Meals and snack times play an important part in the development of the children at Rainbow Smiles. Within the setting the approach is to reinforce and further develop skills that have been introduced from preceding areas, e.g. Pre-School will continue and further develop the personal hygiene focus that was introduced in the Toddler area, where the children learn to wash their hands before a meal, and wash their hands and face after a meal.
As mealtimes are a group activity, it provides the practitioners with opportunities to further develop social skill, e.g. teaching manners. This approach is consistent throughout the whole of the setting, with each area of the nursery focussing on its own developmental goals for the children. Hence within the ground floor there is no differentiation between the process of snack and meal times, however, there is a difference in focus between the baby and toddler area. The objective within the baby area is to integrate them into a group environment, whereas the toddler area concentrates on developing their social skills.
Mealtimes also provide a perfect opportunity to develop the children’s own sense of independence, as within the Toddler area, the children are encouraged to self-feed. This process is then further developed in Pre-School by encouraging the children to self-serve as well as undertake additional tasks, e.g. buttering their own bread. Children’s independence is further developed within Pre-School as snack time is a free flow process, which allows the child to decide whether they would like a snack. Quite often the children will also learn to wait their turn, as snacks are not served as formally as meals are.
Both meal and snack times are used as an opportunity to develop the children’s language. Within the Toddler area Nursery Rhymes are regularly sung as a group to keep the children occupied, whilst the meal is being served. This also provides the opportunity for children to express themselves as they are encouraged to carry out the actions to the rhymes. Reading stories are used as an alternative to singing, as it provides a means in which to capture the children’s attention and develop their language.
Within the Pre-School area the emphasis is much more on talking about the meal itself, thereby developing the children’s vocabulary, whilst also extending their knowledge. Name cards at the dining tables help the Pre-Schoolers with their literacy development.