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Shifting frames of mind on lunchtimes

How do you offer children lunch at your service? Do you offer it in the traditional way where all children sit together or have you changed your practice to adopt the 'progressive' approach to mealtimes in your service? Do you offer lunch in a different way to the approach you take for morning tea?

What are your intentional teaching objectives for mealtimes and have you done any research to support your decision?

Carla Rinaldi believes that the only way we can uphold children’s rights is through a permanent process of research. ‘We began to reflect about lunch, about what it means in our culture, to think psychologically on the subject. But we were also very careful to take into consideration the observations made by teachers and the first photographic images which showed how the children behaved during lunch. In fact, the images and notes which were taken highlighted how lunch for the children was first and foremost for socialising and how they were capable of being independent if they were helped to value their own competencies’ (Rinaldi, 2006, p.78).

 It is vital for educators within teams to critically reflect on any new or ‘trendy’ practice being touted in social media and marketing campaigns to make decisions with children’s rights at the forefront of the mind.

Perhaps you could use some of the following critical reflection questions to guide your thinking?

  • What are the acoustics like during mealtimes?
  • Is the space welcoming and personal?
  • Do you use large tables or smaller tables?
  • Do you use table mats or tablecloths to adorn your tables? Why or why not?
  • If tables are ‘set’, who sets them? Is this a learning experience?
  • Do you think mealtimes are a ritual that supports the development of relationships between children and adults and children and children?
  • Does the design of your mealtime practice enable you to track how much each child is eating accurately?
  • Are children distracted by other experiences in a progressive lunch paradigm?
  • Is it ok to have expectations about a child’s participation in mealtime ritual, or do you think it is a breach of agency?
  • What do you and your service value?

 Critically reflective practice occurs when educators ask themselves these kinds of questions.  

Let’s make 2020 a year to challenge and diffuse the dominant discourse on mealtimes. Let’s become pedagogical sceptics and rethink our practices with intentionality and children’s rights as our compass.

 Reference:  Rinaldi, C. (2016).  In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia:  Listening, researching and learning.  Routledge.

Kerrie O'Neill, 2020.