by Jennifer Hilgendorf, WECA Digital Marketing Manager
It’s lunch time at Agape Family Services Childcare Center in Sheboygan and children are getting ready to share a meal. Toddlers buckle themselves into their seats, 3-year olds start setting the table with real silverware, plates and cups, while owner and provider, Betty-Anne White, places their meal on the table. As the children pass the various dishes of food to their neighbors (yes, even those under the age of 2), the room is filled with excited chatter on what is being served. Once everyone has food they’ve chosen, together, they feast.
Serving family-style meals reap many rewards in not only a child’s nutrition, but also in their development. “I serve family style because it’s my desire to have children master foundational social skills before they enter school,” shared Betty-Anne. She is right. There are many valuable benefits in serving family style that go beyond having a nutritious meal.
Motor Skills: From balancing serving dishes, passing the pears, pouring the milk and scooping the grilled chicken- each task allows children to practice fine motor skills.
Language Skills: While serving different foods, children learn new words like jicama, quinoa, and kabobs. Don’t forget the wonderful conversations shared at the table while eating. Family-style dining provides a wonderful opportunity to sharpen language skills.
Social Skills: Nothing says practicing patience when a two-year old is waiting for her turn to serve herself peach slices. Practicing good table manners, saying please and thank you, are subtle moments that benefit children’s social skills.
Math Skills: Just how many homemade fish sticks does Dominic have? Let’s count! Eliza is responsible for getting one big spoon and two small spoons for serving. Which spoons did she choose and why? You can discover great math moments right there at the table.
Ready to switch to family-style dining? Follow Betty-Anne’s journey through her Facebook page and check out these simple tips on family-style dining from the USDA.