Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lunch

We have a lunch program at our school, which is a great responsibility. We've run it for seven years and it has had its ups and downs. Being in control of all the snacks and lunches in the children's day means we also have great power in helping them create a varied palate and solid nutritional habits. That's all great when children are willing to eat most of what we provide. Brown bread? Sure! Tomatoes? Yay! Spinach? Sure!

However, at the beginning of the year we are often confronted with children who are not only in the process developing trust in the adults at school and the other children, but on top of it, are only becoming familiar and trusting of our foods. This process can take some time.

We've tweaked and varied our approach to the presentation of our meals and lunch routine always with the intention of helping the children become independent in their ability to enjoy a healthy meal. I found a website a few weeks ago that described in a way I found very helpful and in accordance with Montessori, the relationship between adults and children when it comes to food. (See below)

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Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility in Feeding
From: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php


Children develop eating competence step-by-step throughout the growing-up years when they are fed according to a stage-appropriate division of responsibility. At every stage, parents take leadership with feeding and let the child be self-directed with eating.

The division of responsibility for infants:
  • The parent is responsible for what
  • The child is responsible for how much (and everything else)
Parents choose breast- or formula- feeding, help the infant be calm and organized, then feed smoothly, paying attention to information coming from the baby about timing, tempo, frequency, and amounts.

The division of responsibility for older babies making the transition to family food

  • The parent is still responsible for what, and is becoming responsible for when and where the child is fed.
  • The child is still and always responsible for how much and whether to eat the foods offered by the parent.
Based on what the child can do, not on how old s/he is, parents guide the child’s transition from nipple feeding through semi-solids, then thick-and-lumpy food, to finger food at family meals.

The division of responsibility for toddlers through adolescents:

  • The parent is responsible for what, when, where
  • The child is responsible for how much and whether
Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to decide how much and whether to eat. If parents do their jobs with feeding, children do their jobs with eating:
Parents' feeding jobs:
  • Choose and prepare the food
  • Provide regular meals and snacks
  • Make eating times pleasant
  • Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior
  • Be considerate of children’s food inexperience without catering to likes and dislikes
  • Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times
  • Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them
Children's eating jobs:
  • Children decide how much they will eat or whether to eat at all
  • They will eat the amount they need (according to their body needs)
  • They will learn to eat the food their parents eat if that is what is offered
  • They will grow predictably
  • They will learn to behave well at mealtime (with the example and help of their parents)
For more about feeding, see Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

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We've changed our lunch routine over the years and found some key helpful aspects:

*We have lunch immediately after the 3 hour morning work period at 11:45am.

*A pair of alternating older children serve the others as they arrive. The meal is served complete on one plate or bowl, a small dessert bowl (always fruit), and a glass of water. Serving in this style allows children to eat what they enjoy most first and whet their appetite for the other things on their plates. It hast also considerably cut down on waste, and created a more relaxed atmosphere since there is no confusion about whether or not there will be seconds.

*Children eat as much or as little of what is offered. We don't negotiate about foods. Our way to encourage tasting is to offer (almost daily) tasting lessons in the classroom that are related to foods we will offer later at lunch.

*We've created a rotating 9 week menu that's based on simple, nutritious, and whole foods. The rotating menu creates enough predictability and familiarity for the children with the items offered which hopefully will lead to independence.

*Three children sit at each table, instead of our former long table serving setting. This creates a more intimate atmosphere and really sweet socializing among the children in each small table. The volume of our lunchtime is much lower because of this!

By the time I make it to the lunchroom, there is a soft buzz as children converse, eat and look out of our windows. It is a pleasant meal!

We've been working a lot more diligently on grace and courtesy for lunchtime which has also helped remarkably with independence during eating and cleaning up. Sometimes it just takes this many years to figure out something that works.


3 comments:

Megan Perez said...

Susanne, thank you for your insightful sharing of what works at your school! Can we get a sample (or the entire rotation) of your menu? I'd love some ideas for healthy, whole meals for my little ones. Thanks!

Susanne said...

Sure Megan! Email me and I'll happily send it to you!

Crystal Garcia said...

I loved this post! Thank you for sharing. If you have the time, I'd also love a sample of your menu. Sent you an email :) If not, that's okay as well!