This is a very popular event in our classroom!
The toddler teachers begin the work that leads to self serve snack at the beginning of the children’s time at the school. The toddler classes have very specific steps that help prepare the children to serve themselves, an important life skill. This, of course, carries with the children as they transition into the primary classrooms. They typically enter the primary room with this self-help skill under their belts.
One of the benefits of having self-serve snack is that it empowers the children to take control of a particular aspect of their lives. They are not told when they must eat snack; but rather have the opportunity to eat snack when there is a spot available anytime between (roughly) 9:30 and 11:00. Waiting for a chair to become available at the snack table also works on the skill of delaying gratification or patience.
In the toddler environment, the teachers begin with community snack. The teacher has prepared individual snacks and the children all sit together to eat their snack. As the teacher observes the development readiness of the children in her class, she will introduce self-serve community snack. Essentially, the teacher has prepared a large bowl of snack for all of the children in the class. She sits with the class as a whole and facilitates each child serving himself with a scoop, tongs, spoon or ladle that has previously been introduced on the practical life shelf. Once the children begin to master this aspect of snack, the teacher will introduce the snack table for 3 children at a time where the children help themselves to snack.
In the primary classrooms, the children have a snack table with a table cloth set for 4 children. The snack is set up on the counter with a basket or tray of the snack, a tray with a small pitcher of juice, black snack baskets, paper towels and a sign indicated what is for snack. The sign helps them to know how much to take and is a great language and math tool. After washing hands, the child places a paper towel in his black tray and takes the snack that is out. The black tray is then carried to the snack table.
The child then comes back to the counter to pour his own juice. We allow for one cup of juice with snack; but unlimited water from the sink. (Sometimes overage happens in the cup and we sip it down a bit before heading back to the table.)
Then, they sit at the snack table and enjoy snack with polite manners and conversations with friends.
When he is finished with snack, the child will take the black tray and dump the trash into the can; but holding onto the black tray. He then places the black tray on the refrigerator with the other dirty trays.