Preparing Children for Starting Big School …..Food glorious Food!
Reception classes incorporate a snack as part of their daily routine. Snack time is a social occasion which encourages sharing and gives children the opportunity to sample fruit and vegetables they may not have tasted before. Some schools will offer whole fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, small apples and carrots.
Next time you offer a healthy fruit snack at home
· Encourage your child to eat a whole small piece of fruit (not grapes)
· Practise peeling bananas and satsumas independently to exercise fine motor control
· Talk about how the fruit looks, tastes, smells and feels
And the ultimate treat…visit the local fruit market together to explore the variety of fruit available and let your little one select a range to make a simple fruit salad. Invest in a child friendly safety knife and have fun chopping, halving and peeling together.
Fingers to forks
Staying for a school lunch can be a great opportunity for socialising with a range of different aged children and trying new tastes and textures of food. Schools have their own tried and tested methods of delivering lunches to the children in their care which may not be the same as the ones adopted in your home. For example some schools use flight trays and children collect their food from a hatch. In many schools the main savoury course is served alongside the sweet course and in these schools children are encouraged to eat the savoury element before the sweet.
When little ones start school they will be expected to use a knife and fork for their main course and a spoon for dessert so it is well worth mastering this skill well in advance.
This skill may not seem like a big milestone, but children need to get to grips with a whole range of essential skills before they can move on from sticky fingers to cutlery, including hand-eye co-ordination, body stability and stamina and visual perception.
Once children get the hang of self-feeding using a spoon, introduce a fork for stabbing and spearing food to use together with the spoon.
Knives are trickier to master for little ones so introduce them gradually. Soft foods like scrambled egg or mashed potato are ideal for initial practise.
Always begin with safe toddler knives, there’s a great range of fun and friendly designs now on the market to help progress this skill.
Encourage little ones to practise knife skills by helping you in the kitchen - buttering toast, chopping soft fruits and vegetables like bananas. Play dough activities are a fun way to practise manual dexterity with tools by cutting, spearing and chopping.
Always remember that learning to use cutlery, as with any skill, can vary widely from child to child, so be patient and be prepared for plenty of mess along the way.