Why is it important for children’s meal times to be relaxed and unhurried? * If children feel anxious, stressed, or rushed they may lose their appetite, and their bodies won’t absorb the nutrients from the food as effectively.
* When meal times are relaxed and unhurried children will be able to enjoy their meal and possibly eat more, and develop a good relationship with food.
* It allows for bonding time with carers and other children.
* An unhurried meal times provide a time to socialise and a time for the children to share their thoughts and feelings.
* When meal times are relaxed and the carers sit with the children it provides another opportunity to learn.
* Allows time to cater to slow or fussy eaters, and to provide other choices if need be.
* It will allow carers to see the eating habits of each child and provide a deeper understanding of the children, their likes and dislikes.
* When meal times are unhurried, children have a chance to be involved; to get their own plates, placemats, drinks and utensils, or to help serve food and set the tables.
* Children will also be able to finish at their own pace and help to clean up; by scrapping their plates and putting dirty dishes on the trolley or dirty dishes bucket.
* It may stop children from over eating. Eating to quickly may mean that they eat more then they need to. And also if they are rushed they may not get time to eat their fill.
* If a transition time between play and meal times is included the children will be able to wind down enough to focus on and enjoy their meal or snack.
* Carers will be able to sit with the children and role model.
* Carers will have time to help develop and encourage healthy eating habits, patterns and a positive attitude towards food.
* Carers will be able to supervise children more effectively, and by doing so will be able to see how much each child is eating. If a child has not had a lot they may need to be offered a snack sooner than the other children, it may also be an indicator that the child doesn’t like the food, or that they may be becoming ill.
* Habits formed in early childhood can last a life time, providing enjoyable, unhurried, unrushed mealtimes helps children build a sound foundation for a good relationship with food throughout their lives.
* Meal times provide a good opportunity to talk with children about different foods, such as sometimes foods and everyday foods. It’s also a good time to talk with the children about why we need to eat, and what our bodies get out of different foods. When meal times are unhurried, it is more likely that there will be time for these conversations to take place. And this will help children gain a deeper understanding of their own physical needs.
List four things you could do to promote a pleasant meal time atmosphere? * Let children know that meal or snack time is approaching and have a flexible routine. Transition children from play to meal times in an unhurried manner, allowing them time to wind down so they can enjoy their meal. Don’t expect children to sit at the table and wait for their meal. Make sure the timing is right before you start the transition.
* Make the meal time setting inviting, use table cloths, personalised placemats, and real (not plastic) child sized cutlery, plates/bowls/cups and place flowers on the table. The children can help collect flowers before the transition to meal time begins.
* Have the children involved in meal time preparations, let them get their own placemat, cutlery and serve their own portion, or have helpers to help set up and serve. This will not only allow the children to be involved and gain independence skills but will also allow the carers more time to supervise and interact with the children. The children can also be involved in cleaning up after meal times; by scrapping their plates and putting dirty dishes on the trolley....
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