Tag Archives: healthy eating

How to Make the Most of Mealtime

family-style-dining

For parents and teachers, mealtime is not always the most enjoyable time of the day. Whether it be a child not wanting to eat what you serve, not wanting to leave an activity to come to the table, or just not knowing what to cook, mealtime can be seen as a stressful time. I have seen some incredible early childhood programs use mealtime not only to provide healthy, balanced meals, but also to provide an opportunity for supporting social skills and self help skills. I have seen an increase in “Family Style Dining” in many of the programs I have worked with.

Family style dining provides opportunities for children to practice patience, turn taking, and using manners. The children are able to pass the bowls of food and serve themselves. What better way to use those fine motor skills than by trying to balance the proper amount of spaghetti on your spoon and carefully moving it to your plate? Using utensils is a great way to work on those pre-writing skills through the use of those small muscles in the hand. The children are learning to be autonomous and independent. Allowing children to serve themselves may be messy at first, but it is worth it when the children become more coordinated and feel the sense of pride that comes with being trusted with these tasks. Family style dining allows for great conversation between the child and caregiver, and any chance to engage verbally with the children is fabulous.

Many programs are also looking into healthier meal planning, and I have seen children really learning to love healthy foods. This can also be a great parent engagement piece, educating families on health and nutrition. It is becoming rare to hear of families eating together at the table, and as child care providers we can lead by example and show the benefits of taking the time to enjoy meals together as a family. There are wonderful programs for parents and teachers,  such as My Plate, USDA Team Nutrition, and Let’s Move! Child Care. You can also download the free Family Style Dining Guide to get started on building healthy habits around eating in your program today. Bon Appetit!

Stick to your classroom routine—especially during the holidays!

The holidays are upon us and no matter which holidays you celebrate, I would guess that you have some family traditions built in that include food. In my family every celebration that we have includes food. There are birthday celebrations with homemade pastas and sauces. There are Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings with homemade pizzelles, a special Italian cookie that is only made for very special occasions. And, I can honestly tell you that the meals we serve are not the healthiest or the most balanced.

Stick to your classroom routines--especially during the holidays!

The challenge for me is that food is connected to so many of my family traditions and I also know that food is fuel for life. When I think back to my time in a classroom after certain holidays, I know that children behaved differently than normal because their food and sleep habits were disrupted. Within our child care programs, it’s important that we maintain consistent routines and schedules and food so that we can set children up for the highest success rates possible. We need to be certain that we include the appropriate amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to provide their bodies with the right fuel. When children have the right combination of sleep and nutritious meals to get them through their days, they have a better chance of handling the holidays with ease.

As you approach this holiday season inside of your classroom, I hope that you take time to talk with the children about the various traditions that are celebrated within their families. I hope that you share with them the traditions that you and your family celebrate as well. Most importantly, I hope you provide a consistent environment for the children you work with. As a mom, I truly appreciated the work of my children’s teachers to bring a sense of normalcy during a time when the world can seem upside down and inside out to a little one. As a teacher, normal during the holidays may seem a bit boring, but I would bet the children in your classroom will appreciate it more than you may know.

—Angie G.