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Preschool Lunch Routines That Rock

Joanna is a hands-on teacher, who has spent many years using the following activities. Her methods have kept children from falling behind.

How to plan stress-free lunch routines for your preschoolers.

How to plan stress-free lunch routines for your preschoolers.

Building Character

As preschool teachers, we can build character in young children by teaching them how to express their emotions in a social setting. They learn this ability through intentional play activities.

At age two, the most challenging skills start to emerge These are not bad or challenging behaviors—they are emotions that need guiding in a social setting.

It is important to teach children how to respond emotionally to situations they don't understand at this age. It has lasting effects on the child's well-being.

We expect children to control their emotions, even though as adults, we can't say we have control of our emotions all the time.

The children in my class are only two, but they have great abilities. They need to show it to the world. The following two activities will surprise you. Give it a week and don't give up. The first week is the testing period, the children will see if you are willing to continue. Once they realize the new routine is not going anywhere, your class will be different.

Lunch Routine

Are you ready?

It should not be about control, it should be about the children making good choices.

The most important thing to remember is not to tell them to sit down. Instead, tell them, “lunch is about to be served, and those at the table will get their plates first.” As you put down the plate, remind them that their plate needs to be on the table when you come around with the food, or you will skip them. As you put the food on the plate, name what it is. Keep saying to the children.

Now lets start.

Those sitting down give them an empty plate and spoon.

After those sitting have their plates, start serving the food. Name each food as you put it on the plates. If the plate is not right side up and on the table, skip them. After you have made it around the table, look at those you skipped and see if their plate is right. If so, give them some food. Then go to the next food item, and do the same thing. Repeat until all the food is handed out and every child has a plate of food.

Don't fight with them about sitting down. They will come to the table on their own and be more willing to sit. Once they see you serving lunch, they will come to the table.

Wait until they are halfway through with their lunch to give the milk. They are still learning a new skill, and spilling will happen. This keeps them from spilling it on their food or their neighbor's food.

A table covered by a table cloth with plastic dishes on it.

A table covered by a table cloth with plastic dishes on it.


I dress up every Wednesday to tell stories. I use many storytelling methods to teach all the learning standards. In this article, I will briefly discuss these methods, because I want to focus on the props and how to use them.

The World of Eric Carle Activity set is one of the best props I have found in years. The pictures are only of large animals. I originally bought this because I thought I would use it for coloring pages, but shortly after receiving it, that idea changed. I will go into detail on how to use this awesome book.

We begin at the beginning of the day and work through the morning routine. Use your daily schedule to set this up.

Step 1- Walk into the classroom in costume. The children don't care how it looks, just that you are dressed differently. Announce, "It's Story Telling Day. Everyone, go get dressed up." Help each child put on dress up clothes. (if you don't have enough for the whole class, bring some hats, purses, etc. from home for the day.)

Now go back to the World of Eric Carle Activity Set. This is a spiral top flip book. Very easy to use with one hand. Each page has one large animal on it.

Step 2-To use this book: Hold up the book and let the children name as many animals as possible. Then you can go back through and talk about what the animals eat. Later in the day, you can find toys that match the animals. You can talk about where the animals live and how they walk.

I even looked up some sign language signs for the different animals and started using them with this book.

Get creative and use it or any book or prop to do the same with.

Use these methods throughout the day, and you will complete your learning standards goals. Below is a table of the goals that were accomplished using this method.

Learning Standards for Lunchtime Routines

Early Learning StandardGoal

Approaches to Learning

To explore relationships and the environment independently with purpose

Language Arts

To demonstrate increasing ability to combine sounds and simple words to express meaning and to communicate


Begin to show an understanding of patterns in the environment

Social Awareness

Begin to understand and act upon social concepts

Physical Development

Develop small muscle strength and coordination of hands & fingers


Continue to learn and accept limits while developing an "I Can do it" attitude

Learning Standards for Storytelling

Learning StandardGoal

Approaches to Learning

Explore relationships and the environment independently with purpose

Creative Expression

With guidance and support, interact with materials that provide opportunities to develop and express individual ideas, feelings and interests.

Language Arts

With guidance and support, demonstrate the ability to express thoughts, feelings and needs clearly

Social Awareness

Begin to understand and act upon social cues.


Begin to demonstrate early scientific inquiry skills by questioning, exploring, problem-solving, discovery and examining


With guidance and support, develop interaction skills and begin to show independence.

Teach by Doing

This routine works because of this: You must sit at the table and eat what they are eating. Encourage the children to use their spoons and talk about the food they are eating. Sit by the children who need help and guide them on how to do it, by showing them with your spoon.

When they are halfway done with their lunch, give them their milk in a real cup, not a sippy cup. This is new to them, so do not fill their cups too full, or they will spill it on them.

Encourage the children to take their own plates away when they are done eating.

Let them help clean up from lunch. Give them paper towels to wipe the table and chairs with. They will feel so good about themselves, and you just gave them a big boost in their self-esteem.

I use this method to keep track of what worked and what needs work.

End Of Week Observation
What worked?

What didn't work?

What did the children enjoy the most?

What kept the children's attention the longest?

I do this every week and review them at the end of the month.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Joanna Blackburn