In all the rooms at ABC Day Nursery, table manners are encouraged. The Adventurers are our youngest children and early table manners here are their first steps! Meal times is an important routine for our Adventurers children, important in building routines by setting rules and boundaries. Teaching table manners helps children enjoy their food, interact with the people around them, try new foods and help them to become polite and courteous in later life.
Promoting Early Table Manners
Daily routines give children a repetition of routine, making it easier to learn. Doing the same thing every day helps their understanding of learning how to be polite and how to participate.
In the Adventurers, there is a list of things we do to promote manners and some things you can do at home that might help!
- The children eat at the same time, doing the same meal time routine daily to practise repetition. We even have story time routinely before lunchtime which helps relax children and notify them mealtime is coming.
Try setting a routine at home. Make mealtimes important and keep it short and achievable.
- They eat in a different room from where they play.
Different locations can be useful in helping children understand when and where they eat. This can promote understanding and willingness to routines.
- The staff sit the children at a non restrictive table and chair to promote independence and the feeling of “wanting to be at the table.”
High chairs can be restrictive for children. Instead of leaving them in one alone, sit with them at a small table and chair! If you don’t have a suitable table or space for one at home, check out this small foldable table and chair.
- They sit at the table with their peers to encourage social interaction with an adult at each table so they can be helped if they need it.
Life can be busy, but take the time to sit down and eat your food whilst your child eats theirs.
- The staff encourage patient waiting whilst the children take turns to receive their food.
Highlight the importance of patience. Sit them down first before serving their food ready.
- The staff will start the meal feeding the children first. They role model by using the cutlery so the children can attempt themselves after.
Try to feed your child first using the cutlery so they know how to and want to attempt themself after. Don’t force them if they start to use their hand after a while, this is expected for a 1-2 year old. Once they grow older, introduce cutlery and model use.
- The staff encourage children to try all foods and give positive praise when they do. Sometimes pudding works a charm for encouragement!
Positive reinforcement and praise helps children feel encouraged. Use open ended questions such as “What food are you going to try next?” and positive phrases like “Well done for trying your vegetables.”
- We do not force the children to eat all of the food if they do not like it.
“You can’t leave the table until you’ve cleared your plate” is an outdated view. If your child tries their food, but doesn’t like it, do not force them to eat it all. This will create a negative relationship with food and mealtimes.
Trying New Foods
At ABC Day Nursery, our menu is very varied and an exciting range of food is offered to our children. The same food every day might bore your child and disencourage their table manners. Go bold and creative with the choices you give your child, even if you think it’s unsuitable, you could be surprised!
The Adventurers children took part in a food testing activity to try out the 5 food groups, sweet, savoury, bitter, sour and salty. This encouraged them to take risks, be brave and try things they wouldn’t normally try.
The first food was a piece of savoury cheese. Cheese is an all time favourite and the children loved it.
Next came a bitter lemon, at first the Adventurers were sceptical. Some of the older children tried a bite and their reactions were priceless!
Salty pretzels are a new favourite! All of the children tried these and they couldn’t get enough.
Bitter olives came next and there were mixed reactions to these! Some of the Adventurers tried, one of the children kept putting it in and out of her mouth unsure whether she liked it or not!
To finish off were sweet strawberries. A delicious treat! Some of the Adventurers cleared the bowl on these ones!
This activity helped us notice that children will be brave with new foods, so you should always try. Remember, just because you might not like it, doesn’t mean they won’t. Never presume!
It’s also very important to not give them something different to what the adults at the table are having. Children will be less inclined to eat their food if it’s different to yours.
When trying new foods, make sure the food at least touches the child’s lips! Be patient and calm and don’t give up!
In the Adventurers, our children are young, but they are receptive! We hope some of these tips will help you at home! The Spring sunshine is out and we’ve put together a list of reasons to get outside. Check it out here!
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