Open Discussion Forum

  • 1.  Cultural Continuity

    Posted 10-01-2021 03:25 PM
    Hello!  I have had some classes in culturally responsive practices, but I have not had many opportunities to put what I have learned into practice.  We just had a student start in our program who moved here from India a couple months ago.  He is 4 years old, and he is not used to using utensils to eat.  I want to be respectful of his culture while also helping him learn these skills.  I remember learning that a child should be able to feel that they belong at school and home.  Does anyone have any advice on how we should work with this child in regards to eating?

    Elizabeth Weller
    Park Place Children's Center
    Anderson IN

  • 2.  RE: Cultural Continuity

    Posted 10-02-2021 01:50 AM

    Have the child be a leader in a game of setting the table. to eat a snack that requires eating with a fork ,a spoon, then a knife and fork. The food can be grapes berries cheese. Make sure he first sees his classmates do the at least one time. Stand pull out his or her chair . Set from a pile of place setting that are already pre made with the setting on them. After the setting is placed give the child what they will be eating let each child do this before they sit to eat everyday. It is learned by others then he gets a turn to do it first to. 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  • 3.  RE: Cultural Continuity

    Posted 10-02-2021 07:07 AM
    Hi Elizabeth, I taught on college campuses most of my 16 years in the ECE classroom and there are usually families from around the world. Here are my thoughts… I'm wondering if the child's family has expressed interest in their child learning to use utensils? I think it would be meaningful to have a conversation about it with them before taking any next steps. It's not necessary for someone to have that skill in order to succeed in the US, so it's not necessary to teach the child these skills if the family isn't interested. The fine motor skills can be taught during play instead. I would also make sure you have books or images in the classroom that show the many ways the humans eat together and the variety of ways they get the food to their mouths (fingers, chop sticks, forks, etc.)
    Now I teach adults and we still talk about food and different ways of eating! I had a student share with the class the other day that she loves eating with her fingers because it makes her feel like she's at home with her family.
    I hope that's helpful.

    Lauren Stauble
    Consultant/Faculty/ECE Admin
    Boston, MA

  • 4.  RE: Cultural Continuity

    Posted 10-03-2021 03:55 PM

    Hi Elizabeth. 

    This conversation is so important, as it is a very common situation to have feeding practices differ between home and program.

    I agree with Lauren that it's such an important step to connect with the family to share information and decision-making. In many cultures, including the Indian culture, adults do hand feed children. There are likely differences in the food itself; not only flavors, but types of food. Traditional Indian food is eaten without utensils, so the child may be managing adjustment to an unfamiliar meal/snack routine, experiencing a sense of discomfort with what is being served, and also noticing differences in how peers are eating.

    Before making a decision, ask the family what they would prefer for the child. You mentioned the family has immigrated from India just a few months ago. I'm sure they are dealing with may cultural discontinuities, as well, and they will appreciate your authentic care and support for their child.

    I'm not sure if all food is prepared in the program.  If so, it's important to let the family know about the specific kinds of foods that are being served. I feel like you can take the time needed to communicate with the family. Without trying to speed up the process or change the child's ways of approaching meals, the child may naturally adopt what other children are doing. But if not, that really is okay. Fine motor skills can be learned in other ways.

    Programs should add a question about feeding practices to orientation conversations – but often this topic is overlooked until teachers notice differences in the classroom. I'd love to hear what the family advises. This is a situation we can all learn from. It's wonderful you are offering a safe and welcoming program for this family.

    Marie Masterson

    Marie Masterson
    Marie Masterson
    Warrenville IL

  • 5.  RE: Cultural Continuity

    Posted 10-04-2021 09:14 AM
    Hi Elizabeth,

    You have received some excellent advice. As a person of Indian origin, I have to say that many traditional Indian food items are eaten without utensils even though these items may not fall under the typical "finger food" category. Depending on where the family is from in India, the child may be comfortable using a spoon to eat certain foods. So it is best to discuss this with the child's family.

    When my daughter was in preschool I proactively informed her teachers not to force her to eat with utensils certain food items in her lunch box. But to ensure that she has washed her hands thoroughly. Now that my daughter is much older, she uses it more as an opportunity to educate friends (and teachers) on how certain Indian food items are eaten. :-)


    Kamna Seth
    The Source for Learning
    Reston, VA