Inclusion Ideas Corner – Getting More Out of Mealtimes

Acorn Early Learning Centre

As Early Childhood Educators, we have an extremely important role when it comes to teaching children self-help skills. Providing opportunities for the children to serve themselves snack, lunch, milk and water is something that we value at Acorn Early Learning Centre.

Each day during lunch, two of the children are picked to be the helpers. Their responsibilities are to wash and set the tables as well as hand out facecloths to each of their peers at the end of lunch.  The children serve themselves both their meals/snacks and pour their milk/water. This allows them to take as little or as much as they would like. When someone at the table would like more food, they need to look around the table and ask one of their peers to please pass them the food bowl.  This teaches the children self-help skills, food and portion preferences and manners. Once everyone has finished eating, the fruit bowl is passed around.  Each child can begin with taking two pieces of fruit and then they pass the bowl to the peer beside them and so on.

When a child is finished eating, they get up to scrape the rest of their food into the compost bin and put their dirty dishes in the dish-bin.

Throughout this whole experience, the educators in the room are sitting, eating and enjoying lunchtime with all of the children.  Lots of laughing and conversations are had during this time.

Meghan Carvery, RECE

Centre de l’enfant aux 4 vents         

At our preschool program, we are including a child who is physically challenged and has an individualised feeding plan. Our goal is to include the child at mealtimes with all the children in order to benefit from peer interactions despite the child’s challenges with communication.

During one of our daily efforts, I asked the children to pour milk from a pitcher into a glass and they did so one after another. I observed that the child noticed their reaction and was very interested in participating in the activity.  This led me to try something new.

Although the child is unable to drink from a cup, I decided to put colored water in a pitcher. The child immediately picked up the pitcher and poured the colored water into a glass. It was great to see that child participate during mealtimes and show true excitement in imitating the other children.

Samia Lafrikhi, RECE

Global Child Care Services – Heritage Child Care Centre

The Early Childhood Educators at Global Child Care Services believe that creating an enjoyable mealtime experience helps young children develop healthy eating habits and positive attitudes towards food.  We have found that some children may require more support and guidance, but in our experience, remaining consistent in routines and expectations establishes an environment where all children thrive and are set up for success.

In the preschool program, we treat lunch time and snack time as opportunities for modelling, encouraging conversations and peer interactions. We also use this opportunity to develop fine motor skills, practice turn-taking, and promote social development which ultimately builds skills and self-confidence.

The preschoolers sometimes help to prepare the food they will be enjoying, such as husking corn – a task they tackle with great enthusiasm.  We are strong believers in encouraging self-help skills, by having the children serve themselves, pour their own milk and pass food trays to peers. When finished, the children scrape their plates, place them in a bin and then wash their hands.

Since implementing this lunchtime routine, we’ve observed that the children sit longer at the table and converse more with one another. We’ve been pleased that parents are reporting that mealtime at home with their children has become a more social experience.

Suggested site for more information:

Rosanne Sallafranque, RECE