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Meal Times


Clare
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I have been observing the set up in my new job this week and I have noticed that at snack time and during the lunch club, the children are not allowed to talk to each other. Once the children were all seated today at lunch time, I pulled up a chair and sat with them, talking to them about their sandwiches and foods they like. It was lovely because obviously I'm getting used to them and getting to know all about them.

 

However, sitting with the children got me an odd look from the deputy and she told the children they had to stop talking. I immediately felt silly, removed my chair and went and sat away from them. The deputy then mentioned that the children are not allowed to talk at 'meal' times. They have to sit quietly and eat their lunch/snack.

 

I have never worked in a setting where this has been a common thing, and was wondering whether anyone else works this way? I thought meal times were supposed to be social times, but may have picked that up wrongly somewhere along the line. I can understand if children are asked to be quiet for short periods because of mega noise levels, but other than that, I'm a bit stumped!

 

Thanks

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Clare

 

You are right of course! Mealtimes should be a social time for conversation and positive interaction - we want to make meal times and snack times an enjoyable experience - not something they just do before going back to play - I would be interested to know whether the children at your setting are enjoying and eating their meals or not.

 

i used to work somewhere where the children were told to 'sit quietly' whilst they ate, i just used to converse with them as I would my own children as there wasn't a policy which said otherwise.

I would be surprised if at your nursery their food/meal policy stated that children shouldn't talk during mealtimes. I'd suggest reading their policy and procedure and if it does state 'no talking' challenge this during a staff meeting.

 

Good luck.

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Everything you have said is correct Clare, mealtimes is probably the most appropriate time time to engage in social conversation between staff and chn, and chn and chn.

 

This takes me back a few years, we had a room within my nursery where the staff felt the same as your deputy, meal times should be quiet. I spoke to all staff involved about this but things only seemed to change when i was in the room!

 

I decided to tackle the problem from a different angle! I ensured that each member of staff was due to take a lunch break at the same time, after they had been in staff room for 10 mins i entered and sat down. Every time one of the staff spoke i said 'will you be quiet please this is lunch time and i do not want to hear another word!'.

 

I had 3 horrified faces turn to me, one explaining 'but this is our lunchtime'. Ok i said but why do you need to talk, i want you all to sit quietly.

'But we need to let off steam after the morning' replied another. Perfect answer for me! It allowed me to explain that is exactly how the chn feel. Surprisingly chn can now talk to their hearts content, it is a legendary story which is passed down to new staff!!

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It funny the 'traditions' that get passed along in a nursery. I always try to take the line of 'is it in the regulations? No. Is it a policy? If so, why? If people fail to impress me with the rights of their decision I ignore it, but you do have to be careful of not getting the children into trouble. I have appologised to children a fair few times in the past for allowing them to do something, fully explaining why it was my fault. 'I'm sorry Zoe, I thought it would be alright for you to use a biro, I know a lot of children who do' :o I then ask the staff why I was in the wrong. Be ready with back up arguments.

Good luck :D

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Lucy P, what a great way to get your point across!! I like that! Maybe the practice has started because parents were concerned that children weren't eating everything provided in their lunchboxes (a common complaint at our nursery, even when children are given more than an ADULT could manage at one sitting!!) and staff thought this might encourage more eating?

 

But I agree with everyone else, mealtimes should be happy, relaxed and social times, with plenty of conversation. An atmosphere with no talking seems very strange and might cause problems if there are individual children who have any "hang ups" about food and eating. I've known several cases where parents get so hung up about the amount or types of food that their child is eating and then put far too much emphasis on the whole subject, going on and on at their child about every single mouthful they eat, that they actually making the situation much worse!

 

And there's plenty in the media at the moment about how the demise of group/family mealtimes is having a bad effect on children's language and social skills, isn't there? :o

 

So I think you're quite right to question and challenge this practice Clare!

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Agree , perhaps worth a look at policies, and challenge with a very good argument as to why you challenge the policy.

 

we in fact advertise our Lunch club as being a good way to extend language, learn social skills, and they actually all become much better 'friends'. In our case a member of staff or (often 2 or 3) always sit with the children at this time and have lunch with them. Our Ofsted inspector commented this as being a strength of the setting and joined in lunch on the days she was in.

 

we had two children who never had a close friend, played well, enjoyed everyone's company, quite bright buttons, and they discovered each other during lunch club and have been firm friends since, continuing this even now at school.

 

good luck, let us know how this progresses

 

Inge

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I can't believe this !!! :D:D:D

It's the craziest thing I've heard in ages! Most of the recent Ofsted reports I have read have specifically targeted poor snack and meal times, where children are not spoken to, and it's not a the lovely social time that it should be. If the children don't have time to talk and eat simultaneously, then maybe the setting should think about giving them more time xD

 

It's reminded me of a setting where the children had to put their hands on their heads, and wait silently for the snack to be put on the tables :o No, this wasn't in the 1930s.......

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Guest MaryEMac

Clare, I was amazed when I read your post. Are you a time traveller and gone back to a time when children were seen and not heard? :o

I agree with what everyone else has said, in our playgroup snack time is where the staff and children talk quietly to each other and the children find out about each other. A lot of friendships have been made at snacktime in our group.

 

Mary

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Hey Clare don't forget to write it up in your relfective diary, I would see this as a critical indent. :D I tell you attend college and learn things especally critical thinking skills. Along with lots of horror stories! xD

 

Anyway Clare I think you have been transported to the 1930's! :o I also thought meal times were a social occassion.

 

 

Beth

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Hi Clare,

I too was dumb funded reading your post. Snack times and lunch times in the nursery i work at are social occassions. We have table cloths and little flower pots on the table and the children are taught good manners. We talk and we discuss what we have done that day, we also at times talk about our wall displays, and many a time the children themselves lead the conversation. We do encourage the children to use their 'quieter' voices, but it is very much a relaxed and social time. It sounds as if this is something that has been happening for years and no one has had the courage to stand up to who ever made the rule of silence while at the table. I know from experience how hard it is to be new in a nursery setting and see things that you know are wrong. Through my own personal development and my own career development and now as i am a senior member of staff i feel a bit more confident in raising concerns i may have, i always back up any policies or procedures i find disturbing with a reason why i think it is wrong or not working with a suggestion.

Lucy P i loved what you did? Sometimes thats all it takes for staff who are so set in their ways to be shown exactly what they are doing to the children. I work with staff, who are very set in their ways and find it hard to be open minded about new ideas.

 

Rosepetal :o

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Thanks for all your replies. I was talking to a fellow newbie at the setting and she said she felt it was a bit strict to not let the children interact at meal times. So, I have it on my list of things to do, to attempt to challenege this, but first refering to the policy as has already been stated. I want to work with the staff on this one and gauge just how they feel meal times should progress, that way we can all decide on and implement an appropriate method of tackling this.

 

Beth, thanks for you point about the reflective journals! I need 15 by Saturday and was running out of ideas for them! :o

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I just want to know HOW do they stop children talking????????? :oxD

 

Not that I want to follow suit, just curious.

 

Good advice, love the staff luch scenario, sometimes we need to be reminded that children are human beings too, with rights. :(

 

Our children have recently prolonged their lunchtime to up to 40 minutes because they are so enjoying the social chat. :D ( other days, over and done with in 1-15 mins :(

 

Peggy

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I just want to know HOW do they stop children talking????????? :oxD

 

Not that I want to follow suit, just curious.

 

Good advice, love the staff luch scenario, sometimes we need to be reminded that children are human beings too, with rights. :(

 

Our children have recently prolonged their lunchtime to up to 40 minutes because they are so enjoying the social chat. :D ( other days, over and done with in 1-15 mins :(

 

Peggy

 

They are told to stop talking! That's it, with the occasional fingers on lips routine. As you can imagine I sat there with a :( and :wacko: expression on my face!

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I echo your thoughts Peggy!! How do they stop them talking??? xD:(

 

The scaryest place I went was one where instead of clapping the children had to wave their hands in the air otherwise it was too noisy! :(

 

You've gotta laugh :o:(

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I have to say that we all love our snack time and lunch days. As some of the others have said, it is a real social occasion. Sometimes it can get a little noisy or the children may forget to eat, in which case a little reminder is given.

 

Love the idea of waving instead of clapping Rea. Maybe its something we should all do. xD:o

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I am flabbergasted at times how settings can get things so wrong. That is just bad practice.

 

All our relevant policies say that snack time should be a social time for both adults and children. How can it be social, with no conversation?

 

Many years ago, the Ofsted inspector commented that we could make more of snack times e.g. counting out cups, discussing shapes of sandwiches etc. Maybe we should all start using sign language at snack times, to keep the noise down.

 

Well done for questioning practice in your new job.

 

Good luck with changing things for the better.

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Just wanted to add to the chorus of amazement. We try to use 'quiet voices indoors' at such times as others have said but see lunch club and snack time as key times to engage in lovely, animated conversation.

 

As you know yourself, the trick will be how you involve staff in the change so that they feel positive about it and support it fully.

 

Good luck.

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