As those working in the early years sector will be aware, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework requires providers to take all necessary steps to keep children safe and well – and providers must be confident that those responsible for preparing and handling food in their setting are competent to do so.

This includes preparing food hygienically, providing meals that are healthy, balanced and nutritious, as well as making sure that food is prepared appropriately for babies and children of different ages, for example mashed, pureed or cut into appropriately sized and shaped pieces where it could be a choking hazard. The EYFS learning and development requirements also state that children must be helped to make healthy choices in relation to food.

A number of organisations have produced guidance that supports providers, parents and carers in building a sound knowledge of how to prepare food for children in the early years – and how to make sure that meals provided are healthy and safe. Early years practitioners may find it useful to refer to this guidance when reviewing policies surrounding food and drink in their setting, or when inducting new members of staff to the EYFS requirements.

Eat Better, Start Better

Eat Better, Start Better (produced in 2012 and updated in 2017)

Developed by Action for Children in collaboration with the Children’s Food Trust, following the recommendations of the Advisory Panel for Food and Nutrition in Early Years. This practical guide is to help providers meet the requirement for the provision of healthy, balanced and nutritious food and drink and includes safety guidelines for food groups throughout, including how to prepare food and what to avoid.

(Please note, advice on eggs has changed and provided British Lion eggs are used and are handled correctly they can be eaten lightly cooked, as well as raw, in foods such as mayonnaise and mousses).

Safe weaning and foods to avoid giving babies and young children

Guidance on safe weaning and foods to avoid giving babies and young children (last reviewed in 2018)

Produced by NHS England and Public Health England, including advice on foods to avoid, how to prepare food safely to avoid choking and preparing food hygienically.

Reducing unintentional injuries for children under 5

Guidance on reducing unintentional injuries for children under five (produced in 2018)

Produced by Public Health England, working with the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This guidance focuses on preventing accidents in the home, but provides advice and signposts to a number of resources on accident prevention that will be useful for early years settings to consider in relation to their polices on safe food preparation. Early years practitioners will also find it helpful to refer to guidance produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, including specific guidance on choking.

Example menus

Example menus for early years settings in England (produced 2017)

Example menus and useful guidance for early years settings to help meet the Early Years Foundation Stage requirements for food and drink.

Food safety

Help for Early Years Providers sets out guidance on safe weaning, food and drink to avoid, how to prepare infant formula bottles and allergies.

Food safety advice on choking hazards

See the informational posters published by the Food Standards Agency on choking hazards, and display them in your setting.