Developing a Peaceful In-Class Mealtime for an Early Childhood Classroom
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Within the Early Childhood setting, mealtimes are often fraught with high-energy, time constraints, and reminders to “talk less and eat more.” However, traditionally, a meal is a calm, social event in which the participants share food in a relaxed atmosphere. In this study, in order to create a more collaborative and peaceful mealtime experience, the location for lunch consumption for eight Montessori students, ages four and five, was switched from the cafeteria to the classroom, thereby eliminating time constraints and diminishing distractions. Adaptations to the furnishings and the atmosphere were also put into effect: a size appropriate table designed for the students’ shorter stature, the pouring and passing of a glass water pitcher, and the use of plates instead of lunchboxes. The teacher also ate with the students so as to serve as a role model and participant, rather than just as a facilitator or supervisor. Observations were made before and after the location change to detect a potential increase in collaboration, conversation, and manners. These changes were charted through observation journals, checklists, and student interviews and then analyzed for results. The results showed that both the teacher and the students preferred lunch in the classroom and that there was an increase in mealtime manners, as well as concentration and collaboration. This suggests that interventions in the meal setting can positively affect the teacher’s and students’ attitude and behavior during and after a meal and that a peaceful, calm mealtime experience can be achieved with young children.