Small children need to eat every few hours which means you will be spending a lot of time in your kitchen every day. A kitchen which is well designed to accommodate young children and a caregiver will help make meal times a pleasure to share together.
You have two choices for meal times. You can provide the children in your care with a small child sized table and chairs (for children 18 months to 7 years old) or you can provide booster chairs to elevate the children to a regular sized table.
Of course if you have a baby you will have to acquire a high chair for meal times. I would recommend buying a booster style chair that has a tray. It straps to a regular chair and can be easily removed. This allows you to use it during daycare hours and then convert back to your regular chair when needed. Spreading out a towel under the booster seat will protect the upholstery or wood of your regular chair. Spilled milk and splattered yogurt will eventually take a toll on your chair if you are not diligent about protecting your furniture.
I find once children reach the age of two they quite enjoy sitting at a child size table and chair set. You will find they are able to sit for longer periods of time and take table manners more seriously if they are at their own child sized table.
Purchasing small glasses or sippy cups, plates, bowls and utensils for small hands will be essential for your daycare children. They will be learning how to properly use all of these items and therefore need to be able to handle them. A word to the wise, often sets of children’s dishes come in a variety of colours. For example, six bowls, one in each colour. My past experiences have taught me, that there is a very good chance three of your children will want the blue cup. Children in this age category have strong associations with a particular colour. Remember the golden piece of advice, “Pick your battles”. This one is not worth it. Just buy a whole set of dishes in the same colour.
Here is another great tip to prevent an accident if you are using a tablecloth on your table. Toddlers enjoy reaching up and pulling on objects. The corner of your tablecloth would fit into this description. Buy some inexpensive tablecloth clips that are sold for picnic tables on a windy day. Use them on the underside of your inside kitchen table. They will prevent a hot cup of tea being spilled if a toddler grabs the table cloth and pulls.
I would suggest investing in some good quality bibs that wash well and some small face cloths for sticky hands and faces. Installing a drying racks for cloths will keep each child’s cloth in easy reach. Once children are old enough to sit on their own chairs they will relish the ability to go and get their own cloth to wipe their hands if needed.
Some providers choose to put on a video while they prepare or clean up at meal time. I find putting on some music just before lunch while hands are being washed and dishes are being served helps kids stay upbeat and patient. I also have a low shelf in the kitchen that has games and puzzles for the children. They can go and help themselves to some activities while they wait for a snack or meal to be prepared.
Some children enjoy climbing up on a bench or stool and ‘helping’ you prepare snack. They love to be part of meaningful work and often will be more enthusiastic about trying new foods if they helped prepare them.
Magnets and fridge toys are a constant hit for toddlers to keep them occupied during kitchen preparations. Please make sure magnets aren’t small enough to be swallowed for this age category.
There is just one last thing you will need before your kitchen is ready for a group of hungry children. A broom for AFTER the meal! Bon appetite.