Mealtimes are an important part of the day for children, enabling them to build on all areas of their development.
Mealtimes give children the opportunity to build on their physical development, strengthening their fine and gross motor skills. Manipulating cutlery can support children to develop fine motor skills; as the child grows they will begin to use their fingers in a pincer grip, gaining better control. Children will require this skill in order to control a pencil for handwriting. Gross movements are also supported through mealtimes; children can practise and develop these through self service. It is a great idea to let children serve themselves, water jugs and large serving spoons will support children in gaining independence and control over their larger movements.
Children are very sociable individuals, creating chances for interaction at every opportunity. Mealtimes can be hectic but it is important to enable children to talk to their friends and express themselves. Children should be encouraged to build on their social skills whilst eating. Offering food and drink to the children gives plenty of opportunity for children to use their manners, take part in conversations and express their thoughts and feelings. Children are able to use mealtimes to learn what is socially acceptable such as sharing food, saying thank you and waiting for others before starting to eat. This will support them in making solid relationships through life.
Communication and Language
Language development can be fully supported at the dinner table, building vocabulary and encouraging children to use their language to make requests or comments. Many children will learn a great deal of their first words through mealtimes. Single words such as “yes”, “no” and “more” are a selection of the first words that children tend to learn and use. Dinner time gives children the ability to practise using single words and begin to join single words together to make requests such as “more carrot.”
Understanding of the world
Mealtimes provide a foundation for adults and children to talk about the world around them. The food offered at mealtimes can support children in thinking about the world, where different foods come from and how they look, feel, smell and taste. Mealtimes enable children to see similarities and differences between themselves and their friends, through food preferences. A range of foods from different cultures will also expand the children’s learning about others and different communities.