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Sitting With Children At Meal Times...


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#1 Running Bunny

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 03:00 PM

(See post title...)

I ask this question because I have been on a Quality Assurance visit today, and the criteria and observations require "some adults and children eat together. Children sit in small groups with a familiar carer who eats the same healthy food"

The manager said that this would not be possible as
a ) she had some staff that would not like nursery food
b ) the staff have to support the children in cutting up food, keeping them clean etc
c ) there is not enough space/staff to sit in key groups

The argument from a QA point of view is that children nowadays (I'm not even THAT old and I'm sounding like my mum!) don't have the 'sit and eat at the table with family' opportunities, so providing this at nursery promotes healthy eating, good table manners, increases independence, makes it a social experience etc...

On a practical level, I understand that a room full of 3-5 year olds (and younger!) need a lot of attention and personally, I hated mealtimes at nursery for that reason. However, I am interested in what others do and if the children surprise you with their level of indpendence and table etiquette?

All thoughts appreciated!

#2 Sue R

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 04:41 PM

Hi there, RB (if I may make so bold!!)

We sit a staff member at each table during mealtimes, but they do not actually eat, they are for support (cutting, reminding of manners etc) and to emphasise the social aspects of mealtimes. The children are encouraged to clear away their own crockery and cutlery, placing them in the appropriate receptacle, also to clear the plates etc of any unwanted food. They then sit quietly in the book area, until there are enough to make a small group in the second room for quiet activities, which the others join as they finish. Two staff then remain with these children while remaining staff clear away and set up for the next session. All this while staff lunches are going on!! I must say, their independence and reliability at a potentially fraught time is highly laudable - little stars, all, but then, in a DN routine truly matters!!

Sue :D
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#3 Peggy

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 05:12 PM

Our children have packed lunches, so slightly different although children still need support with opening packaging etc.

We have one member of staff at each table eating and socializing with the children ( supply their own packed lunch) and (sometimes) one floater to assist with spillages, packaging etc.

Like Sue R the children independently wash hands, get own drinks/packed lunches, clear away before leaving the tables. The children are encouraged to support each other ie: if Joe can't open his crisp packet then we encourage him to ask the child next to him, or another child at his table to help him. ( this promotes language and a helpful disposition).

RB, in response to your manager I would ask her to consider the following:

a) Can staff bring in their own packed lunch to eat with the children, or can they sit and eat with the children and have their lunch earlier or later, or can staff be employed (dinner ladies) just for the lunch period to sit and socialize with the children)
:o Can the food not be cut up sufficiently before it is served, more able children help with cutting up food for younger ones, give each child a napkin.
c) The ratio's of adult to children should stay the same at lunchtime than any other time, so if there are 24 3-5 yr olds there should be 3 staff. One extra chair on a corner of the table doesn't really take up that much space ( does it?)

The reasons to think about this is not because QA says it should be done it is to look at what is the most beneficial ( not easier for adult) way for children to experience their lunch times with regard to all areas of their development. As I'm sure your settings aims are to provide for their overall development within an ethos of safe, secure, loving, caring environment. Lunchtimes are not just about manners ( which are better learnt when role modeled actively by adults) and whether food is cut up enough to be chewable, but about social etiquet, conversation with friends, enjoying adult and peers company etc.

What do you think? Let us know how you get on.

Peggy
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#4 oldtimer

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 08:30 PM

As a oldie!I think it is really important for a adult to sit with children at meal times.It is a social time and children will learn from example of member of staff,manners,holding knife,fork,spoon,P.S.E.D etc.Too many families sit in front of TV!!

#5 hali

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 08:36 AM

Hi
we do the same as Peggy. :D

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#6 bubblejack

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 11:20 AM

We also do the same as Peggy and Hali.Our childrem bring a packed lunch which can be a variety of foods that need to be eaten with or without cutlery but they all need support sometimes in different ways. Running Bunny I don' think it matters if staff do/do not eat with the children although children often comment on the adults lunch and this can give them an insight to different foods that they may not be aware of.If the adults are not sitting down we are doing exactly what we ask children not to do at meal-times.We find it easier to be responsible for a small group of children.Eating independently boosts childrens confidence .Once they are shown how to manage their foods and clear up after themselves by putting their own rubbish in the bin and wiping minor spills staff are free to model manners and chat about different things.

#7 pandamonium

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 03:37 PM

Maybe I read it wrong but I got the impression that RB was visiting a setting and found this situation rather that it being where she works?

We too have packed lunches and staff eat with the children. We also emply a lady who just comes in for lunch and she doesn't eat (her choice, we would be happy for her to eat!)

We also sit with them at snack time. It is such a good opportunity to discuss other food, healthy eating, preferences etc... which leads me to - I'm sorry if I'm speaking out of turn here but I think

<she had some staff that would not like nursery food>

is the LAMEST excuse I've ever seen!! What about the children who don't like it???
Panda's Law .... the dirtier I am, the more fun the kids have had!

#8 Sue R

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:08 PM

Well said, Tracey! That was my response, but I didn't have your bottle!! :o

And while I'm here, I've just re-read my post - when I say the finished children 'sit quietly in the book area', what I mean is that they sit quietly talking, looking at books or doing puzzles! We don't expect them to 'sit' as per the dog lady!!!! (What was her name?? Barbara Woodhouse?)

Sue :D
True compassion is about not bruising the other person's self-respect.  - Naoki Higashida

#9 pandamonium

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:44 PM

LOL. Am I getting a rep as picky now Sue?!

I've peeked at RB's profile and I think I was right about her not being at the setting so I think we're ok to be blunt!

It's funny tho as we are worried that our QA will be foiled by the fact that we don't have a roll in snack as we prefer to sit with the children!

PS the other excuses were lame too didn't you think? Surely if you have space for staff to wander around cutting up food and keeping them clean (slightly worrying to me that one!) there must be room as Peggy said a chair on a corner isn't going to get in the way too much...

Oh dear oh dear now I remember why I avoided working in a setting for sooooooo long and stuck to being a nanny/childminder!
Panda's Law .... the dirtier I am, the more fun the kids have had!

#10 Peggy

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 07:15 PM

Pandamonium, on re-reading I agree it does appear that RB was visiting a setting and I also agree that the managers excuses were lame.

Maybe RB will clarify, not that it matters, the issues are the same. What I really like about this forum is that we are free to express our opinions, as long as it is done without offenciveness ( is there such a word :o ).

I hope never to offend ans also understand that we are all of different experiences and opinions. I can sometimes get on my "high horse" or "soap box" about a subject to the point that I sometimes miss details of a post. I also am able to eat humble pie ( don't get it in my pack lunch though :D ) if I misread or misinterpret something and thank you ( and any others)for being so picky :D . It is from my mistakes, I learn. :D

RB, if you are an assessor, how did you deal with the managers responses?


Peggy
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#11 pandamonium

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 07:26 PM

ooooh Peggy, good question - how did you deal with it?? Mind you I suspect that it isn't RB's 'place' to reply - don't you just )HA! 'just') write a re[pport with action?
Panda's Law .... the dirtier I am, the more fun the kids have had!

#12 pandamonium

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 07:27 PM

Just reread that! Did you get what I meant tho?
Panda's Law .... the dirtier I am, the more fun the kids have had!

#13 Sue R

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 07:17 AM

Yes, I'm interested, too! And I agree about the 'keeping them clean' - depends on age and stage, doesn't it!? How else are they going to get it right if they can't do it themselves. What are face cloths, soap and water for???? :o

I didn't mean you were being picky, either, more it looked bad to me, so I wanted to clarify it, in case anyone was throwing up their arms in horror at me making the children 'sit quietly' :lol: :(

Peggy, I'm sure no one is ever offended by your posts, they're always interesting to read - how goes the fostering? Or is there nothing really to report at present, I know it's a long process...

Sorry to wander off the point, there!

Sue :D
True compassion is about not bruising the other person's self-respect.  - Naoki Higashida

#14 Nicola Gray

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 08:10 AM

A bit late, but I agree with what everyone has put. I enjoy sitting with the children at snack time. I learn an awful lot more about my children from their casual conversations than I sometimes do at other times. I think socially it is a very important aspect. How many of us like to go out to dinner with friends eating (perhaps even having an odd glass of wine, not that I suggest we give the children wine) and enjoy the company of others. No pressure on any children to achieve anythiing but to sit, chat and enjoy their food - something we all seem to have lost - I can empathise when I am rushinig around snatching a sandwich eating it in my car with a packet of crisps - not healthy, not enjoyable and very bad for me I know - I think first and foremost we need to encourage children to understand that, to coin a phrase "we are what we eat" and possibly how we eat it!! I agree that this is a learning opportunity not to be missed - food should be an education for children, it should be sociable, enjoyable, pleasurable and fun - and by sitting with the children we can role model all these.
And as someone said, the staff may not like it - where is the role modelling in that - if the food is not good - then perhaps the staff ought to be voicing an opinion. How many times have I seen as much food go out that has come in because actually its not that good - as someone said how do you think the children feel - we encourage them to try different foods - perhaps we should make the staff eat it!! Then perhaps they might want to voice an opinion on behalf of their children who may not be able to but are certainly voicing it with their stomachs. As we know hungry children with low sugar levels are not much fun.
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#15 pandamonium

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 03:29 PM

Hmm yes :lol: we learnt a lot about one particular 3 year old during lunches last year.. mostly the plots of The Ring, Dawn of the Dead and Scream :o
Panda's Law .... the dirtier I am, the more fun the kids have had!

#16 Running Bunny

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Posted 15 August 2005 - 08:25 AM

Hi all - thanks for your replies and sorry for not being around over the weekend to dispel any confusion! I seem to have raised an interesting question here...

No, I don't work in a setting - I work for an EYDCP and provide mentor suppport for settings undertaking QA schemes.

The comments were not all from the one manager (in case she is a member of the forum) and were some that I have come across in the past in relation to this issue - it is a very common discussion point for the majority of visits that I go to.

As far as supporting the manager, all I, and my colleagues can offer, is guidance in order to help them improve their practice and meet the QA standards. If they have firm beliefs from trying out something before and it not working, they need to show the QA assessor this via documented evidence. If, however, they don't want to as their current method is tried and tested and 'why fix something when it ain't broke' (which I can understand) they need to show that by doing this, it is for the good of the children. However, everyone needs to be open to change in the business of Early Years!

For those that are interested... by the end of the (three hour) visit and after seeing the dining room we agreed to try and sit in key groups with the staff sitting with the children to see how it went. Staff would be given the option to eat with the children if they wanted.

I can sympathise with the staff not wanting to eat with the children if they don't like the food (fish pie was never a favourite of mine) BUT - before you all scream at me! - they should not expect the children to like all food either and respect individual likes and dislikes. The only way they are going to know if children have a genuine dislike or if they are just being fussy is if they sit with their key groups and really get to know the children. How do you know if a child is just feeling unwell and is not hungry??

Lots of you seem to have packed lunches, whereas the settings I deal with more often than not, have hot dinners. This in itself creates a problem with staff having their own packed lunches as the children may not be allowed certain things and the staff are eating them for lunch - do you give the staff guidance on what they can and can't have i.e. chocolate, crisps, fizzy drinks etc

Need to spend more time re-reading all the posts, so if I haven't answered everything - apologies - and will get back on the forum later (must do work, must do work...) :D

#17 bubblejack

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Posted 15 August 2005 - 12:25 PM

Running Bunny when I first started the lunch club all staff helped me decide which foods/drinks were allowed and all staff do stick to this.

#18 eclmmcca

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 09:55 PM

In our Setting ie private day,the children will obviously have a hot dinner.As 2 staff work in te Pre-School room one member of staff does the mealtimes while the other member of staff goes on their dinnerdepends on what shift you are on).Sometimes,I will have 13 children for dinner so I can only sit with one table of children -the tables are set in key groups.It is a social time and we encourage the children to help out ie setting their place,pouring milk.The children sit down and it is a social time.The children will discuss wht foods they like and what it tastes like.The children when finished will sit on the carpet and choose a book while I clear up both the tables.When the other member of staff returns,they take the children into the bahroom to brush teeth and do their faces.Mealtimes are a social occasion and I really disagree with settings who prefer children to remain quiet at mealtimes!! :o
NO-ONE CAN DO EVERYTHING BUT EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING!!

#19 jojom

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 10:08 PM

I have always sat and ate with the children I think its important to make mealtimes a social time where we can chat about day to day things and model table manners in an informal way.
"Free the childs potential and you shall transform him into the world" Maria Montessori

#20 Wolfie

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 08:46 AM

I attended a briefing about the 3 hours flexible entitlement yesterday...not happening where we are until September 2010...and was pleased to note that the value of mealtimes as learning opportunities has now finally been recognised and that these times can be included in the entitlement now.




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