Mealtimes with two-year-olds

Mealtimes with twos

Mealtimes with twos can be tricky. There are so many challenges: safety, hygiene, noise and mess. Then there's learning to eat properly, to respect others’ space and to stay at the table. I recall an unforgettable day when a little chap suddenly overturned his bowl onto his head like a hat. My colleague sighed, “What’s come over you?” and he answered happily: “Pudding!”

Here are some tips from my years with twos:

  1. Keep a positive attitude! Don’t rush. Mealtimes should be happy social occasions. Sing as you prepare the space and as you help children get washed and seated. Twos need to know what to expect – one reason the same staff should sit with the same children each day. If the meal starts with some small ritual, children learn about waiting for each other. I always began with a familiar song or nursery rhyme, which they joined in.
  2. If children arrive at the table with a healthy appetite, they learn to enjoy most kinds of food, which should be attractively prepared. Offer everyone a tiny portion to start with. Whilst serving, talk about the food, where it came from and how it was cooked or make up simple stories. If you keep your voice quiet, children respond in kind, keeping the mealtime peaceful. It’s obvious when a child has had enough, at which one of the team helps him or her wash up and move to other activities.
  3. The physical set-up is important. You need a sink nearby and a washable floor so it’s easy to deal with spills, and you’ll want a table shaped so the adult can reach every child. Keep a trolley with any necessary dishes and condiments, so there’s no need to jump up to get things during the meal.

Twos love to help wipe the tables and chairs – although this prolongs the process, their “help” must be encouraged. The whole experience of meal and clean-up can build community in the nursery.

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