Mmm Cherries!

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Is there a better way to incorporate seasonal celebrations than picking seasonal fruit? Yum!

Snack Time Part 2

Technology and Enterprise

I’ve already written about my use of kitchen gadgets. Both the preparation and consumption of food can involve learning the appropriate and safe use of tools. It is great for children to be able to prepare and their own food. It even helps hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skill!

Dealing with Meals

Having my children at home means that by necessity we eat at home more often too. And that means a different type of work from making school lunches. I wanted to share some of the things that have worked for us. As usual, Your mileage may vary.

What doesn’t work for us is leaving it free for all, all day long without specific meals for a plan in my head for what we are going to eat. I am sure some people work well with that, but when we do it, it results in a great deal of mess, dishes that could cause an avalanche and children who have eaten nothing all day but apples! So we gave that one up.

 LUNCHBOXES

Sometimes we do this even if we are going to be home. Sometimes it works. 😉 Lunchboxes allow us to have a variety of foods ready, so my boys eat protein and salad and complex carbs. I can include lots of things that they enjoy but might not necessarily think to eat on their own. Lunch boxes have saved us in the early babydaze, or when I am unwell,  since DH can do them in the morning and they are all sorted for the day.

The down side of lunch boxes is that sometimes my older two would eat the most interesting bits out of them and then spend a lot of time complaining about what was left.

COLOUR CO-ORDINATING

I’m not going to lie. This is one of those things I never thought I would do. Who wants to be stuck with the specific colour all the time? Then there is the colour battles when a certain colour isn’t available. BUT as the children and sleep deprivation have both increased, and the workload too, I have discovered why generations of mothers have done it. It makes life simpler. It’s much easier to omit disliked, or reactive food items from specific plates, dramatically reduces washing up, and makes clean up much easier. I am amazed at how much more happily my children respond when I can remind them specifically that they haven’t yet put their plate on the sink, instead of generally pronouncing that someone hasn’t put their plate away.  It even makes it easier to repackage uneaten food too! Morning tea fruit can be put in the fridge on the colour coded plate and then just put next to lunch’s sandwiches. And my children love it. Go figure!

LEFTOVERS

Leftovers from the night before do make great lunches, but think broader. Children can be somewhat wasteful sometimes, and while I am not going to be draconian about that, I do want to minimise it as much as possible. So I try to reuse leftovers. The colour coding makes this fairly easy. And if you are a little creative, it doesn’t feel like leftovers! Best tip from my mum: Uneaten fruit can often be chopped and quickly stewed for a breakfast topping, ‘desert’ or even snack.  Lots of other foods can be ‘repackaged’ by adding a sprinkle of cheese, or putting it in a sandwich, serving it over plain pasta, or on a cracker. Ta-da!

EAT OUTSIDE

Call it a picnic. Just take out the mess with you. Don’t forget to bring the plates back in (See colour coding).

SERVE YOURSELF

Self serve really draws children in. Primus will serve himself (and eat) more salad than I would ever get away with! Autonomy is SO important. Remember that dishing up what you will actually eat is a pretty complex skill and one even adults get wrong. And don’t forget all the fine motor skills and social learning that takes place!

RHYTHMIC MEAL TIMES

Everyone’s rhythm is different, but I found it was really important for me to notice and prepare for the ‘hungry times’. For example, I found that  my children would often be starving an hour before dinner, eat a pile of fruit (because I was distracted trying to cook), then not be hungry come mealtime. Then they were waking up starving during the night or in the early morning. The solution has been to offer a substantial snack about an hour before they were eating. Bingo! No energy crash!

GET LOTS OF IDEAS AND EXPERIMENT

I haven’t got it all figured out and even if I did, what works for us might not work for you. Just try it and see. And I am always open to good ideas, so share yours with me.

Snack time: Part 1

I consider snack time part of our educational programme. 😉 Ignore for the moment that it is necessary and fun – when these things happen in the classroom it goes on the teacher’s plan, why couldn’t it be part of yours? ‘Food Curriculum’ is an easy way to incorporate other learning. Here are some ideas for two Key Learning Areas. Food is such an important part of human culture that there is little it doesn’t touch, and you will easily think of more to add. (When you do, let me know!)

Health and Physical Education

Yes, healthy eating, but what about interpersonal skills? Mealtimes and snacks provide a fantastic opportunity for modeling manners and etiquette.

Montessori theory talks about Grace and Courtesy lessons, and teaches them explicitly but not at point of need. We do this usually by talking about manners, but not when a child fails to use manners, but beforehand. Then we model, model, model. I am aiming for my children to use manners not to get treats, but because they want to. To me, manners aren’t about codes or ‘magic words’.  Manners are just about conventional ways of showing another person we respect them as a human being.

But that’s probably a whole different post, so moving on. 🙂

The Social Sciences (aka Society and Environment or Social Studies)

The Little City Kids curriculum has some really interesting ways to incorporate snack time into learning about a particular topic – albeit heavy on the sugar sometimes.  Our jelly layers were a fun way to demonstrate stratigraphy in the ground.

Dino Layer Jelly

One of my favourite lessons I did as a teacher involved making an edible (ice cream) model of a comet, and as a Guide Leader I have made working edible aquifers.  (Which reminds me, I haven’t done either of those with my children yet…)

Food is invaluable in the study of culture. As a basic human need all societies must find a way to meet that need, so food provides a great bridge between cultures and a wonderful way to demonstrate diversity and similarity. This is an important concept in Montessori, which prides itself on being education for peace.

Cultural cuisine is a fairly obvious inclusion here, but it is fun! What about ancient foods?  Did you know the Minoans grew poppies? What a great excuse for orange and poppy-seed cake!

The use of culturally appropriate eating tools, like chopsticks, or the use of bread as scoops, is good (messy) fun, and again provides a bridge between cultures, embracing similarities and differences. (Did you know, for example, that the chopsticks used in Japan are a little different from those used in China?)

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Making Dessert

Last night, after tea, Little Engineer announced he was going to make some dessert. Given that we had already been to a morning tea where the boys had overdosed on sugar – and so had I – and the fact that it was getting late, I suggested stewed apples. He agreed.

He peeled and cut up the apples (using his apple cutter – a fantastic gadget for children because it removes the core too, without the dangerous ‘scooping’ with the knife) and decided to add currants. Into the microwave and tada! dessert.

Stewed apple with currants

Crushing Almonds

A mortar and pestle is great fun!

And have I mentioned that a dining chair makes a great toddler work surface. It’s just the right height and it can be moved to wherever you are, so they are always nearby.

As a disclaimer, I know whole nuts are not recommended for under fours. I also know that A. always crushes them well before he eats them and I always make sure I’m watching him very closely. We also use crackers and biscuits.