MEALTIMES AT O & A
Sharing meals and enjoying each other’s company are important parts of our adult lives. The same applies for young children, with the important addition of learning how to use utensils and participate in mealtimes with confidence. In care settings, mealtimes should be relaxed, socially enjoyable, and a shared learning time for children. Meals should never become a battleground—at home or in care settings.
What are children learning at mealtimes?
Educators use a number of strategies to make mealtimes relaxed, enjoyable and social times for children. They learn how to sit nicely, use their own plates, bowls, cups (and not tip them over), and use their own (not their friends) cutlery, and make pleasant conversation with their peers and educators.
We encourage children to share ideas about the food, and how flavour and presentation matter. Our Chef deliberately makes food very visually appealing (as well as nutritionally balanced), and we assist children to describe colour, texture, taste and so on, using a range of adjectives to explain their thoughts. This builds vital vocabulary, helps children to explain their likes and preferences, and practice putting their thoughts in order, then expressing them clearly. These are all very important life skills children will need as they progress to more formal learning.
These skills are also learned at home when families sit for meals together, practice speaking politely to each other and share the to and fro of pleasant meal table conversation. We encourage families to practice these things with children at each meal, if possible, as so much learning occurs during these informal but important routines of each day. Eating meals on the sofa just doesn’t teach children the right way to manage in the world, and let’s face it, creates a lot more mess to clean up as well.
Speaking of dealing with mess, we use serviettes during lunchtime meals, so children can learn about sitting nicely at the table and using the serviette to clean their faces of most messy food and sauces. This will be another learning occasion for the children.
Family meals build a stronger sense of belonging. Children need to know where they come from, who they belong with and what their story is if they are to feel secure and happy. It is an essential ingredient to build a long, happy, and contented life, and, of course, we all want that for our children. Sharing quality, relaxed mealtimes with educators and family consistently supports exactly that. Do your family routines build a sense of belonging for the future?
During mealtimes—relax, eat, and enjoy time together