One day I sent cake to my children's day care. The cake came home: policing the new health imperatives in preschools.

Year: 2012

Author: O'Flynn, Gabrielle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


One day I sent cake to my children's day care. The cake came home. Untouched.  When I asked “Why?”, my little boy explained, “Because it wasn't on the healthy chart and Tracey didn't get to eat her lolly too.” “What!” I replied. This paper takes this incident as a starting point to 'trouble' the ever increasing notion that early childhood is a critical time for children to learn about and form 'healthy food and physical activity habits'. In troubling this notion I do not intend to prove it incorrect or invalid. Instead, I adopt a post structural critique to analyze the ways such notions constitute particular embodied subjectivities and legitimize particular practices in the name of health. As well as drawing on my personal memoirs as a mum, I deconstruct the 'Munch and Move' program in relation to the notions of health, physical activity, and food espoused for early learning settings. In voicing such a critique I draw attention to the ways children's bodies are more and more politicized and normalized in relation to notions of health, ways of moving (or not moving) and body shape. I also draw attention to the ways dominant notions of health promote problematic engagements with food and bodies. Whilst nutrition and motor development are perennial components of institutionalized early years contexts, my paper calls for a critical pause in relation to what critical health researchers term new health imperatives – highly individualized and moralized notions of health tied to physical health, fitness and body shape.