Lunch in a primary environment at Fiore might look a little different from your own memories of school lunches. Although each class community may have slightly different routines or traditions for their lunch time, below is a general overview of what lunch looks like in a primary environment at Fiore.
The Lunch Set Up
Each day for lunch, your child will set out a place setting that consists of a place card, placemat, plate, fork, spoon, and knife (bowls are also available if needed). Your child will also set out the cloth napkin that they have packed in their lunchbox. We give the children the option of setting it with their place setting, or placing it on their laps as they eat. (Please note, there’s no need to send in utensils with your child, each classroom has their own set that the children will use. In fact, it often becomes confusing when they bring in a set from home.)
After washing their hands, your child will unpack their food from their lunchbox onto their plate. It is important to pack containers that your child is able to open and close independently in order to make this time run smoothly. We also recommend that foods such as yogurt or applesauce are placed in lidded containers. Pull tabs and squeeze pouches can be hard for the children to open and become impossible to re-pack at the end of lunch if needed.
During lunch, the children are asked to sit on their bottoms with their legs and feet under the table in front of them. This is not only the “proper” way to sit, but it also helps to keep their floor and table clean. We show them how to eat over their plate so that any crumbs fall onto the plate rather than onto the floor. It usually doesn’t take long before they make the connection between eating over their plate, and less time spent cleaning up!
Although meals can be a social time, children are encouraged to focus on their food first and conversation second. Often, the adults will model this for the children by saying things like, “I would love to talk to you about that after I have finished my food” or telling them, “I am concentrating on eating right now, I’ll let you know when I’m available to hear that story”. If you find that your child can become easily distracted or take a very long time to eat their meals at home, try limiting conversation until the end of the meal and see if that seems to help. Sometimes it can be difficult for them to multitask eating and talking at this age.
At Fiore, we like to promote healthy, balanced nutrition. We ask that highly processed and sugary foods be saved for at home, if served at all. This includes yogurts with added sugar, chips, pretzels, gold fish, granola bars, sugary cereal, etc. Aim for whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains. Something that is so wonderful about our diverse community, is the variety of foods we see brought to school each day! Children have packed everything from calamari to dosa. However, simple lunches are great too! A fruit, a vegetable, and a sandwich is always a winning combo!
At Fiore, we also encourage a healthy relationship with food. In order to do this, we do not force or otherwise convince children to eat food if they are not hungry. Any food that your child does not eat will be packed back into their containers and sent home. We ask that parents please do not comment on how much or how little lunch your child has eaten each day. We want them to learn to follow their body’s signals to eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are full. If you notice that your child is often coming home with a lot of food left in their containers, consider sending in slightly less food or trying a different variety of foods. If you ever have a concern about your child’s appetite or food consumption, feel free to reach out to your child’s guide.
Because the children eat in the same space that they work, the clean up process after eating is very important! Don’t hesitate to involve your children in the clean up routine at home as well. Having designated spaces and tools for meal clean up can make a big difference in your child’s ability to follow this routine independently. Below is a sample clean-up process in a classroom. Feel free to use a similar one at home if you need some ideas!
Step 1. Clear plates. Children return any leftover food to their containers and any small bits or crumbs are scraped into our compost bin using their fork or spoon.
Step 2. Plates and utensils are placed into a bin.
Step 3. Children check their placemat and table for crumbs. If needed, they use a crumber (a tiny dustpan and brush meant for table tops) to sweep them up.
Step 4. Children retrieve a spray bottle containing a vinegar and water solution and a small towel and bring them to their tables. They spray and wipe their placemat before returning it to the storage bin for placemats.
Step 4. They use the same spray bottle and cloth to spray and wipe their table and chair.
Step 5. Children check the floor under and around their table and chair for any crumbs. They then use a dustpan and brush to sweep them up.
Step 6. Admire your clean space! :)
Does your meal time routine look similar or drastically different from the one at school? Are their ways to incorporate routine and order into mealtimes at home? Comment your experiences below!