Energy for play and friends: Increase your children’s enjoyment of playtime whilst also aiding their development of: creative problem solving, cooperation and logical thinking.

The dictionary definition for energy is ‘The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity’, highlighting the two most important aspects of any child’s well being, early development and learning. These two key factors of a child’s development have been highlighted to have a direct relationship with play. Research conducted by Psychologist Edward Fisher analysed 46 studies done in children’s play and found it can enhance children’s development. Such improvements have been observed to range from 33%-67% resulting from an increase in children’s adjustment and language and a decrease in their social and emotional problems. This has positive implications for both educational development and everyday intellectual life. In the UK, we have recognised that play is imperative in learning. So much so, the curriculum is underpinned by play. Therefore, as educators, parents and carers of children, we need to ensure that we are fuelling children appropriately so that they can get the most from this play-based curriculum. Therefore, providing a clear rationale to apply techniques/ methods that may enhance the positive benefits of play.

Food is one of the very few things in life that we all have in common and, arguably, the most important as we all need it to survive. Although a basic physiological fact, nutrition for children has not been made simple. Due to the constant bombardment of news, T.V shows, adverts, and government initiatives providing a heap of conflicting information on what we should and should not be feeding your children. At times this can become a bit overwhelming as a parent or carer, as all we want to do is what is best for our children; grow-up healthy and happy into adulthood. However, we can simplify the vast scope of childhood nutritional information, by taking away some key, simple concepts from professional sport.

A key concept from professional sport that can be directly applied to play is ‘Eating for the task at hand’, meaning when children are going to play, be it going to the playground, playtime at school, afterschool club, sports training etc. they are going to need energy. This energy is what is needed to ensure they fully enjoy and experience the benefits of play, which they can get from food, specifically carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are one of the three macro-nutrients, along with proteins and fats, which fuel the caloric reserve and building blocks necessary to provide and maintain the energy needs for humans. In recent years carbohydrates had a taboo surrounding it, due to inaccurate information provided by media and ill informed and unqualified individuals. Carbohydrates are the bodies’ main source of energy but the “carbs are bad” mantra can really confuse its importance for our children and us.  Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and are used by our body for energy, fuelling our daily activities from exercise to breathing. A diet low in carbohydrates can lead to a lack of energy, early fatigue, poor recovery and disease.

Therefore, providing a snack that can provide energy, and which is quick and simple to make, would be ideal to fuel our children before play. An example of a very popular recipe that I have and still use in sporting environments, my business and volunteering work is “Energy Balls”. It is a simple tasty snack that you can make with your children; it only takes five minutes to prepare and only 20-30mins to set and ready to eat. It just contains five ingredients but is packed full of:

Carbohydrates – Energy

Protein – Muscle repair and growth

Calcium – Strengthen bones, aids bone health and development

Fibre – Feel fuller, aid digestion and prevent constipation

This is a great snack to have just before play, 2-3 of these and children will be fuelled and ready to go! They are nutritionally beneficial and most importantly taste amazing, but you and your children can be the judges of that.

About Michael Lynn

I am a Performance and Health Nutritionist (SENr register) running my own business ‘Nurture’, providing nutritional programmes in primary and secondary schools. At present, operating in the North West of England in conjunction with the Lancaster and Heysham School and Sports Network. This entails practical cooking sessions, one-to-one support, supermarket visits, recipes and workshops with pupils, parents and teachers educating them on the benefits of good nutrition by providing them the knowledge to make informed choices. Being ‘Healthy’ is seen to be a middle class preserve, meaning you need money to eat and lead a healthy lifestyle. The goal of ‘Nurture’ is to dispel this by educating children and parents that your financial standing does not matter, that you can still lead a healthy lifestyle by following the mantra “Education from the roots up”.

I am, also, a sessional worker at ‘The Joshua Tree foundation’ providing nutritional support and cooking to children and families affected by cancer. This work directly links in with my research with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and future research in applying nutrition and exercise strategies to positively alter body compositional changes during aftercare treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Email: nurture.schooleducation@gmail.com

LinkedIn: Michael Lynn

Twitter: MML_Nutrition