UK Delivery (excludes Northern Ireland, Scottish Highlands + Offshore and Channel Isles)
- Free delivery when you spend over £40
- Standard UK delivery (3-5 working days): £3.99
- Next day UK delivery: £6.99
To qualify for next day delivery, orders must be placed before 2pm. Orders are delivered Monday – Friday only. Unfortunately we cannot deliver your orders on the weekend.
Any orders placed before 2pm on Friday will be delivered on Monday. Any orders placed after 2pm on Friday they will be delivered on Tuesday.
Northern Ireland, Scottish Highlands + Offshore, Channel Isles and Isle of Man Delivery
Standard delivery (2-5 working days): £5.99
PLEASE NOTE: we can only offer standard delivery £5.99 (2-5 working days) to the following places + postcodes:
Northern Ireland (BT)Scottish Highlands + Offshore (AB41+, FK19-21, IV,PA,PH,ZE) and Channel Isles (IM, PO30-41, JE)
All deliveries are made weekdays Monday to Friday only.
We do not ship to other countries or areas outside of those stated above.
If you change your mind:
You can cancel your order and get a refund if you get in touch before it is shipped.
If your items have already shipped we’re happy to refund the cost of unwanted products. You‘ll need to cover the cost of returning the items to us + all items will need to be sent back in their original, unopened state, within 7 working days of them being delivered to you.
To arrange for your order to be returned, please contact the shop team at email@example.com
If something isn’t right:
If what we’ve sent you is wrong, please contact the shop team at firstname.lastname@example.org + we can help sort this for you!
Ella’s Kitchen online shop delivers to addresses in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales only.
If you change your mind:
You can cancel your order and get a refund if you get in touch before it is shipped.
If your items have already shipped, we're happy to refund the cost of unwanted products.
You‘ll need to cover the cost of returning the items to us + all items will need to be sent back in their original, unopened state, within 7 working days of them being delivered to you. To arrange for your order to be returned, please contact us on email@example.com.
If something isn’t right:
If what we’ve sent you is wrong, please contact the shop team at firstname.lastname@example.org + we can help sort this for you!
Take a peek at the Dietary requirement filter on Ella's Shop to discover which yummy products are suitable for your little one's diet.
The Food Information Regulation states that all allergens in a product should be highlighted in the ingredients declaration. We highlight any allergens in the product in bold text in the ingredients list on the back of our packaging.
Underneath the ingredients list we will state any ‘may contains’ information for products which do not contain the allergen ingredients but are made in a factory that handles it. If the product does not have an allergen highlighted and there is no ‘may contains’ warning then the product does not contain that specific allergen.
We use organic palm oil in 3 of our snacks*. The palm oil we use is all sourced from Colombia and is certified as a segregated source by the Rountable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
However, as part of our commitment to being a sustainable business, we have pledged to remove palm oil from our food by 2021. We’ve already started to make this happen with the launch of our new palm oil-free Fruit + Oat bar in Sweden in 2018.
Find out more about our commitment to sourcing ethical + sustainable ingredients here.
* Vanilla + Banana Baby Biscuits, Apple + Ginger Baby Biscuits and Parsnip + Poppy Seed Savoury Biccies
All of our baby food products are certified by Organic Farmers and Growers to be organic + use organic ingredients that are certified to the same standard. Organic farming + food production means tip-top environmental practices, lots of biodiversity and careful use of natural resources like land and water, as well as the highest animal welfare standards.
We don't add refined sugar to our food; the taste comes from organic fruit, vegetables or a natural sweetener like organic honey, agave or malt extract.
The sugars in our products are only naturally occurring, just like you would find in a whole piece of fruit. All our food adheres to the strict Baby Food Regulations and we make sure we go above + beyond these to prioritise taste + nutrition for little ones.
We always aim to keep our total sugars levels as low as possible, and we aim to be lowest in class for sugars, while keeping a balance of all other nutrients.
We recommend that little ones eat a varied and balanced diet that doesn't just focus on sugar content but on offering a wide range of healthy, tasty foods.
At Ella’s Kitchen, we never add any salt to our products.
The salt present in our products is calculated from the sodium that naturally occurs in the ingredients. Food Labelling Legislation now requires us to label salt in our nutritional tables and no longer use sodium.
We take care to minimise the total salt in our products from every source and aim to balance great nutrition with the yummy taste that you’d expect from Ella’s Kitchen.
At Ella’s Kitchen we are committed to creating yummy nutritious food that is good for tiny tummies.
To make sure our pouches are tasty and have a long shelf life, we use a special cooking process that makes sure the product is completely safe whilst still maintaining as many nutrients as possible and the pouches are then sealed air-tight.
We use strong packaging which protects the food, makes sure it tastes reeeally fresh + is handy for families on the go.
The Green One recyclable pouch:
In May 2023 we launched our first fully recyclable pouch: The Green One. Made from mono-material (which is a fancy way of saying it's made of just one material) this new pouch can be popped straight into your recycling bin at home, just remember to keep the cap on!
Pouches + snack wrappers:
Whilst the Green One is the first of our pouches that can be recycled at kerbside, the rest of our pouches + snacks wrappers are not currently accepted for recycling by local councils in the UK but can now be taken to participating supermarket drop off points. To find your nearest store through the Recycle Now website, click here.
We're on the journey to move our entire pasteurised range (that's all our fruit and fruit + veggie combo pouches) to recyclable packaging over the course of 2023-2024. Meaning that by the end of 2024, nearly 75% of all our pouches will now be fully recyclable at kerbside in the UK, which will be a huge milestone! We know how important it is to do our bit to protect the planet for future generations. That's why we're committed to moving to fully recyclable packaging as quickly as possible and are working really hard to find recyclable solutions for the rest of our range.
Card, Pots + Trays:
All our card as well as our plastic pots + trays are fully recyclable and widely collected at kerbside by local councils across the UK.
To find out more about how we are working to improve the sustainability of our packaging, click here.
Our pouches are made from layers of food-safe plastic sandwiched together - and most of them have a layer of aluminium too. The aluminium never comes into direct contact with the food but helps to keep the yummy food inside really tasty and safe for tiny tummies.
All the cardboard packaging used for our boxes is 100% recyclable and is made from a mix of FSC-certified and recycled sources. We use vegetable inks and water-based coatings to print the boxes and our printing plates are also all chemical free.
The plastic trays used for our frozen food is widely recycled and produced with a minimum of 50% recycled content.
Yes, you can read our statement on Modern Slavery here.
Fruits and vegetables have super healthy benefits and provide a range of vitamins and minerals as well as being bright and colourful. They’re all fine to introduce to your little one from the start of weaning.
Some babies may occasionally develop a skin reaction, like a rash, when foods like citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, aubergine or kiwi come into contact with the skin. This isn’t necessarily an allergy and might reduce with time but it’s always best to stop offering the food if this skin reaction develops and chat with your health visitor or doctor for advice. You can often reintroduce these foods gradually but always seek medical advice first.
When introducing new foods, particularly allergens like gluten, nuts or egg, always watch out for any reactions.
At Ella’s Kitchen, we are committed to making yummy delicious products using only the best organic ingredients we can find. We care passionately about the health and welfare of the animals that provide the meat, dairy and eggs for our products. We are committed sourcing organic meat, dairy and eggs of high animal welfare standards only from the UK and the EU. We believe organic livestock farming provides the highest available certifiable standards of farm animal welfare. All the meat, dairy and eggs we use in our baby food range is independently audited and certified by organic control bodies to EU Organic standards. While we are committed to sourcing certified organic, there are other certifications that we would consider acceptable, if organic is not available or we think the system and the suppliers meet the same high standards for people, animals and the environment as organic.
At Ella’s Kitchen we believe that chicken and hens should be allowed to roam freely and hence why we do not buy chicken or eggs that have been kept in cages.
Through our commitment to Animal Welfare, Ella’s Kitchen will ensure that:
- We have full traceability of the ingredients in our supply chains
- We are meeting our consumers’ expectations
- We are using the best quality ingredients
- Working to reduce our environmental impact through delivering Our BIG Pledge to Little People and our Science Based Targets which have been externally verified by the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi)
- We are reducing our environmental impact
Our animal welfare policy and livestock-production specifications are based on the Farm Animal Welfare Committee’s (www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/) Five Freedoms that state that animals should have:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering.
Higher animal welfare farming systems enable species-specific behavioural needs, promote good animal welfare management and allow health management based on disease prevention. (in particular, not allowing the routine or pre-emptive use of antibiotics. Medicines can only be used when necessary to treat individual cases of disease).
We have an ongoing partnership with the animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) to achieve and maintain consistent higher animal welfare standards as our business grows. Ella’s Kitchen have won a Good Chicken Award (2016) and Good Egg Award (2017), Good Pig Award (2018) and Cage Free Award (2019) from CIWF and we encourage our suppliers to apply for Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards in the future, as we work with them to continuously improve and take a leadership role in the field of animal welfare.
If you have any questions regarding livestock production specifications, please contact our customer care team here.
Our pouches are perfectly fine to be taken on an aeroplane –in fact, our scrummy organic products are available on British Airways + Emirates flights. You can also find them airside at Boots stores!
If you’re putting pouches in your suitcase, we’d recommend wrapping them in a plastic bag, just in case they get spiked or super-squashed, as your suitcases may get thrown around! If you’re taking any into the cabin, we suggest you watch out for overcautious officials who may consider the baby food as liquid and over 100g. We always recommend contacting your airline before you fly.
Yes, you can freeze the contents of our Ella’s Kitchen 4 months pouches + Smoothie Fruits by squeezing them into a sterilised ice cube tray. We don’t recommend freezing our 6, 7 and 10 months pouches or our toddler meals, due to the more grown up ingredients.
We recommend freezing our 4 months products and Smoothie Fruits within 24 hours of opening the pouch, remember to always test the temperature before feeding your little ones. We don’t recommend freezing or refrigerating and then reheating baby food that has already been heated up, as this can be unsafe for little ones.
You can refrigerate our 4 months range for up to 48 hours after opening and you can keep our 6, 7 and 10 months pouches in the fridge for up to 24 hours after taking the cap off.
Pouches + snack wrappers:
Our pouches + snack wrappers are not currently accepted for recycling by local councils in the UK, but can now be taken to participating supermarket drop off points. To find your nearest store through the Recycle Now website, click here.
To find out more about Ellacycle, click here.
Card, Pots + Trays:
All our card as well as our plastic pots + trays are fully recyclable + widely collected at kerbside by local councils across the UK.
To find out more about how we are working to improve the sustainability of our packaging, click here.
Our 4, 6 + 7 month pouches should never be put in a microwave; there are lots of other easy ways to heat them up!
- The easiest way to warm our 4, 6 + 7 month baby food is to stand the pouch in hot water, giving it a few minutes to heat up
- You can squeeze our yummy baby food into a saucepan and gently heat it up while stirring continuously
- Or, you can squeeze our yummy baby food into a microwavable bowl and heat it up in the microwave
Remember to always test the temperature before feeding heated-up food to your little one.
Our 10 months pouches are perfectly safe to microwave. To warm them up, simply tear off the top of the pouch, stand it on a dish (just in case it spills) and heat it up. Give it a good stir to get rid of any hot spots and, as always, test the temperature before feeding your little one.
We don’t recommend heating up our yummy yoghurts, Baby Brekkie + dairy free range as it tastes better chilled or at room temperature.
Cooking in batches is great for busy mums, dads + carers so we’ve made sure that the recipes in our Cook Book + recipe hub are suitable for freezing. Here are a few handy hints to help everyone freeze their yummy recipes + stay safe!
1. Make sure the freezer is nice + chilly at -18°c (0°F)
2. Most food is suitable for freezing (except for eggs in their shells) but some foods taste a bit better fresh. Make sure you give foods a good stir when thawed!
3. Meat dishes are safe to freeze for up to 3 months
4. Vegetarian dishes and yummy treats such as cakes + biccies can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months
5. Attach a sticky label to your containers so you know when you need to use them by
6. You can cook stews, sauces + joints of meat straight from frozen – just remember to adjust your cooking time to make sure the food is piping hot all the way through before you serve it up!
7. Make sure you defrost your food safely. Cover it up + pop it in the fridge, put it in an airtight container in cold water or zap it in the microwave. These 3 ways make sure that nasty bacteria can’t get into the food whilst it’s defrosting
8. With all other food, make sure it’s completely defrosted before reheating it. Always heat it until it’s piping hot + give it a stir to make sure that there are no hot (or cold!) spots. Allow to cool to the right temperature before giving to your little one.
9. Rice can be safely frozen + reheated, as long as it’s cooled quickly after cooking by placing the container in an ice bath either in the sink or a roasting tin. It’s best to do this within an hour. You can reheat the frozen rice in the microwave until it’s piping hot
10. Use your food as soon it’s defrosted – don’t leave it lying around where bad bacteria can get to it
11. And finally… remember, it’s not safe to refreeze previously frozen food.
We believe it’s best to look for signs that your baby is ready. He or she should be able to:
• Sit confidently and hold up their head steady
• Show good hand—eye co-ordination, getting all their favourite toys — among other things, into their mouth
• If your little one pushes the food back out with their tongue, just wait a week or two + try again
There are some common myths about weaning signs, too. The following aren’t necessarily indications that your baby is ready:
• Chewing fists — they've probably just discovered their little hands
• Grabbing for other people’s food — they're just inquisitive and learning about the world around them
• Waking in the night — they're babies, night-waking is what they do
• Wanting more milk — they're growing or they might just be thirsty
All babies are different and advice about when to begin weaning varies all over the world. Our packaging labelling follows guidance from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who have reviewed the most recent research on European babies: they recommend starting weaning between 4 – 6 months [the EFSA Opinion made it clear that it is safe to wean between 4-6 months]. In keeping with this we offer foods that are suitable for little ones from 4 months; by labelling from 4 months parents have the choice to start weaning when their baby is ready.
The Department of Health follow global recommendation which take into account babies in developing and developed nations, they conclude that the solids should be introduced around 6 months. Everyone agrees that weaning before 4 months (17 weeks) is too young. Not only is your baby’s tummy not ready then, his or her kidneys aren’t yet strong enough to cope with an increased workload.
If you feel your baby is ready to wean but is younger than 6 months have a chat with your health visitor or GP.
Once your little one is confidently eating a variety of foods, from around 6 months of age, you may find they’re less interested in their usual milk. Milk still offers a reeeally important source of nutrients to help babies grow, so try to offer around 600ml usual milk a day as well as a range of nutritious foods.
When it comes to dropping milk feeds, be led by your baby. They will often want less and less of a particular feed, for example, the lunchtime one, especially if it’s given close to a mealtime, so this feed may be the first one you drop. Your baby will probably still enjoy milk when they wake and just before bedtime.
If you find your little one is still drinking a lot more milk than 600ml and not taking much food, try offering food first and then milk, or separating milk and food feeds completely. Even when babies are 10m of age, they still need around 400ml usual milk, so it’s still super important!
To find out when it's safe to give your baby certain foods and allergens such as cow's milk, peanuts and citrus fruits, take a peek at our introducing food allergens article.
The more variety of tastes you give your little one when they're weaning, the more likely they are to be a good little eater when they're older. A good way to check if you're giving lots of variety is to eat a rainbow of colours of veggies + fruits each week. Why not colour in a rainbow chart with crayons or stickers each week with your little one? When they're old enough, they can have fun with colours and stickers as they tick off all the healthy colours they've eaten.
Try to offer variety from other food groups too so your little one gets a wide range of nutrients and tastes.
- Starchy carbohydrates: pasta, oats, bread, rice, polenta, quinoa
- Protein foods: meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt (or non-dairy alternatives) + cheese, pulses (beans + lentils), soy products
- Healthy fats: oils like olive or rapeseed oil, nut + seed butters, avocado
Try not to get too stressed if little ones don’t eat well at a meal and never force them to eat if they're not interested. Just take the food away + try again at the next meal. Even after the weaning journey, little ones are still learning about eating, so encourage them to listen to their appetite so they don't routinely learn to overeat.
If you’re worried about your little one’s weight, have a chat to your health visitor or GP.
Little ones are really good at knowing when they've had enough to eat. Unlike us, they don't eat when they're bored or stuff in a dessert when they're full up just because it looks tasty!
So if your little one pushes food away or turns his / her head, they're telling you they don't want any more. It's really important to avoid forcing them to eat more than they want, even if it seems they've not eaten that much. They'll probably make up for it later or in a day or two. Every baby is different, so their appetites will vary and this is usually completely normal for them.
If you think your little one’s weight isn’t right for their age, have a chat with your health visitor or GP.
Don't worry! This is really common when little ones first experience textures.
Gagging is a normal reflex response to new textures and, while it can be worrying, it isn't a cause for concern. Your little one will pretty quickly get used to new textures if you keep trying.
When first introducing texture, make sure foods are mashed finely so that the lumps are really small and soft. This will help your little one get used to eating more textured foods. You might want to blitz up more challenging textures more finely, if your baby struggles at first, gradually introducing larger lumps, at your baby’s pace. Introducing finger foods alongside pureed and mashed food can also help little ones become more confident eaters, as well as help develop motor skills.
If you’d like to learn more about gagging and choking and what to do, check out the brilliant Keep A Beat resources here: https://www.keepabeat.com/content/S637468656249088811/Gagging%20Vs%20Choking%20Poster%202021.pdf
Lots of little ones want to feed themselves at mealtimes, especially once they are a bit older. If your little one really doesn't like being fed and you've tried giving them their own spoon while helping food into his / her mouth then you might want to try finger food meals and picnics. This gives your little one control over what they're eating and can also help them learn great hand-eye co-ordination.
Great ideas include strips of omelette containing veggies + a little sprinkle of grated cheese, meatballs in a little sauce, pasta pieces in sauce, falafel, veggie sticks or pitta slices with dips like hummus, frittata slices, potato cakes, and stir fries with well-cooked veggies and strips of soft, well cooked meat.
You can find lots of yummy recipe ideas on our recipe hub!
It's really tempting to encourage your little one to eat their main meal or their vegetables by promising them dessert or a sweet treat as a reward. Unfortunately, this tells your little one that savoury foods or vegetables are bad + sweet things are good. This can make food refusal + fussy eating a bigger problem and really encourage a sweet tooth. This doesn't mean that desserts + sweet things are bad, but they should always be eaten as part of a balanced diet. Fresh fruit + yoghurts are a great healthier way to top up tiny tums.
Instead of using sweet treats as a reward, try to make mealtimes fun with lots of smiles and encouragement, games with vegetables + colour charts to tick off the different colours of veggies that your little one's eaten this week. If you can sit and eat the same veggies as your little one, they will love to copy you and might even try to steal them off your plate!
Lots of little ones will pull a funny face the first time they experience a new taste. This is completely normal and often happens with vegetables, especially the green ones. Don't worry! Even if your little one doesn't seem to like a new taste at first, keep trying.
Studies show that you may have to try up to 8 times with a new taste before your baby accepts it so don’t give up. Offer a range of single vegetables and keep going until your baby accepts each one.
Remember to keep giving your little one veg throughout weaning and beyond!
Toddlers often go through a fussy phase from around 18 months of age. They can refuse to eat new foods or reject foods they used to eat, especially vegetables or foods with a more challenging texture (meat, yoghurt with bits in, slimy foods).
At this stage, it is still really important to keep offering food by putting it on the plate (but don’t force your toddler to eat it) but it might take around 12 or more tries before it’s accepted so don’t give up!
There are lots of things you can do to help if you have a fussy toddler:
- Make food fun — talk about the different colours of food, the tastes and textures — little ones who experience food using all their senses are much more likely to want to try it! Let your little one get stuck in with their hands to feel the different textures of foods and get messy too.
- Can I help? — involving little ones in the cooking or shopping process makes them feel more involved and they're often more likely to want to try foods if they've played a role in preparing them. Even something as simple as adding some veggies to a pan or stirring with a spoon makes them feel like they're helping.
- Eat together — if your little one sees you eating and enjoying similar foods, especially vegetables, they're more likely to want to try as they love to copy.
- Don’t give up – it can take at least 12 tries of a rejected food before toddlers will accept it, so keep trying but never force your child to eat and don’t offer sweet treats as a reward for eating.
When little ones are under 12 months of age, finger foods are mostly about helping them to learn hand-eye co-ordination and that all-important pincer grip. At 6-7 months, little ones will hold objects like carrot sticks or banana fingers in the middle of their palm, + bring them to their mouth to munch on. These soft textures are great for little gums as they get used to new textures. As they develop finer motor skills little ones will start to curl their fingers around objects and grip them more accurately before developing the pincer grip where they can pick up smaller objects like blueberries between their finger and thumb. This normally develops around the age of 10 months. At this stage, little ones can munch on firmer finger foods like breadsticks or firmer cooked veggies as their chewing skills develop.
Once they’re over 12 months of age, snacks also become a source of nutrition for little ones. As toddler tummies are tiny, they get full very quickly, so it’s important to offer a couple of nutritious snacks a day to keep energy and nutrient levels topped up. Give them lots of variety, including fruits, veggie sticks with dips like hummus, cheese and melty crackers or oatcakes or chopped up salad veg. Keep an eye on texture to make sure snacks are still safe for toddlers by chopping up bigger pieces of fruit (cut grapes and cherry tomatoes into quarters lengthways) and avoid whole nuts or very brittle foods like crisps.
Try to eat together as a family as much as possible, so that your little one can see you eating what they're having (even if the texture is different).
Little ones love to copy, so make sure you show them how much you love eating veg! Make food and eating fun - show your little one how much you love eating the foods you'd like them to eat and make up funny songs, games or stories about food, to make the weaning experience a positive and happy one. There's lots of fun ways to explore cooking + eating together at the big table in our 4 yummy cook books!
Take a peek at our top tips for weaning.
Sensory food play is simply guided play which encourages little ones to explore food with all of their senses – using the power of play as a learning tool in the early years.
Sensory food play is a fun and easy way to help children eat more fruit + vegetables by building their confidence curiosity to increase their willingness to try healthy food.
There is growing evidence that this type of educational play can increase a child’s willingness to try new fruit + veg, which can in turn become a liking for them, ultimately helping to set the healthy food habits that can last a lifetime.
Sensory food play in early years settings focuses on engaging all the senses to teach little ones about healthy food in a fun + engaging way. Children are encouraged to use their creativity, curiosity, and imagination to explore fruit and vegetables in an educational environment, guided by an early years educator. This helps increase their confidence and break down barriers when it comes to trying and accepting new food.
This isn’t about making macaroni necklaces, throwing spaghetti around or crafting with cereal – this is evidence based, purposeful, and educational play-based learning that is cost-effective, easy to implement, and could help more little ones across the country eat more fruits and veggies and ultimately grow up healthy + happy!
That’s why we are calling on the government to ensure sensory food play is offered in all early years settings.
Absolutely! Sensory food play at home is a great way to engage your little one with healthy food inside and outside of mealtimes. Whilst this is a little different to sensory food play in an educational setting, the principles are similar and we have lots of fun activities and tips to help you and your little ones give it a try – just follow this LINK: https://www.ellaskitchen.co.uk...
There is growing evidence from across the world that sensory food play can help little ones eat more fruit + veg, and develop healthy relationships with food.
The evidence shows three key things:
- Sensory food play in the early years can help improve a child’s curiosity about, and willingness to try, new food they otherwise might not.
- It can expand the amount of fruit + veg little ones know and like – giving it the clear potential to increase the amount of fruit + veg little ones eat for the long term.
- It has the greatest benefit for those little ones who have either not had access to, or are less accepting of, fruit + vegetables before they begin sensory food play – who are sometimes from less affluent backgrounds
We’d like to see more research done on how best to teach sensory food play in early years settings, which is why we’re working with Flavour School and the Early Years Alliance to set up pilots in early years settings in England.
Our nation’s little ones simply don’t eat enough fruit + veg. In fact, only 18% of children aged 5-15 eat the recommended five portions of fruit + veg a day, and 29% aged 5-10 eat less than one portion a day. As a nation, we are failing to build the healthy food habits our little ones need to stay happy + healthy, with more than 1 in 4 children being diagnosed as overweight or living with obesity by the time they enter primary school. We need to do more to help protect the health of our nation’s children.
The worsening situation across the country puts significant strain on our shared resources, with the National Health Service and social care providers struggling to treat illness, injury and disease caused by poor diet.
It is far more cost effective to treat problems before they occur. That means starting early to set habits that will allow children to grow up healthy, reduce diet-related illness, and minimise the burden on the NHS.
Research shows that simply telling a child what to eat or educating them about why they should stay away from junk food, isn’t effective. Little ones need more creative interventions that begin as early as possible and harness their tendencies to explore the world through play – helping them fall in love with fruit + veg and overcome fears about new foods. That’s where sensory food play comes in!
We believe that every little one should have this educational opportunity, but we can’t make this happen alone. We need your support.
Sensory food play in early years settings only needs a very small amount of fruit + veg for a really fun and effective lesson, and early years practitioners can easily adapt lessons to keep food waste to an absolute minimum. For example, it is often possible to use fruits and veggies that are left-over from mealtimes, or would otherwise not be eaten.
If you’re trying sensory food play at home, there’s nothing wrong with using the fruits + veggies in a meal afterwards as long as you make sure little hands are nice and clean before you play! You can also use peelings and off cuts for sensory play to help avoid waste.
Some sensory food activities do end in waste, but the amount of food not eaten is generally no more than you would expect to be made by an enthusiastic little one at mealtimes.
In the long-term, sensory food play can actually help tackle food waste overall, by helping little ones fall in love with fruit + veg and reducing the chances of them rejecting healthy food at home.
Ella's Kitchen was founded with a mission to improve children's lives through developing healthy relationships with food. We have long campaigned on a range of issues associated with early childhood nutrition, and a big part of this is making sure little ones have access to healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, and are given the opportunities to grow up loving them!
We already work with lots of amazing food access charities and organisations like FareShare and Community Shop, but we also recognise that more needs to be done to increase the amount of fruit and veggies that little ones eat, no matter their background. The sad fact is that many little ones simply aren’t getting the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and happy. That’s why we decided to follow the evidence, working with some of the UK’s leading food education, nutrition, and early years experts, which led us to sensory food play.
Ultimately, we believe that the only way to create positive change is by getting involved, and that all businesses have a responsibility to use their influence to help make the world a better place. That’s why we were one of the first businesses in the UK to become a B Corp, why we’ll always be the little ones’ lobbyists, and why we’ll always champion business as a force for good!
We want to see sensory food play rolled out in all early years settings across the UK. That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to:
- Amend the Early Years Foundation Stage to include sensory food play as part of the Managing Self Early Learning Goal.
- Support early years educators by providing comprehensive, age appropriate, Department for Education-approved guidance on how to carry out sensory food play in early years settings.
- Provide ring-fenced funding for sensory food play for less affluent early years settings.
By adding sensory food play to the Early Years Foundation Stage (the equivalent of the curriculum), all early years settings will be encouraged to deliver this, meaning we can reach every little one.
The Department for Education approved guidance for early years educators will ensure the activities are delivered in an effective way, and the call for ring-fenced funding will help those early years settings that cater to little ones from the least affluent backgrounds have the same access to sensory food play as their peers.
Taken together, all our policy asks are designed to make sure that sensory food play is delivered in a safe, effective, and evidence-based way that will achieve maximum impact and reach every little one, no matter their background.
The cost-of-living crisis is at the forefront of our minds in launching this campaign, which is why we’ve engaged with food access charities in arriving at this policy ask and have a section on cost-of-living in our policy paper. We’ve also worked with some of the UK’s leading food education, nutrition, and early years experts to make sure what we’re asking for is easy to implement and cost-effective.
We know that 29% of little ones eat less than 1 portion of fruit and veg a day. We also know that 1 in 4 little ones are living with overweight or obesity by the time they start primary school. Sadly, the effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis is likely to see this figure rise, not fall. That’s why a low-cost, but potentially high impact, intervention like sensory food play is needed now more than ever. In fact, the research actually shows that this intervention has the greatest benefit for those little ones from the least affluent backgrounds, who are at the most risk of diet related illnesses.
We can’t solve the cost of living crisis that parents face at home, but we can work together to make sure all early years settings have the tools and, importantly, the funding they need to educate little ones about healthy food choices and mitigate the impact of diet related illnesses. That’s why we’re asking Government to fund sensory food play in less affluent early years settings.
Sensory food play should always be supervised, whether it be carried out in an early years setting, or at home. It's also important make sure all the foods offered in sensory play are safe for little ones to avoid choking.
Whole fruit and vegetables, if they are large (e.g. broccoli, apples, carrots) can be given to children in their natural state but chopped raw carrot or apple might not be appropriate for children under 2 years old unless grated. Small round foods like grapes, cherry tomatoes and blueberries should be quartered lengthways and avoid giving them to children under 12m.
For more information on the safe preparation of food for young children, see https://solidstarts.com/foods/
When trying new food you should always be on the lookout for potential allergies, and this is the same for sensory food play. Early years educators are trained to spot the signs of allergies and should have a robust allergy policy in place to help keep little ones safe.
The risk of allergies to vegetables and fruit, which is what we advise is used in sensory food play, is very low compared with common allergens like nuts, milk or egg.
For more advice on common signs of an allergic reaction and what to do, click here: https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/...
You can give your toddler semi-skimmed milk and lower fat dairy products at age 2 years, as long as they are growing well and offer skimmed milk from 5 years. You can continue to breastfeed for as long as you wish. If your toddler is dairy free, always go for fortified, no added sugar milk alternatives.
Honey can be given over the age of 12 months but remember it’s a source of added sugar so should be used in small amounts.
Ground nuts or nut butters are fine from the age of 6 months, as long as your little one is not allergic to them, but whole nuts are a choking risk and should not be given to children under the age of 5 years. For more information on allergens, read our allergens article.
Round or cylindrical foods like cherry tomatoes, grapes and sausages can be a choking risk so should be cut into quarters lengthways until your little one is at least 4 years old.
These foods are very hard and can be a choking risk if they’re not prepared correctly. Raw carrot sticks, raw carrot rounds and large chunks of apple are particularly risky.
Wait until your toddler is 18-24m before giving them raw carrot and slice it lengthways into thin strips for dunking in dips like hummus. Likewise, peel apple and cut into thin strips.
Younger little ones around 10 months can enjoy carrot and apple grated finely which gives them the chance to practice their pincer grip or you can cut them into sticks and cook until soft enough to mush down easily in your little one’s mouth.
The best drinks are milk or water. You can continue to breast feed for as long as you wish. Otherwise, you can offer full fat cows’ milk or fortified, no added sugar milk alternatives alongside water as a main source of hydration.
Try to give your toddler 6-8 drinks a day, although you may need to top this up if the weather is hot or your child is super active.
It’s best to avoid drinks that are high in free sugars like fizzy drinks, juice and milkshakes with added sugar. If you do give your toddler juice or squash, make sure it’s diluted with lots of water (go for a 1 part juice to 10 parts water dilution).
The Government recommends that all toddlers, up to the age of 5 years, are given a supplement of vitamins A, C and D, although this isn’t necessary if they are still having 500ml infant formula or more each day. You can buy special drops for little ones containing just the right amounts and there are free Healthy Start vitamins available if you’re on a low income.
If your toddler is vegetarian, vegan or has a limited diet because of allergy or other cultural or medical needs then you might want to think about a kid-friendly multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, particularly one that offers calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine and iron.
Find more information on supplements from the NHS
We know this is a massive concern. It’s important to prepare all foods safely to prevent any choking risks. For a highly detailed guide to prepping fruit and vegetables safely for little kids, from babies to toddlers, see https://solidstarts.com/foods/
Toddlers do find having a routine nice and comforting and it can help them to understand when they’ll next be eating (helping parents and carers to deflect from the constant demand for snacks!)
Setting a time for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you more or less stick to in the week, with flexibility for days out and the weekend can provide structure but doing the same with snack time can really help manage the repeated requests for snacks.
If your little one is constantly in + out of the kitchen then try having a set time for morning and afternoon snacks. Outside of these times, tell your toddler that the kitchen is closed for food but that snack time will be in 20 minutes. At snack time, offer your little one a choice of snacks from a range of healthy options and sit down to enjoy your snack together.
Learn more about how to create happy mealtimes
Realistically, little ones don’t love vegetables as much as they love pudding! This is fairly common but cooking vegetables in different ways can help to make them tastier and more likely to be accepted.
Try stir frying or roasting veggies to make them tastier, especially if you add yummy herbs and spices like cinnamon + sweet potato, cauliflower + paprika, carrot + coriander or pea + mint.
Lots of veggies, including peppers, onions, mushrooms and sweetcorn make great pizza toppings!
Often veggies served with dips are more of a hit than when served on their own, so try some hummus or a yoghurt dip.
If you need more hints + tips, read how to deal with fussy eating.