Positive Relationships: All in a day's work - opening a lunch club


An expanding part of our practice has worked a treat, say Nicola Bushell and Hayley Cannell, joint managers of Oakey Dokey's Pre-School in Essex.

Since opening our pre-school, we had always offered a lunch club on a Friday, because this was the day that we ran both a morning and afternoon session. However, in September we had to make the hard decision to close the Friday afternoon session and concentrate on filling our morning sessions. This was all part of our business plan!

We didn't want to stop having our lunch club, though, because we felt it offered the children many benefits. Most importantly, lunch club provided the children with a chance to experience an important part of a school routine, which obviously helped to smoothe their transition to school. So, we decided to offer lunch club after every morning session.

We decided that instead of parents having to sign up for 'lunch club', we would offer a flexible approach, giving parents and children the option to decide in the morning if they would like to bring in their packed lunches.

We are finding that this arrangement works well. Some parents now use it in this flexible way, while others stick with their regular days and others use it every day. It has exceeded our expectations and has now become a profitable venture.

We enjoy this sociable part of the day, with all the children having lively discussions about their lunches. It's interesting to listen to the conversations about their favourite foods.

We have also offered advice to parents on what makes a 'healthy lunch box' and the size of lunches that they should be providing for their children. We understand that some children are intimidated when they open a full lunch box and that it's easier for the child to have a selection of smaller items. We recommend three to four items - a small sandwich, a piece of fruit, a drink and perhaps a homemade cake would be ideal.

Lunch club also is an ideal time to encourage independence. We support children in tidying up and packing away their lunch boxes. Additionally, it's nice to have this extra time with our key children and parents, as it means home time is more relaxed.

We will continue to develop this area of our provision, and perhaps in the future we will offer cooked lunches for the children - especially on cold days when we make our special harvest soup!

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