Question: Are progressive meal times a good idea? How do we know if it’s right for our service?
Start small to see if it works for you
Whatever your service type, progressive meals are a wonderful way for children to have more choice and freedom in the program. Mealtimes are also a way for children to connect – smaller groups can provide more opportunities to share aspects of their home lives, talk about interests, support self-help skills and develop an understanding of healthy eating.
If the right structures aren’t in place, progressive meal times can be challenging. For example, what if there aren’t enough staff to make the experience safe and meaningful? Will it impact children’s needs, programming or schedules (for example, break times or the cook’s rostered hours)? Does the design of the space allow you to have progressive meals and supervise children who are not eating?
If you’re feeling unsure, start small. Try having one progressive meal per day. Have children choose when they’d like to eat within a set time frame. Make sure to keep track of who hasn’t eaten yet and give them gentle reminders along the way.
Ensure everyone on your team understands the benefits of progressive meals and why you want to explore them at the service. Make notes about how the children respond to trial runs. What worked, what didn’t? Who was impacted and in what way? Make changes where necessary.
Remember, the key question to ask here is are our mealtimes relaxed, unhurried and reflective of the needs of the children? Then you’ll have your answer.
Consultant, Community Child Care Association