Lunchtime A daily lesson in practical life

Preparing and cleaning up their own lunch is an important lesson in practical life. The children begin by preparing their place setting (placemat, plate, utensils, napkin, and drinking glass.) They then set out their food items from their lunchbox. They eat purposefully (and quietly) because they are demonstrating the qualities of a normalized child: a love of work (choosing a food item freely and eating it), concentration on work (focusing on eating lunch), self-discipline (following through with eating lunch), and sociability (respecting the other children who are also eating.) Once they are done eating their food, they throw any trash away, pack the containers back into their lunchboxes, place the dirty dishes and utensils in the bucket to be washed and sanitized, and place the dirty napkins and placemats in the basket to be laundered.

Ideally the containers should be something your child can handle independently but there will always be a teacher available to assist your child if needed. There is no need to send in forks, knives, spoons, napkins, placemats or plates as we have all of those items available for the children to use.

Your child's well-balanced school lunch should contain small portions of foods your child likes from each of these five groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. We do offer the children milk at lunchtime so if you include items from the other four groups your child will enjoy a well-rounded meal.

Ideas for the fruit group include fresh fruits like apple slices (can be soaked in lemon-lime soda to prevent browning), grapes, strawberries, banana. Other quick options are real fruit juice boxes, small canned fruit (e.g., fruit salad, peaches, pears) and applesauce.

Ideas for the vegetable group include fresh vegetables like baby carrots, peas, cucumber slices, celery sticks. Leftover vegetable items can also be sent in (e.g., broccoli, green beans, asparagus) and we can heat it up in the microwave. Salads are also a great option. Each component could be combined at home or you can send the individual ingredients for the child to combine at school (or eat individually.)

Ideas for the grains group include sandwich bread (preferably wheat-based, healthier varieties- a white wheat option is available if your child prefers the mild taste of white bread), pasta, pretzels, tortillas, pita bread, bagels, and graham crackers.

Ideas for the protein group include ham or turkey slices for sandwiches, grilled chicken (can be added to a salad or eaten separately), beans, soy products and nuts.

Ideas for the dairy group include milk (also available at school), cheese (slices and sticks can be frozen overnight so they don't become soggy), cottage cheese, yogurt, and smoothies in a thermos.

Oftentimes leftovers from the previous night's dinner can meet one or more of the groups. If it needs to be reheated please send it in a microwave-safe container.

Lunches brought to school must consist of a balanced array of nutritious foods. It is not only good for your child, but we are also required by the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services to verify children are bringing nutritionally sound lunches from home. Candy, soft drinks, and other high sugar foods will have to be removed from lunch boxes and sent home. Please, if a food's first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup (or a similar form of sugar), please do not send it to school.

The article, Pack a Child's Lunch Montessori Style, describes more about packing a lunch using the Montessori approach.

The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one's self.

Maria Montessori