Growing healthy young hearts

A strong passion for promoting healthy eating and physical activity has earned Little Oaks Early Learning Centre a gold star award from the Heart Foundation.

Little Oaks has been participating in the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award programme (Tohu Manawa Ora – Kōhungahunga) since 2011 and recently earned itself a ‘Pā-Harakeke’ award. 

There are three award levels and Pā-Harakeke is the highest of them – the gold star. To earn this award, an early childhood education (ECE) service must have created a healthy environment and engaged the wider community in healthy eating and physical activity.

Sarah Cocks, from Little Oaks Early Learning Centre, says she and her team are incredibly proud to have received the award. 

“We applied for the Healthy Heart Award to help us to educate our tamariki, parents and whanau about healthy habits for life,” she explains. 

“The Heart Foundation’s support has been a key part in gaining ideas and motivation to promote physical activity, nutrition, policies and to run health promoting celebrations. It is great to have recognition for the work we’ve done and we really appreciate the support from Rebecca (Heart Foundation staff member), our staff, parents and whanau,” she says.

On their journey to receive the award, children at the centre have learned to make healthy smoothies, grow and prepare vegetables, and bake bread from scratch. The healthy recipes they have learned are also shared with parents and whanau.

The Clinton centre also held a weeklong event, filled with fun activities promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Parents, whanau and the community were invited to join in and the week concluded with a Matariki celebration and the centre’s Jump Rope for Heart day

Rebecca Wilson, Heart Foundation Health Promotion Coordinator, presented Little Oaks with its Pā-Harakeke award during a special pyjama party and healthy breakfast on Tuesday 8th December.

She praised the staff and children of Little Oaks and said they had gone over and above to achieve their award. 

“It has been an absolute pleasure supporting Little Oaks on their healthy heart journey. It’s clear that health and well-being are core values for the centre, both for its tamariki and their whanau.” 

With one in three Kiwi kids obese or overweight, it is encouraging to see services like Little Oaks teaching healthy habits to our youngsters, says Rebecca.  

“This provides children with a strong foundation for good health and well-being that they can carry through to adulthood.”  

Little Oaks Early Learning Centre has just finished its year off with a Christmas party, to which parents were asked to bring a healthy plate for afternoon tea.

"There were some very creative healthy choices! Sarah tells us. "Santa always visits us too and we were so impressed how he remembered we were a healthy heart centre and gave the kids a moosie each which had the Heart Tick. So lucky to have awesome support from our community. 

"We have just sent our families home with a Christmas bucket of potatoes to enjoy!"

The Heart Foundation's Healthy Heart Award, which is partially funded by the Ministry of Health, helps ECE services create environments which promote healthy eating and physical activity to under-fives and their families.

It provides ECE staff with a range of information, planning tools, and curriculum guides to aid them in their award journey. ECE services which participate are reassessed biannually to maintain their Healthy Heart Award status.

Learn more about the Healthy Heart Award