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Come Dine with Me: Quality Dining Experiences

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Tuesday 23 August 2016

When we share a meal or snack together, we are creating memories, memories that weave through the stories of our lives.

When we as adults invite friends or colleagues to share a meal, snack or picnic with us, we expect and hope that it will be an enjoyable experience. We create an ambience which conveys that we have taken care in preparing the environment for our guests. We put a table cloth on the table, set the table using our best cutlery and crockery, light a candle, add some flowers to the table and play soft music in an effort to create an ambience and make the environment beautiful. This preparation sends a message to our guests that we value them. When our guests arrive they choose where they wish to sit or who they wish to sit beside as we want them to enjoy the experience. As the hosts we offer a variety of different types of food, guests choose the amount and type of food they wish to eat and when they have eaten enough, our guests decide, when they are finished. No one would ever suggest that they need to finish their dinner or they will not get desert or a treat!! These dining experiences which we share with friends and family are sociable experiences; they promote feelings of wellbeing and contentment and result in many pleasant memories.
Dining table laid out for children - Come Dine with Me: Quality Dining ExperiencesWhen we consider the number of times children have a breakfast, snack or lunch in ECEC settings we have to reflect on how we could make these dining experiences memorable. I am sure you will agree that the conversations between children when they are having a snack or lunch are priceless! From discussions about the different food types, to healthy eating, to what mammy and/or daddy likes to eat, these moments are special and we as early childhood educators have a role in making each dining experience special and memorable. Listening to children and hearing their stories of tastes, smells, textures and rituals provides the educator with evidence of the importance and significance of food and the dining experience in children’s lives.

The spaces and utensils we offer children impact on the quality of their dining experience and their ultimate well being. Taking time to plan a dining space which takes into consideration the children using it is very important. Think about the colour scheme, the lighting and the ambience of the dining space. The tables and chairs should be appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the children using then. Utensils such as cutlery and crockery should also be chosen with care. When considering cutlery, graduate from a spoon to a fork, to using adult sized knives and forks. Similarly children’s drinking and eating utensils should also change as the individual needs of children change from plastic cup's and bowl's to drinking glasses and delph plates. Dining experiences in ECEC settings are not just about feeding children, they provide for rich social interactions.

 

For more information on dining such as nutrition, food safety and creating happy eating experiences, please click here

 

How have you created memorable dining experiences? Do you use special plates or cutlery etc? Can you recall a particularity enjoyable or interesting dining experience that happened in your setting? Let us know in the comments section below.  

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