The Duchess of Cambridge lightened up our Wednesday morning (29th January) with a beaming smile and a very good-natured approach. She certainly likes children and they liked her too. But the main reason for her visit was to front her campaign to raise the importance of Early Years with a call to arms through five simple but telling questions.
Of course, I was very pleased that we were asked to host a visit (my youngest sister is a big fan and it’s always good to please your sister!).
The Duchess of Cambridge is very interested in children’s nutrition which is one of the reasons she visited Stockwell Gardens Nursery and Pre School where we have the LEYF Early Years Chef Academy. Here, she met three of our chefs completing the first UK qualification for those cooking for children under eight in all settings.
As a member of the London Mayor‘s Child Obesity Taskforce with a lead on early years and catering, I am very keen that we collaborate across all the various channels.
The Duchess chatted with six of our parents and I was very happy (and mighty relieved) that they find their experience at the nursery warm, happy and nurturing. What’s more, when they leave their child to go to work, they do so feeling calm, settled and stress free because they are in good hands. There is a strong message for the government policymakers here to support nurseries to be financially stable so that nurseries can deliver this level of service consistently.
I wondered at how The Duchess manages some of the weirdness of her own public life as we organised a press pen to manage the paparazzi and get the best photos of her. She seemed to be able to shut some of that out but there must be elements that get under the skin and unsettle you no matter how much protective gauze you can be wrapped in. At the end of the visit she spent time chatting to author and parenting blogger, Giovanna Fletcher.
While not all adults are comfortable around small children, the Duchess was definitely very at home with them and they allowed her in. One little girl introduced herself as “Peppa” and her friend as “George”, it turns out that she told her this because she is fascinated by Peppa Pig and associated the Duchess with Daddy Pig!
There is an assumption that children will just like you if you smile but they read the vibes much better than any adult. They watch, sense and then engage. This is precisely what happened at breakfast. We offer a healthy breakfast for those children who want breakfast across the whole organisation. Generally, it’s simple because children like repetition and the comfort of stable patterns. So, we have a choice of porridge, whole wheat biscuits, Puffed Wheat or Bran Flakes served with organic full fat milk and water along with a platter of fresh fruit.
Here is the call to arms from Her Royal highness and the 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives.
Please answer the quick survey and also get your parents and friends to do it too. Children are not just the responsibility of their parents. We all have a part to play in supporting them grow into the future citizens. Let the BIG conversation about Early Years begin.
Her Royal Highness said: "We are at the heart of raising the next generation. The science proves the importance of the early years, but the next step is knowing how best to support parents and families to do the best job they can. I really believe so passionately in the early years and being able to listen to how best we can provide support in communities across the country I think is really vital.”
June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website