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Taste classes also spread to nursery schools

With the help of the handbook entitled Discovering the world of food through the senses, day-care professionals can introduce new work methods and practical means to promote varied eating habits and to solve problems with children's eating.

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Nursery school children will bravely taste new dishes and adopt new tastes if all the senses are used to support the new experiences. The experiences of day care in Jyväskylä have now been compiled into teaching material for other nurseries. With the help of the handbook entitled Discovering the world of food through the senses, day-care professionals can introduce new work methods and practical means to promote varied eating habits and to solve problems with children’s eating.

The handbook, produced by Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA, is based on the French Sapere method where children learn about the world of food in a diverse way using all their senses by taking part themselves and assessing their own experiences with food. The word ‘sapere’ is from Latin and means ‘to taste, to feel and to be brave’. The method has been used before, mainly in Taste School projects aimed at school children.

Children’s eating habits become established in early childhood. It has been observed in nurseries that because parents are busy, children do not get to see food being prepared at home. The change in eating habits can also be seen in the increased sales of sweet juices and sweets and in the limited consumption of fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, the relationship to eating has changed and problems with eating have become daily challenges in nurseries.

“The old methods no longer work, so therefore we decided in Jyväskylä to try the Sapere method in children’s food education. Children have a natural curiosity towards food; they are enthusiastic to touch, smell, taste and try it. Most of the learning takes place through games, by examining and working together, by listening to peas and seeing what we can find inside a tomato. Reinforcing the partnership between education and the home is important as well as supportive. A positive and natural relationship towards food and eating can be created on the child’s own terms,” says nursery school teacher Aila Koistinen.

Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA, which concluded at the end of the year, has been involved in testing various means that can be used to promote the health of children and young people through means of healthy nutrition.

“We have supported the compilation of the project’s experiences and knowledge accumulated within day care in the City of Jyväskylä into a handbook so that as many people as possible can benefit from this advice. Making use of all the senses as part of food education promotes the well-being of children and families in a more versatile way, and we hope that the handbook will provide the desired support to food issues in early education. The book, which is published on our website, is also a concrete and excellent aid for parents who are struggling with nursery age children on how to get them to eat in a well-rounded way, as well as to eat various vegetables,” says Sitra’s Project Manager Markku Mikola.

The handbook Discovering the world of food through the senses: the Sapere method as a support to nutrition and food education in day care (available in Finnish) was edited by Aila Koistinen and Leena Ruhanen. It was produced in cooperation with the Day Care Services of the City of Jyväskylä and the staff of the nurseries in the Sapere project. Arja Lyytikäinen, a nutrition planner for the Central Finland Health Care District, has also taken part in the planning. The Sapere method has been included as a good practice in the regional health promotion plan for Central Finland, which is being disseminated to nurseries in the entire region.

The handbook Discovering the world of food through the senses: the Sapere method as a support to nutrition and food education in day care (in Finnish, PDF) »

For further information, please contact

Markku Mikola, Project Manager, Sitra, tel. +358 (0)40 771 8030
Aila Koistinen, nursery teacher, City of Jyväskylä, tel. +358 (0)14 625 755
Leena Ruhanen, planner, City of Jyväskylä, tel. +358 (0)400 225 615
Arja Lyytikäinen, nutrition planner, (included as the representative for prevention work of the Central Finland Health Care District), tel. +358 (0)40 580 3501

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