“Yum, I love this soup! Can I have a second bowl?”
Our four-year olds LOVED the Chicken Tikka Masala served at lunch yesterday. Our Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Kraig, prepared the meal ‘deconstructed’ so the children could enjoy the meal their own way. At Foundations, teachers and children eat lunch family style. The food is served in bowls or on platters and passed around the table. The teacher eats with the children and socializes with them, similar to the way a family might eat together at home. The practice of family style meals is widely encouraged in early care and education. Why is this?
Researchers have found many long-term benefits of family-style meals; the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), High-Scope, and the National School Nutrition Program (CAFCP), all consider meal-time as a required part of the curriculum. “Snack and mealtimes provide daily opportunities to demonstrate the program philosophy in a visible way through the practices of participatory learning and authentic conversations that build relationships between children and adults (GSRP Implementation Manual, 2017). Some of the benefits include:
- Children learn and practice social and motor skills such as sharing, passing, pouring, and turn taking.
- Children have control over which foods and what size portion they wish to consume. Being allowed to eat based on their own hunger level helps children learn self-regulation and understand the sense of fullness.
- Children are encouraged to try new foods by seeing other children and adults eating them. This sets up a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
- Messes are a part of family-style meals; children learn that mistakes happen and they act responsibly while helping to clean up.
When your child is in a child care setting, you want them to feel safe and secure. At Foundations, our teachers strive to make meal times a fun learning experience so children see themselves as part of their child care “family”. Serving daily meals family style helps children learn the routine and manners that go with mealtimes, while continuing to build up children’s self-esteem and sense of belonging to a nurturing community.