Halloween is traditionally a time of year associated with sweets, chocolates and crisps – with children’s parties and trick or treat activities revolving around sugary treats.

Part of the Vale Healthy and Sustainable Pre-school Scheme (HaSPSS), Gibbonsdown Children’s Centre in Barry sought to introduce healthier alternatives and prioritise physical activity as part of their recent Healthy Halloween initiative – designed to encourage young children to think differently about Halloween and try new things.

Cooking the children fresh, healthy meals and introducing healthy snacks has been part of the nursery’s offering for quite some time and Halloween was no exception. Identifying ways that the children could participate in activities that placed fruit, vegetables and exercise at
the centre was a driving force behind Healthy Halloween.

“We wanted to create a Halloween activity day that prioritised moving more and eating well. Introducing a series of interesting activities that had the children thinking differently about the food they eat, where it comes from and completing fun games and exercises that all align with Halloween was designed to encourage them to move away from the idea that Halloween is all about sweets!” commented Gemma Lees, Manager at Gibbonsdown Children’s Centre.

Working with the children to chop vegetables, measure out ingredients and cook the food, Gibbonsdown Children’s Centre started the day by preparing the Halloween Vegetable Soup for the children to enjoy. Teaching the children good hygiene, how to effectively use the utensils and information about where the ingredients come from, the nursery staff enabled the children to be an active part of the process.

Beyond this, the nursery had a number of different stations set up that had Halloween themed activities that placed healthy food alternatives front and centre. From painting with fruit, to carving pumpkins and identifying fruit and vegetables in frozen hands, the children were encouraged to see the fun behind healthy alternatives and build knowledge in the process.

Moving away from the food, in their hall the Children’s Centre had created a Halloween activity room that had a series of games that the children could participate in. The children crawled like spiders across webs on the floor, completed bending and stretching exercises by pinning the spiders on the web and completed a series of hand-eye coordination games that involved throwing bean bags into targets

“These activity sessions were not only important for the children’s development and ensuring they are participating in physical activity, but also burning off any excess energy can help them to be more focused. We created games that are important for their physical and cognitive development, as well as finding the fun in moving more,” Gemma continued.

As the children began to get ready to leave the Healthy Halloween fun-day at nursery, they were all given a Halloween pack to take home. Having secured funding from Food For Life Get Togethers, another partner in the Move More Eat Well plan, the centre was able to fund ingredients for each child to take home, allowing them to re-make the soup at home with their parents or carers. The packs also contained additional information from HaSPSS about voucher schemes, healthy Halloween ideas for creating snacks and party games for children
to do at home.

“It was important for us to inspire the children to think about Halloween in a healthy way. We are very lucky to have the support of the HaSPSS and our staff at the centre, who are always coming up with creative and interesting ways to engage our children. Our Healthy
Halloween day was a great success and we are already planning for Christmas and Easter,” Gemma concluded.

To find out more about the Vale’s Healthy and Sustainable Pre-School Scheme, please visit this Vale of Glamorgan Council webpage.

For more information on Food For Life Get Togethers, please visit the webpage.