Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 15 of the Education and Training Act 2020 defines an early childhood education and care centre as premises used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care, or children enrolled at a school being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6—

  1. by the day or part of a day; but
  2. not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 719 KB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in May 2016.


Licensing Criteria Cover

HS22 Supervision while eating

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 22

      Children are supervised while eating.


      The criterion aims to minimise the risk of choking on food and to ensure in an event of an adverse reaction appropriate action is taken.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      All babies and children must be closely supervised when eating. Staff or adults must sit with the children so attention is on the children and not on completing other tasks.

      Children with special needs who may not be able to eat or drink independently will need one-on-one supervision.

      Children should eat only when seated, and be encouraged to concentrate on eating only. Eating while walking or playing increases the risk of choking.

      Educators need to be cautious when feeding toddlers small, round, hard or squashy foods like grapes, apple or sausage. For more specific advice on bottle feeding see HS23 – Bottle Feeding.

      There are many food allergies and intolerances that may cause adverse effects. Supervising children while eating allows any adverse or allergic reactions to be recognised and appropriate action taken (e.g. medication administered).

      Young children and infants in highchairs must be closely supervised. The person supervising an infant or toddler needs to know how to respond if a child chokes or has an adverse reaction including how to safely remove the child from the highchair without worsening the situation as well as how to get appropriate assistance if required.

      More information on choking is provided by the Ministry of Health.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Safety and Choking

      • How is children’s safety supported while they are eating? E.g. making sure there are not too many distractions.
      • Has a child had a history of early reflux? If so, extra vigilance over the introduction of new foods is essential.
      • If food is provided selecting appropriate food for individual children is very important to minimise choking risk. It is important to discuss with a parent or caregiver the foods children can manage safely rather than relying on age alone as the indicator.
      • Be aware of foods which are more likely to cause choking.
      • Small hard foods that are difficult for children to bite or chew (eg, nuts, large seeds, popcorn husks, raw carrot, apple, celery)
        • small round foods that can get stuck in children’s throats (eg, grapes, berries, raisins, sultanas, peas, watermelon seeds, lollies)
        • foods with skins or leaves that are difficult to chew (eg, sausages, chicken, lettuce, nectarines)
        • compressible food which can squash into the shape of a child’s throat and get stuck there (eg, hot dogs, sausages, pieces of cooked meat, popcorn)
        • thick pastes that can get stuck in children’s throats (eg, chocolate spreads, peanut butter)
        • fibrous or stringy foods that are difficult for children to chew (celery, rhubarb, raw pineapple)
      • To reduce the risk of choking on these foods:
        • alter the food texture – grate, cook, finely chop or mash the food
        • remove the high risk parts of the food – peel off the skin, or remove the strong fibres.

      Learning whilst eating

      • How do children learn what is expected of them while eating? E.g. to remain seated until they have finished eating
      • How is children’s learning supported while supervising their eating
      • What other learning is happening while eating? E.g. using utensils, textures, colours, appropriate social interactions.