At KinderCare Education, we know that growth starts from the inside out. Having a healthy body means having a healthy mind and we want to nourish and fuel the children in our care to learn and grow. That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’re sharing stories about the nutrition improvements we’ve made and celebrating the extraordinary centers and sites who are taking our commitment to do what’s right for the children in our care to the next level.
Sitting around a table and sharing a meal can help children gain independence, learn table manners, practice fine motor skills, and learn healthy eating habits. That’s why in every KinderCare and CCLC center, children and their teachers practice family style dining.
“Children are offered and encouraged to try new foods, but ultimately, they can choose what they want to eat,” said Courtney Hines, KinderCare Education’s registered dietician. “This autonomy is engaging and exciting for young children.”
Serving a meal family style means that all menu items are placed in bowls on the table and children are able to serve themselves using spoons, pitchers, and tongs (sized appropriately, of course!). Staff members sit and eat with children, model healthy eating habits, provide nutrition education, and encourage children to try new foods.
“With family style dining, children have control over the amount of food they take when they have the opportunity to try something new,” said Nancy Smith, prekindergarten teacher at KinderCare in Branchburg, N.J. “And with that established independence, they feel like they want to try something, not that they have to try something.”
Research shows that children become less picky when exposed to family style dining. Plus, it helps develop their gross and fine motor skills by using utensils to serve themselves.
Family style dining can be an educational experience, too; children learn and practice social skills (like saying “please” and “no thank you”). Meal time is also a great time to incorporate lessons on health and nutrition, or even math!