Chapter 4 – Role of ambience

Before the meal children must calm down, teachers can use different quiet activities, for example reading the story. In this case, they can "hear their inner voice", which is usually right about the amount of food they should eat. (Kast-Zahn, Morgenroth, 2012). While children eat, they should not listen to radio, use picture books or toys - focus should be on food. (Dolar Bahovič, Bregar Golobič, 2004)

If we force a child to eat food, table will become mine field. When he doesn´t want to eat, good answer is:  "Don´t worry about this. Just sit here with us and let´s enjoy each other´s company."  After the age of 4 they are old enough to understand that all children should leave the table together and wait for the ones who are still eating. (Kast-Zahn, Morgenroth, 2012)

Eating environments

Dinning environment must encourage relaxing atmosphere, where child can focus on food, but with no pressure. Interesting and engaging mealtime conversations create greater food enjoyment (Hughes et al. 2007).

Eating environments that make food fun, offer new foods and a variety, and encourage children to taste and choose the foods they want, let children develop food attitudes and dietary practices that ultimately support good health (Campbell & Crawford 2001).

Simple, creative lunches with variety in colour, texture, and taste are appealing to children.

Guide through dinning environments

Relaxing and acceptable atmosphere with the focus on food is the most important part in good dinning. If teachers are aware of this, they could easily distinguish between what is good and bad for dining experience.

Effect of sound at dinning: noise is very disturbing, it is estimated that is lowering food consumption. While eating it is the best solution silence or quiet relaxing music, accompanied with nice conversation about themes children like (creating relaxing and acceptable atmosphere).

Effect of scent: strong scents even if they come from food, disturb appetite. Don´t open pots with food and deliver it right in front of children´s faces. Scents not connected with food are even more disturbing (flowers, cleaners ...)

Effect of light: there should be enough lightening, the best is daylight. Too little lightening reduces food consuming. Children like food they recognize and see well.

Effect of colours: although children like colours, there shouldn´t be too much, because

children can get distracted by them. Wansink, B., Van Ittersum K.,2012, found out that bright lights, loud noises and yellow and red colours create a hectic atmosphere that may cause individuals to eat quickly. 

Where to set the tables: if possible, set them in separate place only for eating, which is clean, with low sound levels to avoid loud voices, echo. Tables and chairs should be together but with enough space to allow teacher to walk and that are not disturbing for children. (Šintler, Domicelj, 1997)

Decorations of eating environments help at creating better atmosphere and children enjoy in decorating the table, but unfortunately in kindergartens this is not possible every day. 

Teacher can do this at special occasions: birthdays of children, meetings of parents ... Use seasonal themes (flowers, plants).

Organise your meals well, this is important. In the case of bad organisation teacher will have to leave the table to get extra amount of food, cutlery and so on. This is disturbing and children will imitate you. So, prepare everything you need in a hand cart.  (Dolar Bahovič, Bregar Golobič, 2004)

10 steps to positive eating behaviour (on basis of Erik K. Eliassen)

  1. Provide a variety of foods at meals and snacks, especially whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  2. Offer repeated opportunities to taste new foods - a least 15 - 20 repetitions are needed to become familiar with certain food.
  3. Share with families’ nutrition resources, such as lists of foods (by category) to guide their food selections and offer new ideas for meals sent from home.
  4. Apply the same guidelines to food selections in teachers’ lunches brought from home.
  5. Sit with children at meals, and enjoy conversation. Talk about the taste, texture, appearance, and healthful aspects of foods. But: don´t talk just about food, it may become annoying. Include topics that all children like: family, family trips and activities, animals.
  6. Plan adequate time for all children to finish eating.
  7. Respect a child’s expression of satiety or sense of being full.
  8. Develop a routine for serving snacks, applying the same rules whether offering carrots, crackers, or cookies.
  9. Wash hands before snack and mealtime; encourage touching and smelling a food as a step toward tasting.
  10. Find alternatives to using food as a reward or serving foods high in fat, sugar, or salt as part of a celebration.

Other learning tools

Erin K. Eliassen,The Impact of Teachers and Families on Young Children’s Eating Behaviors

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