Tuesday, 16 July 2013

My Children Are not Dustbins

I have been really frustrated the last few weeks by the amount of junk reaching my children's stomachs. What frustrates me as much as what they are being fed is the fact that it is completely out of my hands because it is happening in school of all places. My three year old seems to come home every other week clutching a goodie bag filled to the brim with sugar having celebrated some birthday or another or a child leaving nursery school to start primary school. Oh, and did I mention he's only in school for five hours per week? He gets more crap fed to him in those five hours than the rest of the week combined.

But it's not just the goodie bags. He came home yesterday proudly announcing he'd had an ijsje and a cookie in school because two children are leaving the peuterspeelzaal.  He was there from 8.45am until 11.15am. Seriously. How much sugar can a child ingest in those two and a half hours in the morning? If he's at home he has a piece of fruit around 10.30 am. If he's lucky and he nags me enough.

I don't like to whine, but really. Shouldn't healthy eating education begin at an early age? The schools my children attend write a lot about parents providing health snacks for children for break time in the 'school rules' and in their newsletters and ask that parents think along the lines of healthy treats to celebrate birthdays but do nothing to actually enforce these requests. The first whiff of a school trip and fried snacks and sugar bombs are on the menu (courtesy of the school). Practice what you preach. Please.

No thanks - my kids are not dustbins
Photo credit: http://www.montanabvba.be
Children do not need party bags loaded with every type of sweet and biscuit you can imagine. The truth is that most parents I know end up throwing the contents in the bin. My children get much more pleasure out of a pencil and eraser, or a fun pair of glasses and a mini water pistol (like my son got in his goodie bag today) than endless bags of gummy bears, cola bottles and Dora biscuits that their mummy throws in the trash as soon as they have forgotten they even received a goodie bag. Don't get me wrong I'm not anti-sweets but believe in everything in moderation, especially in school!

There are so many better alternatives. Last week a friend of mine gave each kid in my son's class, amongst other things, a tooter to mark her daughter's birthday. The entire class came out at lunchtime blowing them, a cacophony of noise, and they were having more fun than you can shake a stick at. Laughing, smiling faces all round and not a sniff of sugar involved. Another friend made 'watermelon lollies' for her son's birthday and with the exception of one child the class devoured them. We're making little fruit cakes for my son's farewell session at school tomorrow. Small ones, with as much fruit as possible and as little sugar as possible - the fun is in the cake topper photo we'll use. And he'll give each classmate a little bag of 'Forget Me Not' seeds (get it?) with a printed message on it. There is always an alternative to bags and bags of candy.

Rant over. For now. But watch out because well meaning relatives are next on my "my children are not dustbins" hit list......

Does your school promote healthy eating? Is this a cultural thing (my husband says this is the Dutch way...)? Are your children stuffed full of sugar outside your home?


  1. I also read it on American forums, so I am not sure if this is a cultural thing, or maybe it's a thing that children everywhere just love sweets? My children go to daycare, and also get sweets (isjes, snoepjes, etc), but they also eat little cucumber and tomatoes shortly before they leave for home. But they still eat a lot of the yummy healthy stuff I prepare at home. I also have sweets at home, because I eat them, and because I think that there is a place for sweets in a healthy diet. I don't think sweets are junk, they're just food. Maybe instead of calling swetes "junk" we could focus on where food comes from, on letting our children help us with our cooking, and have them have lots of healthy choices? Of course, my children are still little and this is the theory that seems to be working for us so far. I believe food (sweet or otherwise) is there to be enjoyed, not banned. But you're also right, you can give other little gifts rather than sweets (crayons, little books, pencils, baloons, or even raisins)- it doesn't have to be snoep!

  2. This is only just beginning for me. Before Raina was six months old I'd find lolly bags filled with sweets (lollypops!) that she couldn't eat, and still can't eat. All this in the baby group at day care. Seriously. How many one year olds do you know that can safely eat a lollypop?! These are all from the same parents who completely blank me on a daily basis, but that's a whole other rant...

  3. My son's peuterspeelzaal gets a lot of the same thing - but at least his morning sessions include fruit every family contributes from home. I feel like (at least compared to the US) more heathy eating is promoted generally - smaller portions, more veggies, less meat, etc. But we also end up throwing out the piles of snoepjes - luckily, my son doesn't eat most of them.