Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meal Time

At the second center I worked at we did family style meals. This meant not only did the children sit at the table but there was a seat for the teacher as well. Just like when a family sits down to eat can be an interesting time, meal times at the center were interesting. We talked and laughed just like a family does. Where I worked with toddlers the conversation mainly was two or three words at the most and there was a lot of repeating things. For example, a child would point to the chair, look at me and say, "Chair."
I would say, "Yes. That's a chair." Then the child would go around the table pointing out every child's chair.  Then it would be every child's cup of milk and on and on it went...

Meal time was a fun time though. It gave a chance to interact that doesn't occur any other way and to teach skills that can only be taught sitting at a table during meal time. It's a time to teach manners and for a child to gain independence. Because the center 's meals were family style this meant that if a child wanted to try to serve themselves they were allowed to. When a child tried, I allowed it and guided their hand until they were close to two and they didn't need the guidance as much. This way the children learned independence and their self-esteem grew.

Meal times are a great time to teach  how to have a conversation. Because there were five children plus me at the table they all wanted a chance to talk. They had to learn how to take turns and to listen to their friends. They would also have to wait for me to respond so that they learned that one person talks while the other listens and then it changes. It taught them how to wait for their turn while I finished listening to one of them and explained to them that they had to wait until their friend was done before telling me what they wanted. This also taught them patience. It also taught them a small part of etiquette as they learned what was appropriate to bring to the table. For instance the pacifier and the favorite toy that they held onto all the time had to remain in their cubby while they ate.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a good article on how to introduce learning at meal time. Here's a link to it if anyone is interested.

naeyc article on mealtime

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