Mealtimes are big homely social events here at Young Friends. We believe it is an opportune time for children to develop strong social skills, self-regulatory behavior, and develop their physical strength.
- SOCIAL SKILLS – At least one member of staff is always at the table encouraging conversation. At lunch, staff have a small plate of food with the children to demonstrate good sitting, using cutlery appropriately, and social skills. All children eat the same, or similar if have dietary restrictions, meals and we encourage and foster choice. We do not have the facility to store packed lunches nor do we feel it supports children’s willingness to try new things and eat the same meals amongst their peers. Instead, should children struggle with trying new foods, activities are planned around their needs such as cooking activities wherein there is less pressure to try food.
- SELF-REGULATORY BEHAVIOUR – All staff are trained in appropriately managing table behavior in accordance with children’s ages and development. The preschoolers, for instance, are expected to wait until all their peers have been served before starting, while babies and toddlers are encouraged to use Makaton to indicate their needs such as “more” and “finished.” Children are expected to sit appropriately in their seats (we do also have baby seats), use courteous table manners such as “please” and “thank you,” and wait until they’ve been excused to leave the table. We believe it’s very important that children learn to tolerate delay and have an awareness of rules regarding mealtime behavior.
- PHYSICAL SKILLS – Children are given appropriate cutlery according to their age, with the preschoolers rather adept at using both a fork and knife during their meals. At snack times, children are encouraged to use knives to spread butter, cheese, etc. and pour their own drinks from child-friendly jugs. The children also serve their own food from serving trays. While these may not be skills they will necessarily be expected to use outside of nursery, they do strengthen their motor skills and offer children a sense of responsibility and independence in their day.