Having children serve themselves makes many providers uneasy. “So much food is wasted.” “What if one child takes everything?” “There is more mess.” I often hear these comments when talking with fellow providers.
Their concerns were my concerns when I first thought about family style dining. Self-serving at meal time is a skill which needs to be taught. We start with one item to self-serve and pitcher of milk at the shorter toddler table. At the larger table for the older children, we place all the meal components. Over time the children are able to regulate how much they serve and less food is wasted. In the long run, family style dining makes meal time easier for providers and more fun for everyone!
What do children learn from family style dining? The answer is SO MUCH! Children practice their math skills as they count the number of apple slices or scoops of peas they place on their plate. Social skills are practiced as they ask each other to pass the milk, interact in conversation, and practice table manners. They practice gross and fine motor skills as they lift the pitcher of milk and grip their utensils.
Another skill learned is INDEPENDENCE! After the children are finished, they clear up. It helps promote their self-esteem, confidence, and problem solving skills. It’s hard work navigating around the chairs as they carry plates and cups.
Having children be self sufficient at this task is a huge help to the staff at meal time.
I encourage everyone to work towards family style dining!
Here are a few resources to learn more about family style dining.