Welcome to Mini MEND!
So Wednesday, 16th January, 2013 brought our first Mini MEND session. Munchkin was very excited, especially as she kind of knew what to expect! Those of you that read our previous post, Mini MEND - What's it all about ...? will know that she has previously completed the course. Just before her 2nd birthday, we were enrolled and attended every class for the 10 week duration. Munchkin had so much fun and we noticed a real positive difference in her food habits. Before going to Mini MEND, she would only really eat pasta! Ok, so she would occasionally 'sample' other foods, but we were never able to give her the choice or involve her in the food planning as we would all have to survive on a bland variety of pasta dominated meals! This free service provided by the NHS made an enormous difference to the way Munchkin viewed food and to her attitudes towards healthy lifestyles. However, a few months ago we noticed that she appeared to be regressing again, and the situation seemed to grow into something that we were having difficulty controlling. This is when we decided to give the Mini MEND team a call again. They enrolled us onto the next available course. I am hoping that as we progress through the sessions, the positive habits taught through the curriculum used by Mini MEND will start coming back to her, and that they may establish themselves more permanently in her mind now that she is that much older.
So Week One was very much an Introduction session. We met the team, consisting of 4 wonderfully enthusiastic and encouraging ladies, one of whom Munchkin remembered from 18 months ago! They talked briefly about the structure of the programme and what we should expect each week and invited us all to sit down and sing the 'Welcome Song' together.
This was followed by some light exercise focused games, making use of some simple equipment including rubber 'floor spots', small beanbags and balls. Here, the children (and parents!) are encouraged to get active and participate in these fun activities, all of which can be easily replicated at home. The games are also good for motor skills, teaching throwing and catching and basic aiming techniques. The children also learn to take turns and to encourage each other. It is really lovely how every child is treated as an individual and how the course leaders make a special effort to immediately learn every child's name, a little personal touch.
After the physical activity, everyone has a 'cool down' before going to wash their hands ready for snack time.
At snack time, a large floor mat is put down with a place set out for every child and their parent. Each place has 2 brightly coloured plastic beakers of water (one for child and one for parent) and a plastic bowl. Then, once everyone is sat comfortably, one of the course leaders started telling the children a story. It was a story about a little green man who lives on the moon, and his name is Sammy Ray! The story of Sammy Ray's sadness on the moon is told using colourful A3 posters, each showing a different point of the story. Sammy Ray is sad because on the moon, he only has 'Moon Munch' to eat, as that is all that is available on the moon. The children are then encouraged to call him down from the moon so that he can come and sample some of the lovely foods we have here on Earth. Once he has travelled to our planet on his Moon Trike, Sammy Ray suddenly evolves into a friendly looking hand puppet who comes to visit the children. At this point, it was revealed that every week, they would introduce one fruit and one vegetable. This week's snack was ...
The children will observe the fruit or vegetable first and suggest words that relate to its colour, shape, size, and anything else they notice. Each child is then encouraged to take 2 pieces of the chosen vegetable (again, one for child and one for parent) which has already been sliced and laid out onto a plate. They talk about what it feels like, then what it smells like. Then the children are asked to 'kiss' the piece of veg they are holding and then lick their lips. All this before the final step, eating! The children are encouraged to remember the sequence,
The same steps are also followed for the fruit. Whilst the children are sampling the food, Sammy Ray will travel around the group, enjoying the food with each child individually. This is particularly good for the ones that are not very confident about the chosen food. The nervous child is invited to 'feed' Sammy Ray and to follow the above steps again on their own with him. There is no pressure at this point of the session at all. Firstly, as the less confident children are having their 'one-to-one' time with Sammy Ray, this is not happening in front of a quiet group who are all watching. Everyone is instead encouraged to continue chatting about the foods with their children, allowing the gentle encouragement from Sammy Ray to be a very private moment.
Once the children have finished eating, we return to the posters of Sammy Ray as we wave goodbye to him and he (now happily!) travels back to the moon on his Moon Trike until he visits again. Each child is rewarded with a Sammy Ray sticker and they can then help tidy up the cups and bowls from snack time.
Following snack time, the children then go to the crèche (the adjoining room) with all course leaders but one for play and craft activities. In the meantime, the parents/guardians sit together for a theory session with one of the MEND reps. Each week, these theory classes will have a different focus and will encourage us to learn facts, share ideas and ask as many questions as we have. This week, however, we were asked to complete some very thorough forms regarding our current lifestyles and eating habits and what we would like to take from the course. Whilst this was going on, children and their parents were taken through to the adjoining room to have their height and weight measured and recorded. Each of us also received a Mini MEND bag with a ring binder (which we would gradually fill during the course of the theory sessions), a MEND t-shirt for the kids (for them to wear each week) and a small beanbag to encourage us as families to repeat the physical activities we learn when we go home.
We are really looking forward to next week's session. Fingers crossed the positive effects will last with Munchkin this time ...!