Entering Kindergarten means learning about independence; socially, emotionally and physically. One of the first exposures to independence for a Kindergarten child occurs during snack and lunch time.
Children take pride when they go to their backpacks, take out their lunch containers and find a place to sit down and eat (and socialize with their friends). They get excited to see what is inside their school lunches and they feel like a “big kid” when they open up their bag to see what is inside.
Parents can help their little ones be prepared for Kindergarten and this new-found independence by ensuring their success when it comes to opening up their lunch bags and containers, re-packing everything and putting it away properly. While this seems like such a simple task, for many young children it can be challenging. In this situation, practice makes better (I’m not a believer in the saying “practice makes perfect”, because what is perfect?).
Even once school has started, your child can use practice opening and closing their food containers after school and on weekends. When I taught Kindergarten, I found it took months for some children to become fully independent during snack and lunch time. There is limited support for them during these times as there are many children in the room and often only one or two adults, who are usually helping or teaching other children.
How to Help Your Child Feel Independence with Lunch Bags and Containers:
- Square and rectangle containers are easier to close than round ones.
- Teach your child how to pack up their lunch bag when they are finished (e.g. specifically teach them how to put uneaten food back into containers and to close each container, close straws on cups etc.)
- Show your child the best way to pack their backpack.
- Give your child a lot of time to practice these skills.
- Label everything including containers, cups, cutlery, lunchbags and back packs.
I highly recommend that you pack WATER for your child to drink. There are a few reasons for this:
- Juice and milk are REALLY messy, sticky and smelly when they spill in a backpack.
- Juice and milk spills are much harder to clean up at school. Caretakers are not always available and teachers are busy teaching or helping other children.
- You never now how much juice or milk is actually being consumed at school. Often times, children will take a few sips and throw the rest in the garbage or pour it down the drain. This is wasteful on your pocketbook AND on the environment.
Some parents don’t have a preference about what their child eats when and some parents prefer for their children to eat specific items for snack and lunch. One way to help your child learn what is for snack and what is for lunch is to put numbers on masking tape (e.g. 1= morning snack, 2= lunch, 3= afternoon snack) and stick them to the containers. This way, your child will learn what is expected to be eaten when. Be sure to go over your expectations with your child BEFORE they go to school and remind them on a daily basis until you are sure that they know the routine.
I started off doing the number system, but quickly learned that I was pleased as long as my children actually ate at school. Eating time is a rushed affair at school and children often become distracted with socializing etc. Within the first few weeks of school, you will learn how much food to send with your child so that there is limited waste.
Don’t forget to pack a reusable wet wipe of some sort! I like to pack my kids with a Norwex Travel Sized Envirocloth so that I am confident that my kids’ hands get cleaned effectively AND they can clean up any messes that may happen.
I have shared many other posts on the topic of preparing your child for Kindergarten. Remember that as the parent, YOU are the expert on YOUR child! Follow your gut and share with your child’s teacher whatever you feel is necessary in order for their teacher to understand and support your child the best that they can.
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