Let me describe a typical snack time. The table is beautifully set by the children. Each child brings their own snack that their parents have lovingly supplied for them. Some children have many choices and some just have one treasured item for snack.
The children sit and talk for sometime but a lot of the snack choices end up back in their lunch kits or packs. Snack is never the focus. Most of the time as well one child is done before everyone else and returns to playing.
This morning the children and I decided to walk to a local market and pick up snack first this morning. We had discussed it on Wednesday at snack. I had suggested that maybe we could make a salad. The children wholeheartedly said “no” We talked about other things we could pick up. By the end of snack on Wednesday it was decided we could pick up cheese and crackers.
When we got to the market we first looked at the local vegetables they had outside. The first thing we saw was a cucumber. I asked if the children wanted cucumber some shouted yes some shouted no. So at that point I decided we needed a more democratic process. I rephrased my question “Who would like to have cucumber for snack? Please put up your hand.” Two thirds of the class put up their hands. I then asked “Who would not like cucumber for snack? Please put up your hand.” It was decided yes we would have cucumber for snack. We did this same process with apples. Then we walked into the store and looked at the dairy cooler. I started listing off what was available. Cheddar Cheese, goats cheese, yogurt……. The children all said yogurt. We invoked the democratic process again to decide on whether we wanted strawberry, peach or raspberry yogurt. Raspberry it was.
Then the children pointed out the cracker shelf and asked if they could get the bunny crackers. Again we had two choices cheddar bunny crackers or chocolate graham bunny crackers. They chose the chocolate. We paid for our groceries where the children all informed the shop keeper of their age and what their favourite thing to do at preschool was.
We returned to the preschool I invited the children to play. While they played I happily cut apples and cucumbers and arranged them in a pleasing way on a bamboo cutting board. Today our food was the centre piece. I set the table with an organza runner and the board of cucumbers and apples in the centre. I returned to the counter to get the bowl of crackers and yogurt. When I returned to the table three children were already sitting at the table. I said “Oh you can still play I am just getting ready for snack.”
“We want to eat snack now” they told me.
I asked the whole class if they wanted to have snack now and it was a resounding “yes”
The children washed their hands and we had snack. Now here is the thing. They ate everything. I mean everything. Apples, cucumbers, yogurt and of course the chocolate bunny crackers. Nothing was left on the table, save for a few apple peels. I asked them what was different about this snack. They said it was delicious.
I told the children we still had one apple, half a cucumber and half a box of bunny crackers left. That we could have another snack on Monday when we returned if they liked. They all thought that was a smashing idea.
“Can we do this again?” a child then asked.
I said “Well yes we are going to finish the leftovers on Monday.”
“no can we go to the store and pick our own snack again.” the child asked
“Can we get peach yogurt next time?” another child piped in.
I said of course.
Here is the thing not only did they eat everything but they all stayed sitting and talking for a long period of time. Half hour to forty-five minutes long. Decisions were made around that table. We were going start choosing our snack once in a while. It was also decided we would try a new yogurt each time. Peach next, strawberry after that and maybe raspberry again. This was a “working” snack. They all chose to start together and they all ended snack together. That never happens.
Snack today was a good reminder of how invested children are when they have choice and control over their experiences.
“It is the ability to choose which makes us human.”