Days and Preschool Days, Too:
ON DINING WITH CHILDREN
1. Lunch in Preschool
have to have five or six children of your own, or to have hosted
birthday parties for very young children by yourself, to have an idea
of preschool lunch. Eight arms and two or three mouths would come in
* * * *During morning play time, while I'm outside, one of our in-room teachers places each child's lunchbox at one of four round tables. The placement is supposed to be random, usually seating four or five children at each table. Sometimes children surreptitiously move their lunchboxes, though. When lunch time comes, we occasionally gasp in surprise to see ten lunchboxes crowding a single table!
We come in after the bell rings and have "circle" for about ten minutes, followed by a Grace song. Then, 4 or 5 at a time, children join in playing a simple game, after which they're dismissed to go and wash their hands.
As hand-washing proceeds, I crane my neck to see who "the luck of the draw" has brought to my table today. That bare fact will determine our lunchtime conversation.
One day not far into the school year, I looked around to see that none of the 5 children at my table was much more than two. I spent a frantic 5 minutes opening every object on the table. Then, opening and starting to eat my own lunch, I tried several conversational gambits, beginning with the ever-popular "animal game".
For all the response that brought, I might have been addressing a group of recent immigrants who spoke no English. Suddenly I realized the turth. These children could scarcely talk!
I searched my mind for some simple, unifying subject. The only thing that came to mind was the sentence, "Anybody see "Teletubbies" yesterday?" Feeling like Johnny Carson after he'd given up on his opening monologue and started tap-dancing, I tried it. My question brought smiles of recognition and a few murmured affirmatives.
"Can you name all the teletubbies?" I asked, and we were off. It doesn't take that much conversation to get through lunch.