Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is 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 who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but 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(external link), 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, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS22 Supervision while eating

  • Criteria
  • Guidance
    • Guidance

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

      Children are supervised while eating

      In this criterion, supervised means an adult is assigned to oversee children while they are eating to ensure attention is on the children and not on completing other tasks. The adult assigned must be in close proximity to the children who are eating and know how to respond if a child is choking or has an adverse reaction.

      The Response - if a child is choking(external link) outlines the appropriate response if a child is choking.

      Children are seated while eating

      Seated means that children’s weight is supported by their buttocks rather than their feet and their back is upright.

      Where practical it is preferable that children are seated in a chair with their food directly in front of them to prevent the child needing to twist to the left or right, which can cause them to lose control of the food in their mouth.

      Where food is provided by the service

      Foods that pose a high choking risk to children must not be served unless prepared in accordance with the Ministry of Health Guidance(external link). This guidance outlines foods that should be excluded from services and how to alter other high-risk foods for different age groups, i.e. for one to three years old, and four years up to six years.

      Eating for Healthy Babies and Toddlers(external link) outlines how to prepare foods for newborns to one-year olds.

      When food is provided by parents

      Services must provide a copy of the Ministry of Health Guidance [PDF, 84 KB] at the time of enrolment and should record on the enrolment form that this information has been provided and understood by parents.

      Services must promote the Ministry of Health Guidance and may demonstrate compliance by developing formal policies and procedure in partnership with whānau (GMA4- Parent Involvement).

      Any policy could include actions the service will take and how they will communicate with whānau if food is provided that is not prepared in accordance with the Ministry of Health Guidance and the service does not consider it to be developmentally appropriate for that child.

  • 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.