At KinderCare in Medford, we’ve revisited the way we approach family style dining. On a recent visit to our Medford KinderCare Center, I told center Director Jessica Fisher that I wanted to do an observation in one of her classrooms and that I was looking for all of the components that make up a quality lunchtime experience.
I joined the three-year-old classroom because I was curious how the teacher, Keri, would handle lunch. What I saw over the next few hours positively impacted and inspired my own work as an educator.
The first thing I observed was our center cook wheel in a cart with the day’s lunch. Each child — in unison — said, “thank you!” Miss Keri looked at me and smiled. After they washed their hands, each child then walked to the table and set a plate, a fork, a cup and a napkin in front of each chair.
I noticed there were seven children sitting, but the children had set eight place settings — they included the teacher when they were making their rounds, knowing she would be dining with them.
Miss Keri moved to place a bowl of fruit in front of the first child. He took his spoodle and spilled a little before managing to get the rest on his plate, then passed the bowl clockwise. As the bowl was making its way around, she grabbed some napkins and together with the first child, she cleaned up the spill and gave the child a bowl of mac and cheese. He scooped and passed the bowl clockwise. I watched both bowls move across the table, each child carefully scooping a helping onto her plate before passing it on to the next.
I spoke with Miss Keri about how she uses family style dining as a way to teach children about community, patience, courtesy, self-restraint and good old-fashioned manners.
There is something magical that happens over a meal when we can sit across from one another, break bread and share stories. We learn to value and appreciate each other as we celebrate our differences and embrace our similarities.
This is a lesson that we all hope will stay with our KinderCare students as they grow. We have faith that our students will take the lessons learned here and continue to listen to and find value in each other as adults. Our children provide an opportunity for us to make positive changes in our lives, make the world a better place and lead us to a brighter future.
When Miss Keri connects with her students’ parents about the day’s events, she makes it a point to talk about how lunch went, what was served and what was discussed. “I know we live in really hurried times and everyone is rushing around,” Miss Keri said. “But, maybe my students can get their parents to slow down and enjoy the process with them.”
New Jersey KinderCare District Manager