I run a small home daycare, and a difficult time for me is clearing the table after a meal. Do you have the kids clear their bowls or empty extra food into the compost? My children excuse themselves when finished and leave their items on the table to be cleared and then washed by myself and any child who wants to help. I’d like to have a clearing/composting process, but the sink is often not ready for dishes, and we do the dishes in wash tubs on the table anyway….any suggestions? I’d love to know what you do with your children.
Thanks so much, Jennifer
There are lots of different things you can do to help smooth things out at the end of a meal. At Rainbow Bridge, we do things differently at the end of lunch than we do for the snack after naptime, for example. Lunch is the big meal of the day that is also a social time, so everyone stays at the table while the candle is lit, until the meal is done. At the end of the meal I’ll sing, “Last little nibbles,” then “Last sips of water.” I’ll blow out the candle and put washtubs on the table, and children put their bowls, cups and spoons in the washtubs. Then I pass out a wet warm washcloth to each child, and we play a fun little game with wiping our hands, faces, and the table in front of us. One game that the children love is “questions,” where we all hold the washcloths up against our mouths, and the children suggest questions for me to ask. The answer to these questions is always “no,” so everyone shakes their heads while holding the cloths still, effectively wiping their mouths. Questions range from “Will we wear our bathing suits to play out in the snow?” to “Is my house made of cheese?” Then cloths go in a bowl and children push their chairs in. A washcloth for each child definitely increases the laundry load, but it’s well worth it in my opinion.
When my mom is in charge of a meal, she excuses each child by bringing out Redbird (a wool bird on a string, held by a stick), and children make a ‘nest’ with their hands for redbird to land in. Once Redbird lands in a child’s ‘nest’ he may leave the table.
When I worked at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten, children scraped their bowls into the compost before they put them in a washtub. This was a fairly energy-intensive activity for the adults, and success depends on having a good traffic pattern from the table to the compost bucket to the washtub. The compost bucket also can’t be too small!
For the snack after naptime, things are much looser. Children eat as they wake up, and when they are done they take their bowls to the counter and go into the playroom to play. If they’ve spilled (it’s usually apple sauce or yoghurt) they get a cloth and wipe it up.
So, there are different ways to do it, and different meals can have different levels of formality. Since your children are excused from the table as they finish, it seems they could easily take their bowls to the counter, or to a washtub if the counter is too high. I knew one LifeWays caregiver who had very little ones. She would excuse them one by one and have them come stand in front of her, and she would wipe their face and brush off their clothes before they left the eating area. It was a fairly slow process, but the children clearly enjoyed getting that snippet of direct personal attention.
I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing, and good luck!