When children sit and eat together, it’s a chance for them to interact in a more informal way with staff members, for staff to model prosocial behavior, and for children to socialize with each other.
Parents are responsible for bringing in meals and drinks for infants and toddlers. Preschool children must bring a meal and drink. In all preschool classrooms, First Circle provides morning and afternoon snacks, and water to drink.
We choose a variety of snacks that are low in sugar and fat. EEC requires the weekly snack menu to be posted. We keep a supply of meals and snacks on hand for children whose parents have forgotten to bring them from home. We also supply paper plates, bowls, cups, utensils, and bibs, but parents are welcome to supply their own.
Meals and snacks are scheduled for the children’s developmental stage. Educators should follow these guidelines when serving meals and snacks:
Educators should be present, interact with, and assist children.
Allow children to eat a well-balanced diet at a reasonable, leisurely rate.
Encourage children to serve themselves when appropriate.
Ensure each child receives an adequate amount and variety of food.
Help children with disabilities to participate in meal and snack times with their peers.
Offer activities for children who have finished their snack or meal.
Serve water in pitchers at snack time. Offer water to children at frequent intervals and upon request.
Never pressure a child to eat or drink, or to stop eating or drinking, unless it is for health and/or safety reasons.
Educators must wash hands before preparing meals and snacks.
Children must wash hands before and, if necessary, after mealtimes.
You may only give a child food that has been provided by First Circle or by their parent.
If you drink a beverage in the classroom, you must use a covered container.
Make sure all food containers belonging to a child are labeled. If not, mark the container with the child’s name, and remind parents of our policy.
If a child misses lunch or snack due to deviations from their regular schedule, offer a substitute meal at a different time.
Encourage children to help clean up, put away their own things, etc.
Please return any unused snack in a sealed plastic bag or container to the snack area in a timely manner.
After children have finished eating, clean/sanitize/sweep tables, chairs, and floors.
For the health and safety of the children, we must prepare and serve food and drink in a safe and sanitary manner. All First Circle staff are trained in food health and safety. We follow these guidelines and require that parents do too:
For infants and toddlers, new foods must be introduced at home.
For toddlers and preschool, parents must include an ice pack in an insulated cooler for all food requiring refrigeration. We store infants’ food in a refrigerator in each classroom. The refrigerator temperature is between 32-40 degrees verified by a refrigerator thermometer and logged monthly.
Classrooms have Special Care Plans, Allergy Action Plans, and other pertinent paperwork for children with food allergies or special dietary needs. Please see Health & Safety for detailed information about prevention, management, and treatment.
We are a peanut and tree nut-free program. All the snacks we serve are nut-free. We do not allow any nut products to be sent to school and require that parents check food labels and packaging. This includes nuts in muffins or bread and of course, peanut butter (however, soy nut and sunflower butter are fine!). If a parent sends a nut product to school, remind them that we are nut-free to keep children safe.
Storage and Sanitation
All food to be consumed during the day must be brought in containers labeled with the child’s name.
Any food that has not been served to the child must be sent home at night. As required by EEC, educators must dispose of, or return to the parent, milk, formula, or food unfinished by a child, as directed by the parent.
Over 10,000 children each year end up in the emergency room because of food-choking injuries. Per advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), First Circle requires that children’s food be sent to school as follows:
Vegetables like carrots, celery, and green beans should be diced, shredded, or cooked and cut up.
Fruits like grapes, cherry tomatoes, and melon balls must be cut into quarters.
Meats (especially hot dogs) and cheeses must be cut into very small pieces or shredded.
Hard candy and gum are not allowed at First Circle.
DAILY SHEETS FOR INFANTS and TODDLERS
Ask parents to note in Procare Engage any food preference or intolerance, any change in patterns or schedules at home, and any other information that can help us best support their child.
If you’re assigned to the infant classroom, record what was offered, what time you started and ended the feeding, and how much was consumed. Note any preference or intolerance, and any observations related to developmental changes in feeding and nutrition.
Mealtimes are an opportunity to completely focus on the infant and have quality one-on-one interaction. Hold children to drink their bottle, and when they are ready to hold their own bottle, support their learning to feed independently. Feed infants in a highchair. Sit with them either to help feed or support their self-feeding skills. You should make lots of eye contact, smile, speak softly, narrate what is happening, tell a story, or sing a song.
First Circle is committed to providing a breastfeeding-friendly environment for our enrolled children and staff. Nursing mothers are welcome to come and nurse their infants at any time.
Breast milk must be labeled “breast milk” so that it is stored and handled appropriately.
Parents must bring in pre-made formula and/or breast milk each day in plastic bottles (no glass) with all parts of the bottle labeled with the infant’s first name and initial of last name.
Because babies occasionally need more food than their parents have provided, parents should provide extra breast milk or formula to be stored in our freezer (frozen breast milk must be labeled with an expiration date and can be stored up to 3 months).
Refrigerate infants’ meals and bottles. We have storage available for dry, non-perishable food and formula.
Heat infant bottles in hot water, never in a microwave. (Heat the water in microwave instead of running hot water on the bottle.)
A bottle offered to an infant and partially consumed must be disposed of after 1 hour unless requested otherwise.
Infants are fed on an individualized feeding plan. Parents suggest timelines, but you are responsible for interpreting the child’s requirements and adjusting the schedule as needed.
Do not feed an infant directly from a baby food jar. Pour a portion of the jar into a bowl, refilling as necessary.
Infants who cannot hold a bottle must be held while being fed. Do NOT prop bottles.
Wash and sanitize any serving utensils and bowls after use.
Clean, sanitize and rinse highchair trays before and after each use.
TODDLERS and PRESCHOOLERS
Toddlers and preschoolers eat as a group and follow a group schedule. However, if a child is hungry and a snack or mealtime is not scheduled soon, offer them a choice from the foods they have brought to meet their individual needs.
Parents are asked to supply food based on their child’s schedule. All food for the day must fit into the child’s lunchbox or a separate insulated container. We do not have additional refrigerators in all classrooms.
At least one educator must sit with the children to eat and engage them in conversation. Mealtime is a social time and should be shared within the classroom—if you wish to save your lunch for your break, you may choose to eat healthy snack food to be a good model for the children.
Children must be allowed free access to beverages throughout the day.
If you choose to eat in the classroom, it must be at shared meal or snack times.
When serving snack to children, be aware of any special dietary needs.
If a parent sends in a choking hazard, you must return the item.
You must wear gloves when distributing snack (to preschoolers only). Use a measuring device for portion control.
Clean and sanitize the area used to prepare snacks and serve lunch prior to and after each use.
If a parent has not provided a lunch, you must call the parent and ask if they can bring a meal, or if you can serve whatever is available from the snack supply area.
Whenever possible, encourage preschoolers to serve themselves, improving skills such as independence and counting.
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