Serving meals to preschool children can be challenging. The daily schedule can easily get away from you through unexpected interruptions, spending more time than planned on an exciting activity, sick children, or some of the many accidents that occur in busy classrooms. As a result, mealtimes often get pushed to the side as just one of the daily routines necessary to get through the day.
But we should still be thoughtful to include high-quality interactions at mealtimes for many reasons. First, is that with our nation’s high obesity rates, the emphasis on nutrition and healthy choices is growing. Secondly, we know that many families are busy and mealtimes are often sacrificed at home.
Finding ways to engage children during mealtime as a relaxing and important interaction of each day matters! That’s why I’m here to discuss how you can include the CLASS dimension of Instructional Learning Formats (ILF) while children eat.
So, you might wonder, “How do I do this if I’m already so busy?” Well, I’ve got just the recipe for you.
I don’t know about you, but I love it when I already have the ingredients for a recipe in my pantry. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that every teacher has all of the ingredients at their fingertips!
Mix together high-quality amounts of:
- Effective Facilitation
- Sit with the children
- Model appropriate mealtime behaviors
- Ask questions about their day
- Encourage children to plan together for what comes next
- Share stories
- Variety of modalities and materials
- Talk about the day’s food as it is passed around the table
- Have the children serve themselves and then pass the dish to the next child
- Ask the children to smell and taste the meal
- Sing a song to begin the meal together
- Student Interest
- Have children participate in the preparation of mealtime
- Give students responsibility for set-up and cleanup
- Ask questions about what they are eating
- Ask children to share their knowledge about the importance of eating a variety of foods
- Clarity of learning objectives
- Use advanced organizing statements such as: “We are going to pass the vegetables and chicken around the table. When everyone has some of everything on their plate, we will sing our song and eat together.”
- If children get off track, reorient them with reminders to continue passing the food and to take turns talking listening and eating
- Ask questions to bring them back to mealtime focus.
Healthy Benefits of Serving ILF
Including ILF on the daily menu is beneficial in transforming mealtime from a routine part of the day into an opportunity to support children’s development both emotionally and cognitively. From comparing and classifying the meal to supporting social skills and building relationships, serving up ILF at every meal is a tasty idea!