Teaching Children That Mealtimes Are Valuable
Teaching Children That Mealtimes Are Valuable
Jayne Green is a childminder in New Basford, central Nottingham. She minds a mixture of pre-school and school aged children at different times of the day, all year round.
Jayne has raised her own children to understand that mealtimes are important, a time to share the day with each other as well as sharing one big meal together, and that food is important and not be rushed while distracted by other things like TV and other activities. Jayne is trying to bring this philosophy to the meals her minded children share in her home.
The children eat at her dining table and share a single meal. Jayne cooks a large batch of one family meal at the quietest part of the day, and her minded children have the first serving, with her own family eating the same food later in the evening.
Jayne tries to cook food with a variety of serving styles to enable the children to practice different skills. Self assembly meals such as wraps, which help the children to practice their food preparation skills. Food pre-plated in the kitchen to give children the chance to try foods which they would not choose for themselves. Self service meals where children learn to take small amounts at first and come back for seconds rather than taking large helpings and perhaps wasting lots of food.
Jayne tries to cater to children's preferences without pandering to fussiness. Without ever forcing a child to eat, she insists gently and without bullying that children should try small bites of foods and see if they like them. When children don't like a new food she accepts that and praises them for trying it. When children turn out to like a food they were reticent about trying, she makes a positive fuss and reminds them of this the next time they are reluctant. When children seem to have a genuine and consistent dislike of a food she leaves it off their plate for a reasonable time to show respect for their opinion and then brings the food back for another try at a later date.
Jayne tries to broaden children's palates without frightening them. An example would be her spicy potato wedges. For older children she dusts the oven baked wedges with cajun spices. Her younger children would find this too spicy and might be put off spicy food if they had an unpleasant experience, so instead she dusts their wedges with paprika, which has the same appearance but is much milder. The children therefore don't think they are getting 'special meals' or 'finicky food' and Jayne is able to gradually increase the amount of hotter spices on their wedges and mature their spice palate without overwhelming them.
Living in a very ethnically diverse city gives Jayne ample opportunity to source ingredients for foods from different communities and cultures. West Indian and Asian ingredients are easy to buy locally and Jayne also tries to serve European foods. Again she begins with easily accepted foods so that their introduction to a new type of food is smooth and they have confidence in trying it again. These foods also give children a chance to experiment with new ways of eating such as chopsticks and flatbreads. This add to the more usual skills they practice daily of using cutlery as well as their age allows, and passing sauces and tools politely and sharing their stories with each other.
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