Tag Archives: eating

Coming to the Table

Admittedly, I was surprised to find myself sitting with a good-size group of interested and engaged parents last week for our adult educational offering geared towards developing an appreciation for healthy eating habits.  I’m not sure why… for generations food has connected communities.  Eating right supports not only our health physically and  cognitively, but also engages us cognitively, socially and emotionally.

Think back to the time when you were young.  Can you recall a favorite meal or dinner shared with family or friends?

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Take a moment to recall the details of that time.  Can you remember who was there?  What they were wearing?  Sounds?  Smells? and, of course, tastes?

Mine was in the kitchen of South Carolinian home with my grandparents who often wintered with us.  I recall my grandmother standing near the stove- my grandfather at the counter behind her.  “Stir the dough 200 times,” she would say.  He would count them off in Hungarian.  Just home from school, I sat at the kitchen table watching as she prepared my father’s favorite cookies- peanut butter.  As the end of the day approached, the kitchen filled with the smell of fresh baked cookies.  I can still see in my mind’s eye how my dad’s face lit up as a child’s when he caught the scent upon walking up the drive.

Few memories imprint on our memory more deeply than those experienced in early childhood.  Fewer, still, have more meaning that those surrounded by food.

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Consider the first born baby arriving completely dependent on others for survival.  Almost helpless in every other way,  the infant breast walks to her mother’s nipple, latching on.  Even her eyesight is limited- a newborn is only able to see from her mother’s bosom to her face facilitating attachment.  One might argue even that the attachment and bonding connection equal in importance to food, water, and shelter in one’s hierarchy of needs.

Maybe that was why the evening’s adult education class was so well received.

As we sipped on our wine and snacked on the offering of fruit and cheese, we shared some of our wishes for mealtimes together.  We shared a concern of the growing pressures facing parenting in the Information Age.  We questioned our ability to balance our child’s need for independence and our need to get the job done.  We wondered what to do when our child refuses to sit during meals.

And then we talked about all the wonderful things that transpire when we do all come together as a family to leisurely share our dinner, our day, our ideals.

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At the center, we share the same value of  a shared community meal. Inspired by  Slow Food, teacher and child come together daily to prepare and partake of an organic, minimally processed lunch.  As children learn to sit up on their own, grasp a spoon, or set a table, their involvement with the mid-day meal deepens, expectations adjust, and the environment changes in support of their growth and development.  From infancy through Kindergarten, we take the moments we nourish our bodies as an opportunity to refuel our relationships.  But it’s not always easy.

At school or at home, getting a child to come to the table and actively participate involves:

1. having the adults involved with mealtimes to come together first in defining their goals and expectations, remembering to revisit these ideas every so often as your child grows and develops,

2. defining the eating area- at every age, especially infants- and preparing the environment in a way that is comfortable and free from distractions for each of the members who will be sharing the experience together,

3. including the child in the preparation and transition of coming together at their developmental readiness, and most importantly by

4. cultivating within yourself a love and appreciation for the many ways food nourishes our body, minds and souls.

Just watch as these very young toddlers share a meal together with their primary Educarer.

When cultivated early, an appreciation of feeding our minds and souls while we nourish our bodies will serve as the foundation for your child’s future relationships with her body and with others.  These moments remain with us throughout our lives.

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Our favorite resources:

Super Baby Food, Ruth Yaron

Come to the Table: A Celebration of Family Life, Doris Christopher

These RIE Resources, Magda Gerber

Toddler Eating Issues, Janet Lansbury

Relationship Matters: Table Manners

I was inspired by a recent email exchange between our Head of School, Megan Nordoff, and a parent of a child enrolled in the Primary Community of MMPSchool. 

Hi Bev and John,
Thought I’d take a minute today to pass along some tidbits from this
week with Marcus.  He’s been very cheerful this week starting with
early Monday morning relaying to us that he went camping and slept on
the top.  He was excited that we had oranges for snack and asked if
they were his oranges from his birthday.  I told him Ms. Nicole
brought them from Florida- he ate 3!  He also said that his Pops is
in Florida.  Late he and a friend did the number rods together,
quantity and symbol 1-5.
On Tuesday, he recognized 4 on the clock and exclaimed, “I am 4!”
and then asked “Am I 4?” to which I let him know “Yes, you will be 4
for a year and then turn 5.”  He looked absolutely flabbergasted!  🙂
He worked with a friend for a little while matching beginning sounds
of objects to the right letter and then went off to climb.  He had to
wait his turn as another friend wanted to climb alone on the
structure.  Ms. Amy reminded him to wait upon the other friend’s
request and he was a little tiffed at Amy for about a minute (arms
crossed and eyebrows furrowed).  He came over to me and showed me her
face.  I asked him if he wanted to tell me something.  He told me
Ms. Amy wouldn’t let him climb.  I reiterated that he could climb
after the friend was finished- she wanted to be alone on the structure
to concentrate on balancing.   He relaxed, got busy with something
else and eventually went back to climbing later.Hope you are having a nice day and hope this sort of info is helpful
to you at home and in communication with the OT.MeganP.S. He was so excited today that he was able to hang his purple
jacket on the coat rack with no help at all!

Megan,
Thank you so very much for this feedback. This is so helpful exactly what we need and truly appreciate your time, courtesy and attention.Please continue to send these updates. We meet with the OT & ST on Weds. mornings.You mentioned on our conference that Marcus often has trouble staying seated at mealtimes. We consistently have the same behavior at home. When you have a moment, could you tell me how you “scaffold” with him in these situations? I want to be consistent with your methods.He seems to be having so much fun at school this week.Thank you for your continuing communication.With our best,
bev & john

Sent from my iPhone

Montessori Snack
Montessori Snack
Hi Bev,

At school he stays seated but if he gets up to get something or go to the bathroom he can get sidetracked not come back with prompting.  Meal times can be difficult because they are sensory-rich so keep this in mind and try to see it from his perspective when you set your expectations.  I would take a look at environmental details first:
* he should be seated comfortably, waist at the table with bare feet touching a surface is optimal
* soft lighting (stay away from fluorescent)
* background music can be a disturbance
* visual distractions on table? keep it as simple as possible
* consistency wherever possible: dishes, sequence, seating arrangement
* timing of meal: is he hungry when you sit down?  after school snacks? is he starting to get tired?
* length of meal?  adults will prefer to sit longer….at lunch he sits for about 20 minutes
* food being served
* his buy in: has he been able to contribute to the meal/experience?
* expectations?  before, during, after?  clear his own dishes, etc.
* conversation: is it pleasant for him?
At school he is expected to take his dishes and scrape and wash his plate after he is finished.  This marks the end of the meal and the child does not return to the table to continue eating after this.  As they master caring for their own dishes then their desire to help expands to assisting with clearing the table and cleaning up the whole room for the next part of the day.   We are currently scaffolding Marcus with staying on task and completing the transition from getting up from the table, scraping, washing and leaving the sink.  He doesn’t complain about it but can get distracted and wanders away before finishing.
Just be sure that whatever limits you set that you’re prepared to stick with and follow through.  At the end of the day it is usually better to lower the expectations slightly since everyone is tired- otherwise you won’t be able to stay consistent on a daily basis.
Megan

Thank you for this, Megan! 
I followed your advice at breakfast & it went (almost 😉 very smoothly.
Very helpful.
Hi Bev,
I’ve been meaning to ask you.  I think this question from you regarding meal time is a pretty common one.  Would you be ok if I changed the names and shared it with others via our BLOG?
Megan

Of course!Sent from my iPhone

Metacognition and Time to Eat

METACOGNITION – my new favorite word!

I love all three of its components as described by my trusty Wikipedia:

  1. Metacognitive knowledge (also called metacognitive awareness) is what individuals know about themselves and others as cognitive processors.
  2. Metacognitive regulation is the regulation of cognition and learning experiences through a set of activities that help people control their learning.
  3. Metacognitive experiences are those experiences that have something to do with the current, on-going cognitive endeavor.
Every time I find myself trying to understand children and their full potential- I am amazed by what I see.