Meal time at Lifeways has a unique rhythm which helps keep the children focused and happy as they move through the day. This assists the children in their transition to and from meal time while guiding them through their dining experience.
While the lunchtime meal is still being prepared, some of the older children will accompany a caregiver to the dining area to help set the tables. This gives the children the chance to get a peek into the kitchen and see how their meal is prepared. The children get to come in early and set out the silverware and dishes at each spot at the three tables with the caregiver. This activity has been molded into the daily rhythm and the children really seem to enjoy helping and take pride in their work. It helps transition the children into meal time and they are rewarded with a story on the couch after they finish setting up the tables. When the rest of the children come into the dining area they join their friends who had been setting up for lunch and see they have already taken off and hung up their coats and put on their slippers, which is a helpful hint that it is time for everyone to do the same. This eases the transition into meal time which can be chaotic with everyone all together hanging up their coats and changing into their slippers all at once.
After everyone has changed their shoes and hung up their coats they make their way to the tables where they sit in the same spot every day with very little change. It can be frustrating for the children if someone else is sitting in "their spot" and can complicate their transition to meal time and getting to the table. The children feel more comfortable if they get to sit in the same place and have the same view of the space every day. This makes the table more inviting and makes the transition to sitting down for lunch easier. Once everyone is together all join hands and sing our blessing to give thanks for the food we are about to enjoy.
Earth who gives to us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Sun above and Earth below
To you our loving thanks we show.
Blessings on our meal and Peace on Earth.
The children really enjoy singing the blessing and put their energy into it, especially with the thunderous "yay!" that erupts after the blessing is sung. When the children sing the blessing they know that it is meal time and this helps prepare them to be sitting at the table for a long period of time. Many children tend to lose focus when something interesting catches their eye or their ear and the blessing focuses their attention onto their food and the others sitting near them. The meal is followed by another blessing that gathers the children and prepares them for the transition into the kitchen to help with the clean-up.
For health and strength and daily bread
We give our thanks today.
The final portion of the meal time consists of the children gathering their dishes and bringing them to the kitchen. Some of the children will stack all of their dishes and carry them to the kitchen all at once, but most like to take a few trips. This is where some of the children create their own rhythm, bringing their dishes separately but in a specific order each time. By keeping with the order they create they can more easily remember to bring all of their dishes, knowing which one is the final dish they need to bring for their job to be complete. Once they have brought all of their dishes the children sit down in the kitchen and wait for their turn to be called up and wash their dish. Some children really enjoy climbing up the step ladder and being perched at the sink with the big sink full of fun bubbles and lots of water. They scrub their dishes clean and usually hang out for a moment to take in the view before climbing down and drying their hands to get ready for nap. The children are great helpers and the task of washing their dishes focuses their attention when they are surrounded by their friends in a small space. This activity fills the gap between lunch and nap time and makes the transition to nap time a little easier.
Meal time has a specific rhythm that keeps the children focused and engaged and gets them through their meal. The meal is very hands-on for the children and eases their transition from play time to nap time. The older children are given more responsibilities which they enjoy and this gives them the opportunity to be role models while easing their transition from outside play to meal time. The blessings said before and after the meal focus their attention and prepare them for their next transition of the day. By participating in washing their dishes all of the children are given a sense of responsibility while focusing their minds on a task as they transition from lunch to nap time. This rhythm makes the day away from mommies and daddies much more tolerable while providing an interactive meal experience which keeps the children involved in the kitchen.