Thoughts & Reflections
“What did you do today?!” We’re all eager to hear what happened during a child’s day. This is your absolutely most favorite person, how did they spend their time away from you?! What amazing things happened at school?? It’s not uncommon for one answer to be, “Ate snack.”
That’s it?? How about reading? How about playing with a friend? Anything?
Yes, absolutely. More certainly happened during the day. Skills are building, neural pathways are forming, independences are being achieved. But snack still stands out. We thought we’d go more into why this might be.
The Snack Table is the only table in the classroom with two chairs. It’s notable in the classroom. Food is a social experience in our culture, and we have good memories of time spent around a table at holidays, big discussions and bigger laughs, sitting up with the grown ups much later than usual listening with rapt attention to stories of olden days.
As the classroom reflects real life, snack, as well as lunch, are appropriately social situations. Snack is available just like any other work choice — if the snack bowl is out and there is an open chair, snack is available. If not, that’s okay, too.
At the beginning of the school year, we might have a group snack, but most of the time, it’s just out throughout the morning. When a child is at school at 7:30, they might be hungry for a snack earlier than a child who arrives at 8:30. We all have different rhythms, and having snack just be out as a choice, rather than at a specific time, is respectful of a child. You get to notice if and when you’re hungry, and you get to meet that need yourself.
Empathy is at play. Food is one of those things that tends to elicit an emotional response, and if you’re hungry RIGHT NOW, it can be difficult to be patient, whether you’re 4 or 40. If there are only two chairs available, it’s possible you might not be able to sit and eat the moment you identify, “I’m hungry!” These other people were hungry, too, that’s why they’re sitting there. Conversely, when I’m the one sitting, I don’t want to linger long after I’ve finished, since I don’t want to cause discomfort to one of my classmates waiting longer than is comfortable to get a snack. This helps children to identify with Others, which is the basis for empathy and the social justice that’s fostered in Montessori classrooms.
I can meet my own needs. I’ve identified this sensation as hunger, a space is available, snack is out on the counter, and I know what to do! This is logic and independence in-action.
Or, perhaps, it’s just that I was hungry, and enjoyed a friend’s company.
Written by:Charlotte Wood