Please see question from Tairua:
I was hoping to implement rolling lunch times into our centre but to do so successfully it seems that older children - 3 to 4 year olds - would have to eat without an adult seated at the table. Teachers are reluctant to do so because they feel children won't eat properly or will choke. Not sure if this is the right forum to ask how others manage but it's worth a shot.
What do you think about rolling lunch times? Have you explored this and if so, what have your experiences been?
What an interesting question Tairua and it immediately generates a million other questions for me. Firstly I wonder what motivates your idea to move to rolling lunches and if this is an issue you are investigating as a team e.g. through a process of review? I always find it useful to beginning considering a change by getting a really solid view of what is happening currently. This is such a useful phase in review (gathering evidence) and I usually suggest gathering 'internal evidence' i.e. what happens here now and 'external evidence' i.e. what does research tell us about this and what are others doing?
I am assuming that currently all children are attended to and supervised during the routine and clearly there are members of your team who really value this. I wonder what underpins their value for this supervised routine? Perhaps they enjoy the family-like context of eating together or maybe it makes them feel that the children are safe. I would be eager to come to understand what is at the heart of their thoughts, concerns and considerations and to know more about what the whanau/families might believe about eating times.
I also wonder what you have seen or know about the concept of rolling lunches? Have you seen this in practice somewhere else, or perhaps worked with it yourself in another setting? I wonder if you and some of your team might find it useful to contact other services and ask if they are implementing rolling lunch times, interview them or go and visit to see how it works. All of these undertakings can help you get a clearer perspective to inform your decision making.
I haven't personally worked in a centre using a rolling lunch but I have worked with 1 service using this approach. I can only comment from my observation and in relation to the comments they shared with me when we spoke about it. The centre moved to this approach through an engaged spontaneous review to ensure they made a collaborative change that worked for all of them including the whanau/families.
They told me that they recognised that one teacher was constantly involved in kai responsibilities all day and this person was based in the kitchen with rolling morning and afternoon tea and then preparing and packing away after a shared lunch time. They found the shared lunch routine often created issues of organising children on masse through hand-washing routines and they had altered approaches to mat-time some months before and were not eager to introduce a pre-lunch mat-time. They have a strong philosophical view advocating play and empowered choices so they were keen to limit the level of interruption to children's play and to better accommodate each child's personal rhythms. They also noticed that some children were needing lunch earlier while others were not ready to stop for kai at the allocated lunch time. Their nursery had worked using responsive kai for quite some time before altering the older children's routine kai so it seemed a natural progression to trial a rolling lunch for the older children. Their staff ratio's enabled one person to be in this 'kai role' across the day so unlike your setting the issue of children unsupervised was not a consideration. The teachers I spoke with when I observed the routine commented that they still ensure that some children are reminded (particularly the younger ones, many of whom still had an afternoon moe).
Generally this team have found it a successful development but it was clearly a change they undertook with sound consideration and investigation, collective decision making and with the involvement of families. I don't know if I have answered your question or just fuelled a lot to think about.
I hope others share some ideas on this topic too as I am very interested to know if others have tried this approach and how it has worked out. I think the important thing is 'that one size doesn't fit all' and it is really important to find out what works for you, your team, your tamariki and your whanau. Good luck, Viv