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Lunch time for Reception


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Hi I haven't posted or been on the forum for a while and it is good to be back. I am a struggling reception teacher who would appreciate some advice around lunch times. Currently our reception children are offered a free school meal or they can bring packed lunch. If they have school dinners they are expected to get their cutlery, carry their own tray select salad, give their name to someone they don't know, carry and put everything away at the end. We are looking for new ways to do things as every year lunch causes the children a lot of stress and upset. It is difficult for us as we want to help as much as possible but need a break ourselves. Parents are unhappy and children are upset all morning and this means learning is not happening. Most of the time if children are really upset suggesting to parents to bring packed lunch for a bit helps. They have something familiar and are saved the stress of the dinner routine.

 

We have suggested to our head that we would like all children to have packed lunch only for the first half term to settle them, to allow us to actually sit and eat with them. For us to model good eating and healthy food through our own lunch and be a comfort to them in initial weeks. To give the dinner starff a chance to get to know them and learn names. They could then have school dinners once they are more settled. Unfortunately she doesn't agree and won't do this so in the meantime we are spending all of our valuable time supporting lunch and dealing with all of the issues. This is exhausting on top of everything else!

 

Please help, how do you run lunchtime for your reception children? Do you have a transition in place? Or are they just expected to do the same as the rest of the school even though they are just 4 (like us). We would really like to improve lunch time and make it less stressful for everyone. I would really appreciate any advice and support on this matter. Thank you

Edited by Jo jo
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How many do you have? School dinners were served and eaten in my classroom with one MDS. Children have name cards which are put at tables for the children to find and sit down.

 

During the first week of school me and my TA if there was one would go out to play with the children and then support the MDS with getting them all lined up and going to the toilet to wash hands. Then one of us would stay with those who had dinners and walk them through the whole process, teaching them how to hold a tray, find cutlery etc, we'd walk with them to their places. We would support the MDS with anyone who needed help cutting up food. I would leave but pop in and out of the room to check everything was ok, offer a familiar smile or help the MDS become familiar with any individual 'quirks' I'd picked up. We continued to do this for the first week gradually reducing the level of support until it was just watching e.g. day one I might get their tray and cutlery while telling them what I was doing, day 2 they might get the tray and I'd do the cutlery, day 3 they'd do both with me prompting etc.

 

I think that for a while they didn't have to scrape and put away their trays - just left them on the tables and MDS did it although I'm fairly sure they built up to this by the end of the year.

After that week I left them to it but was always available for MDS to ask for extra support if anyone needed it.

 

Generally we didn't push them to eat anything they didn't want to and we didn't stress if they didn't really eat at lunch, we'd offer some of the fruit from snack and make sure their parents knew at the end of the day.

 

Children picked up the routine amazingly quickly. Yes it meant giving up part of my lunch time every day for a week but I felt it was worth it and after that week I was rarely needed. Dinners being served and eaten in our classroom did mean that children were familiar with the space and saw me frequently as I was always popping in and out although it isn't something that I'd recommend! They did then have crowds of hungry 'big ones' then coming through the room while they were eating.

 

If you are taking them to a hall to eat could you finish slightly earlier so you can do the toiletting and handwashing in a calm, chilled way and they are ready to eat as soon as it is ready to be served. If they go first the room will be quieter for a little and the older children who are familiar will be able to cope with 'chivvying' a little if things get behind later. Could you ask the head if MDS could come in a little earlier one day to meet the children? I know this one may be tricky as most of the MDS do a whole series of jobs throughout the day.

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We take our playgroup children to the local primary school and they eat in the main hall with everyone else. We've been doing it from earler this year and everyone of them adapted really well, we're very proud of them.

 

They line up, collect their tray, cutlery, cup and then tell the dinner lady what they want from the choices.

 

A member of our staff is on hand to help them and one in the hall waiting to seat them together but they do fabulous well.

They take their tray at the end and have even mastered putting the scraps in one bin, the cutlery in another and the water and cup in another.

 

Maybe your children just need a little more time to get used to the process or a little more help from the dinner supervisors.

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I don't work in a school, but our local primary school has a buddy system specifically for this. The buddies are year 3 or older and each buddy helps a reception child at lunchtime for the whole school year. They help them get their lunch (similar to the routine you describe)sit with them at lunchtime and also keep an eye on them in the playground if needed. I would have thought it would be quite easy to implement so maybe worth thinking about them.

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Thank you for your suggestions. Many of the things you have suggested are already in place such as us staying in and helping them we are still doing this and will continue till things improve. We are big school and there are 90 children in reception so although we do go in first before the upper years it can still be noisy. This year just seems very upsetting for the children and parents want them to eat and are becoming anxious when they don't. I just wondered if anybody does things differently that has worked well. The buddy system sounds good but wouldn't work for everyone as there just isn't time for them to eat and look after reception. It takes nearly half an hour for all the reception children to be served.

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GIven that all children are entitled to a free school meal in reception it would be harsh to insist parents had to pay for a packed lunch really so I expect that is why the HT has said no to that idea.

 

I had a full time nursery and the children went over to the hall to eat and handled their own plates etc, so it is possible. I supported while they chose and then the midday staff took over.

Who is their key person/s during this time? I would consider how you use a key person approach for lunch time. You don't have to be permanenetly available but you do need other adults who know the children and understand their needs, right through lunch not just the eating bit. Can you have yr 6 mentors who can help and support them? Can you strat a bit earlier for the first part of the autumn term so they get to choose and not wait too long (that's what I did with my reception classes)

Family groupings where children sit with a few older children?

Can they go later so they can stay in their classroom until the older children are free to help?

 

I think the key is in the role of adults here.

Cx

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Thank you all valid points we really need to think about our lunch time staff and how they look after the youngest children. Training would be good for them and some time maybe spent in the classrooms before lunches start so they are familiar to the children.

 

Thanks again

 

Jo

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Hi Jojo,

 

My reception class go up to the hall for lunch at 11.50 so that it is quieter and they can be served first. In the first few days they had their year 1 buddy take them in (they also take them in and sit with them in assembly and out to play). I help serve the extra salad/ bread and pudding bits which should be self serve and sit amongst them - still am for the next few weeks - i have to eat at some point so it sort of makes sense to eat with them and model table manners! The MDS don't start till 12 so we manage with me and TA.

Buddies don't take them in now- they can manage their trays and collect cutlery themselves and know the routine of putting it all in the sectioned trolley at the end.

It's not so nice when everyone else starts coming from 12 onwards as it gets so noisy but they are settled by then and we usually encourage them to leave spaces on their table so their buddies might still choose to join them when they come in.

Perhaps you could start a little earlier - depending on your cook and head agreeing?

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