Daniela Masaro - Celebrating Mealtime
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
In her article Daniela describes with warmth and knowledge the basics of the anthroposophical point of view on food nourishment, which is so much more than the physical or chemical appearance of what we eat. There are citations from wonderful resources, each worthy of the attention of its own. The approach described in the article is widely accepted in all Waldorf Early childhood programs. Here at Little School, we believe that it belongs to all ages. Perhaps, grab a cup of tea, sit down, and take a few moments to read it. You will enjoy it!
By Daniela Masaro Celebrating Mealtime As a child, I remember how important meal time was in my family. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a stay-at-home mom, so all my meals were enjoyed in the comfort of my own home. At dinner time, the whole family gathered together every night. This was an important time for our family—conversations were had, the day’s events were shared, decisions were made, and chores and duties were discussed. Much laughter and many tears were shared around our kitchen table. Mealtime was a daily celebration in my family—a ritual that I still hold dear to my heart even today—and it was an opportunity to be nourished physically, emotionally and spiritually. Celebrating this ritual of mealtime with our children in class is an important aspect of Waldorf education. As written in The Fourfold Path to Healing, by Thomas Cowan, MD, “the activity of eating involves far more than just putting food into one’s mouth. It invokes the pleasure of many senses—smell, touch, taste, sight, and even hearing—and affects the life of the soul and mind, as well as the Physical and Life-Force Bodies.” Gathering around the table also creates a sense of community. Children not only benefit from the food served at the snack table, but from the bonds that are created with their classmates and teachers. It is an opportunity for them to experience an in-breath, “digest” the morning’s events, and truly celebrate the day.
Rhythm and Seven Grains The kindergarten snack is an integral part of a child’s day at a Waldorf school. As stated by Lisa Hildreth in The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book, “snacks are not only an important activity of the day, but they are the day!” While the kindergarten snack may seem simple, much planning and thought goes into each meal. Not only is it important to decide what foods will be used and how they will be prepared, but also when in the morning the snack will be enjoyed and which snack will be prepared on which day during the week to create the important rhythm and routine children need at this stage of life.
In her book, The Incarnating Child, Joan Salter stresses that, “the importance of rhythm in nutrition is highly underestimated.” Adam Blanning, MD also explains in his article, “Sensory Nutrition,” that “regular mealtimes help the child’s digestive system know when it is time to be ready for a meal, and when it is time to relax into the slower and a more delicate process of absorbing good nutrients and excreting the wastes.” The snack rhythm allows children to establish a healthy rhythm in their own life and physical body, which in turn facilitates their incarnation. This rhythm also gives children a sense of security and allows them to find their place within the day and week. Children will learn to recognize the days of the week by attributing them to the snacks eaten on a particular day. This weekly rhythm can be created by following the “seven grain” schedule, of which there are many variations.
Monday - Rice
Tuesday - Barley
Wednesday - Millet
Thursday - Rye
Friday - Oat
Saturday - Corn
Sunday - Wheat
Each teacher will discover which schedule works best for him/her and may create many other variations. For example, “Porridge Day”, “Bread Day”, “Soup Day” and “Muffin Day” are also popular snack themes for the week; each day integrating one or more of the important grains into the snack prepared. Children become so familiar with this routine, that they are often heard exclaiming, “Tomorrow is Soup Day!” Or, when asking a teacher what the next day will be, the teacher may respond, “Tomorrow is Porridge Day,” and the child will instantly know how far into the school week they are. Following seasonal and cosmic rhythms should also be considered when preparing a meal as this will help our bodies attune to these cycles. For example, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season will naturally help one to align to the rhythms of the earth.
Also, by adhering to this philosophy, one can “create healthy eating habits in rhythm with nature that (lays) the foundation for clarity of thought, stability of emotions, strength of motivation, and a healthy sense of well-being,” as noted by Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt in Cooking for the Love of the World. Snack Preparation—From Field to Table Snack preparation is also an important aspect of the day in an early childhood classroom. Children learn the importance of work and develop an appreciation for the foods they eat by seeing the teachers lovingly prepare snacks. Singing happily while chopping vegetables, carefully tending to meals prepared on the stove, and sharing in the joys of cooking a snack together set a wonderful example for the children while creating an atmosphere of warmth, gratitude and reverence in the classroom. Children also benefit greatly by assisting in snack preparation themselves. Activities such as grinding grain, chopping vegetables, kneading dough, stirring batter, etc., nourish the child’s physical body by allowing the child to develop healthy motor skills. Participating in the preparation of snacks also gives children a sense of accomplishment and belonging, and allows them to feel an important part of the class environment.
Taking the appreciation of snack one step further, it would also benefit children to experience and learn where food comes from. Schools fortunate enough to have their own garden or access to a nearby farm can allow children the experience of participating in the harvesting of their own vegetables in the beginning of the school year and planting seeds and seedlings in the spring.
Other schools that lack these resources can still experience this process by organizing a field trip to a farm or orchard. Not only will children benefit from being outdoors in nature, they will learn firsthand where food comes from as well as learn how much work is involved in growing the foods we eat. This will allow them to gain a great appreciation for the farmers in the community, as well as the foods they eat each day. Experiencing the whole process from field to table is invaluable. The work involved in these activities strengthens a child’s physical body, and experiencing the natural world in all phases of life from seed to plant and then to fruit, contributes greatly to the healthy development of a child’s own etheric body as well.
These experiences will also create cherished memories for the children. I fondly remember my kindergarten field trips to farms and apple orchards, as well as the yearly summer excursions with my own family throughout my childhood. I was also fortunate enough to have my very own vegetable garden and many fruit trees in the backyard. Although, at the time, and even years later, I complained about the work my parents forced me to participate in by gathering and shucking peas and beans, picking field berries, and harvesting other fruits and vegetables, today I am extremely grateful for these experiences in more ways than I ever thought imaginable.
Daniela Masaro is a certified Waldorf Early Childhood Educator and a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada.
Works Cited Blanning, Adam MD “Sensory Nutrition” Unknown Source Cowan, Thomas S. MD. with with Sally Fallon and Jaimen McMillan The Fourfold Path to Healing New Trends Publishing Inc. (2004) Darian, Shea Seven Times the Sun Gilead Press (2001) Fryer Wiboltt, Anne-Marie Cooking for the Love of the World Benson, NC Goldenstone Press (2008) Glockler, Michael MD A Guide to Child Health Floris Books (1990) Hildreth, Lisa and Valens, Jo The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book Bellpond Books (2006) Salter, Joan The Incarnating Child Hawthorn Press (1987) Daniela Masaro is a certified Waldorf Early Childhood Educator and a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada.