In our classroom, our students are immersed in play.
They can choose to explore and build on the carpet with a variety of blocks and materials (tubes, tin cans, pinecones, etc.), they can create sculptures using Playdough, they can paint at our Art Centre, they can write with a variety of tools and materials at the Writing Centre, and so much more!
And they can eat snack...whenever they like.
Yes, you read that right.
As part of our self-regulated day, we encourage students to make decisions that they feel most comfortable with.
When they are hungry, they simply take their lunch bag and sit at the snack table and eat a snack.
Most of them even invite another friend to join them!
We have 2 large, open blocks of time, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon, so our schedule lends itself well.
This year I am excited to try having 3 small round tables set up as a "Bistro" for the students to enjoy snack. They can invite a friend and chat while eating.
(I was so lucky that my principal purchased us these round tables back in June! It truly helps when your administration is completely on board and believes in the Full Day Kindergarten program!)
For the past few years, I used a large 6-seater table as our Snack Table.
This worked really well too!
The small basket you see in the middle holds scissors, straws and cutlery in case they need to use any of them. I try and have my students be as independent as possible, or they can ask a friend to help.
How do I know if they ate?
We don't use a checklist or way to tell that they have had their snack.
I truly believe that when they are hungry they will eat!
I remember when my daughter was a baby, I asked the pediatrician why she wouldn't eat any snacks! He used to tell me the same thing...when she is hungry she will let you know.
Sometimes I have students eat a couple of snacks in the morning or afternoon, depending on how hungry they are.
A few students this past year attended the Before School Program from about 7 am.
They would eat breakfast at home beforehand and by 8:30 am, when they entered my classroom, they were famished!
Snack was their first stop!
Other students eat breakfast literally as they are walking to school so they aren't as hungry first thing and prefer to eat a little later on.
Some don't like to eat snack in the morning at all!
I encourage everyone to eat when they are hungry. We often remind students to "listen to their tummy" and eat if they choose. But I don't force anyone.
Other classrooms I have seen do monitor who has eaten and who has not eaten snack.
Here are a few ways of doing that...
- Magnetic names -> create magnetic names for each student in your class and post (a filing cabinet works well). Students can move their name to the bottom, or put it in a basket, once they have finished eating.
- Rocks -> write each child's name on a rock and scatter around the middle of the table. Once a child has eaten snack, he/she can move his rock inside the basket.
- Popsicle Sticks -> write each student's name on a popsicle stick and place them in a can in the middle of the table. After eating snack, students can find his/her name and place it into an empty can beside on in a nearby spot.
How do I monitor what they eat?
This takes a while and truly starts from home. We encourage healthy eating at our school and try to reinforce this message with parents.
At our Open House in early September, we explain the Snack Table and give parents ideas on what kind of snacks to pack.
We also encourage parents to label each snack...
#1 is for morning snack
#2 is lunch
#3 is afternoon snack.
During the first few weeks at school, a lot of time is spent by both educators in the classroom showing students how to choose something to eat (so that you don't have students eating their sandwich at 9 am!).
Why won't I go back to whole group snack?
Well, if you have tried having a Snack Table in your room you will know that it frees up at least half an hour that you can work with your students. When you have to stop and have all the students clean up, wash their hands, sit down and eat, it can take a LONG time! By having a few eat whenever they want to, you can spend more time interacting with the others at play.
If you are still a little unsure as to trying a Snack Table in your classroom, here's what I say.
Try it for a week.
It might work out beautifully, it might take time to get used to (for both you and your students!), it might not work if your schedule is not as flexible and you don't have large, open blocks of time.