping, spooning, squeezing and picking things up.
They are cultivating their sensory skills when they explore food’s taste, texture, smell, color, and temperature.
3. Social Skill Development
Our students eat together as a group in their classrooms. Observing one another during mealtimes helps the younger ones be encouraged to taste and try new food. This mimics real life, and promotes grace and courtesy, learning to eat politely and how to live peacefully with one other.
4. Good Food Habits
Before joining House on the Hill , some parents think it is impossible that their child will eat fennel, mushrooms or starfruit. Although we tell parents how delicious it is, it is ultimately the children who convince their parents and rave about it at home. Our parents told us “my kids are now in a “Big School”, and they had to make a big adjustment on their snacks and lunch. They compare how Auntie (in Pasir Panjang) always prepares good meals for them (vs the big school where they did not eat one or two lunches because they didn’t like it). Just want you to know how much we appreciate all the care that goes into the food preparation, the actual eating, and the cleaning up afterwards in HotH.”
Picky eating can be common at this age, but many expert suggestions about how to combat picky eating are already incorporated into the HotH menu and routine, such as eating as a group and without distractions, offering a variety of flavors that are reintroduced every so often, and involving children in the preparation (a favorite afternoon snack is the Make-Your-Own-Salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and more). We believe that exposure to healthy, nutritious food combined with discussions about why it is important for their health, inculcates good values and habits from an early age.
At House on the Hill, the delicious and nutritious food feeds bellies and minds. A child who is well fed will be able to play and learn to their fullest potential. And a child who learns to love nutritious and fresh food will not only make life easier for their parents now, but will be making their own life healthier in the long term.
Please note: Our House on the Hill teams are very experienced in managing allergy requirements. In our daily operations, we cook and serve food separately for any children with allergies.