How To Make Preschool Nutrition A Success At Lunchtime
As the school year gets into a rhythm, it is a time to examine new routines and see what needs fine-tuning. One way that parents help make the bridge from home to school is by preparing lunches for their preschooler that are satisfying, nutritious, and convey nurturing from home. The staff here at The LEAP School would like to offer these observations to help make your child’s lunch a positive and enjoyable experience.
- Lunch is a very social time at LEAP, in addition to serving a nutritional purpose. We encourage the children to talk about the items in their lunch box and share related stories from home. This is a wonderful way for the children to get to know each other and build relationships. There is always great excitement when two children discover they have the same yogurt in their lunch box and they bought it at the same store! Food is a wonderful tool for relationship-building and cultural awareness.
- Some children approach the lunch table with great enthusiasm for eating and others are more reluctant. Both behaviors tend to come and go with preschoolers. Their bodies need varying amounts of calories as their growth patterns fluctuate. In regards to preschool nutrition, the general answer as to how much food equals a serving for a preschooler is 1 tablespoon per year of age. Therefore, a four-year-old with a full sandwich, piece of fruit, side dish, and dessert would unlikely be able to finish all of his/her items. Teachers will not ask children to eat past the point of feeling full. When appropriate, encouragement to eat comes in the form of teaching about healthy habits, good nutrition, and sharing enthusiasm about eating good food. Our teachers are great resources to help you see if your child is eating appropriately. Be assured that if any child were displaying concerning behaviors around food, your teacher would make contact with you.
- As preschoolers are observing more about the world around them they may take an interest in trying new foods. Teachers are quick to share if a child is interested in an item from a cooking project or a friend’s lunchbox. At the same time, we ask that the items you pack for your child’s lunch are “tried and true.” If a child doesn’t like an experimental food at school, we aren’t able to offer back up options.
- In your parent handbook, you will find a list of suggestions for preschool lunchbox items. We get great new ideas every year from all of you! Involving your child in the shopping or lunch preparation can also lead to new favorites. Please only pack items that your child is welcome to eat in any order, and not include items meant to serve as rewards. Please also ensure that the items packed do not contain any nuts or peanuts.
- Lastly, lunchtime is an excellent time for children to build their self-help skills and independence. As they attempt to open items, use utensils, and clean up after themselves, their confidence grows. Teachers help children to build these skills by encouraging persistence, modeling strategies, and celebrating successes. Encourage your child to build upon their school accomplishments when at home by clearing their plates, passing out napkins, or helping younger family members around the dinner table.