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Creating a ritual around meal time


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Hello everyone and welcome to our next edition of 10 at 10.

My name is Leeza Browne and I am the early childhood teacher and owner here at Platinum Education. We believe it really does take a village to raise a child and it's part of our role to work alongside families, for the best outcomes for their children.

We are going to be continuing on with our tradition of rituals and talk about the creating a ritual around Mealtimes.

Recently on the TV show The Block, there was a bit of controversy around having a dining table in the home. There was actually an argument with the judges and they used the point that no one uses a dining table anymore and this was the reason they had decided not to put a dining table in their living area, as they felt that it was no longer necessary, and that people now prefer to eat on the lounge.

I don't know about you, but when I heard this, I felt quite sad, I remember. As a child, maybe not every night as a child, but I have particularly fond memories of traditional Sunday night dinners with my family around the dining table. 

But apparently only one out of four families nowadays, are not even using the dining table.

I would like to challenge you to think about your meal times and start to create a ritual around them, and it may look different for each one of you, depending on your household.

 At Platinum Education, we believe that mealtimes play an important role in building relationships, coming together as a family, and having the important conversations with your child. As our goal is not only to set children up for school but to also prepare them for life.

In our previous article on sleeping, we introduced the concept of rituals, a ritual is doing the same thing for the same situations, so that they are predictable. It does not necessarily mean that they need to be at the same time every day, just the same process.

I truly believe in this quote and I say it to my team all the time. It's by Maria Montessori and she said, “our job is done when the children no longer need us”. What it means is that we need to set up all the rituals of the day, and having these predictable rituals, so that your children feel empowered to do it for themselves. Once a child has mastered a skill, it becomes apart of them and they can make room to learn something new.

So at Platinum Education, this is really important part of our day. focusing on mealtimes so that every child helps our community to function, and are involved in all aspects of our day.

Before lunch, the children make their own beds, we turn down the lights, and turn quiet rest music is on. Then, children set the table focusing on counting how many bowls or forks we need. Children wash their hands. Children serve themselves food focusing on portion sizes.

Children are brave, as they are encouraged to try new and different foods. Part of our ritual is having meal times in small groups so everyone can be involved in meaningful conversations. During this time we have a lot of discussions about their interests, dislikes and ideas. We never know what's going to be raised. 

Children are also encouraged to take turns and help each other by passing the bowls. And then each child checks in with the educator to make sure that they have eaten enough, and asked to scrape their bowl. They then scrape the leftovers in the bucket for our chickens, they wash their dishes, go to the toilet and hop onto their beds for rest time. Children even help to clean up the area for their next friend. So this is our lunchtime ritual it happens the same way every single day. 

So the first thing I would like you to think about is how your child is involved in your mealtimes at home. So let's focus around dinner time. So depending on their age, it is really important to involve them in different skills to further their independence.

Some examples of how they could help are;
- They could they help prepare the meal at home by cooking and getting the ingredients for you, measuring them out.
- They could help set the table and count how many plates you need, how many spoons, how many forks.
- Could they serve themselves. Whilst this is messy. This is so empowering for a child to choose how much is added onto their plate.
- Can they scrape their plate, take it to the sink, wash their dishes.

There's so many more things they can do.

The second thing I'd like to introduce is a series of questions to ask your children to check in. So choose about three each evening to cover, here are some examples you might ask your family;

1. What are you grateful for?
2. What did you learn about yourself today?
3. What is something that you are scared of right now?
4. What is something you've learned that you are excited about?
5. What did you fail that today?  (my favourite question)

I feel like there needs to be more emphasis put on when we don't achieve something because it means they gave it a go. And I feel we need to celebrate that a lot more.

"Failure is simply an opportunity - no one is perfect, that's why pencils have erasers, it means they tried, and they can simply try again tomorrow"

So the purpose is that each person takes a turn to speak and everyone else listens, without distractions so pop your phones away and turn the TV off. Make sure there are no distractions and choose a series of three questions to ask your family every night over the dinner table, and there you'll be surprised there are so many different things that come up.

What's really interesting is that families that have already implemented these questions, whenever they have guests come over for dinner their child initiates and asks the guests, the same questions because its part of their natural family ritual.

As your children get older. It is a beautiful way to continue to stay connected with your child, and solidify your relationship. And how amazing that you can start building on these habits so early in their lives, and that you can carry it with them and pass it on to their family. 

Thirdly, I would like you to consider what is important to you in your household around mealtimes and add these to into your ritual and make it a commitment. So you may even want to involve your child when discussing this commitment. For example, here at Platinum Education;
- it's important to us that children try at least every food item. 
- It is important to us that children are sitting down when they are eating.
- And it is also important to us that we pass on table manners and portion sizes. So, every child lets us know when they are finished, and asked if they can scrape their bowl.

 In summary, 
1. How is your child involved in dinner time?
2. Use a set of questions to stay connected with your child,
3. Create agreements with what is important to you and your family around meal time.

So if you have any tips with what has worked for you and your family regarding meal times and how you involve your children, and use this time to connect we would love to hear from you.

We encourage you to share this article with someone, you think might benefit.

Until next time, my name is Leeza Browne and I'm sending you your weekly reminder to Make Every Moment Count.


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