Τhe kitchen plays a very important role in The Children’s House. Just as in all homes, the kitchen is inevitably a centre of interest! Cooking and the preparation of food that we will all share offers many wonderful opportunities for children at this first stage of development.
No doubt you have noticed how children of this age find all activities which have to do with the preparation of food particularly enjoyable. It is because they are doing something that really interests them. Together with a specially trained adult and using all the appropriate kitchen utensils, the children will help prepare the midday meal: they will bake bread, chop salad, roll meatballs, prepare a pizza, clean potatoes, grate cheese, juice lemons, pick some parsley from their vegetable garden… and so much more! Many wonderful things that certainly work up an appetite!
When children have been such active participants in the preparation of a meal, lunchtime can only be but a pleasurable experience! Just as they do in the kitchen, likewise when it comes to preparing their dining room, the children will do all the table setting together, thus strengthening their independence and self-confidence. It is the children who lay the tablecloths, place the napkins, glasses and cutlery and it is they who decorate their little tables with flowers. In this beautiful setting, lunch begins with a song, sung by both children and adults, expressing our thanks for the food which was prepared by so many and which we are about to enjoy all together!
All children are encouraged to serve themselves and they are free to have as many helpings as they wish. We have noticed that by doing this, children gradually come to realize for themselves how much food they really need in order to satisfy their hunger. In this pleasant and collaborative atmosphere children can socialize, (using their table manners), can chat with one another and generally enjoy their time together. Let us not forget, mealtime is not just meant to satisfy the stomach, but the soul too – it also fulfils a deep psychological need.
We use mainly organic ingredients in our weekly menus which have been prepared for us by our dietician. We follow the Greek culinary diet, so that children may become familiar with the culture in which they live and we try to follow as best we can the varied Greek traditions! However, we often find opportunities to introduce children to food from other cultures as well in order to expand both their experience and their taste buds!
Kitchen and lunchtime activities have the same importance as all the other activities in our school, for they also respond to the interests and developmental needs of our children. They offer many opportunities to introduce the children to activities directly related to the work they are doing in the class – all their senses are activated, food-related vocabulary is enriched, their mathematical thinking is challenged when they follow a recipe, and there are countless opportunities for children to apply their reading and writing skills.
In The Children’s House, all children can participate in the reality of daily life, a reality which they can relate to. All children can make something to offer to the wider community. When children are given the opportunity of experiencing all that is necessary to prepare a meal and to share it with others, they are in fact developing abilities and healthy habits which will serve them for life.