Monday, October 15, 2012

Family Style Dining in Preschool: Why It's Important

During the first few weeks of school, the children have been getting used to all of the new routines and expectations that are part of going to preschool. One of my favorite, and also one of the most important, routines we are establishing is family style dining.

What is Family Style Dining?

With family style dining, children are responsible for setting the table, helping to get snacks and meals ready, serving themselves at the table, and cleaning up when they are finished eating. At first this may seem like a lot to ask of preschool-aged children, but it is surprising how much young children are capable of and how much they enjoy being part of the entire meal experience. Of course the teachers are also there to help out and encourage whenever necessary.

The Benefits of Family Style Dining

When children participate in family stye dining, they learn:

- How to take turns as they pass the food around the table
-To share when they realize that everyone gets some of the food being served
-Table manners as they watch the teachers sitting properly, saying "please" and "thank you," passing the food, etc.
-Healthy eating habits when the teachers lead a discussion about the food they are eating
-Self-help skills as they take responsibility for their own food needs
-How to clean up after themselves

Family style dining also gives children the opportunity to practice important skills such as:

-Small motor skills when they scoop and pour
-Counting as they count out the appropriate number of crackers, apples, etc.
-One-to-one correspondence when they set the table 
-Conversation skills when everyone at the table talks about the food, what they did during the day, etc. 

When children participate in family style dining, they gain a sense of accomplishment as they realize that they can pour their own milk and scoop their own cereal. They gain self-confidence and become more independent when they are able to do these things on their own.

In my next blog post, I will explain and show how we do family style dining at Aspen Leaf Preschool.

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