Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Modeling Good Nutrition in the Montessori Classroom

healthy food choices model behavior NAMC montessori teachers classroom

Take a look at the headlines today and you are sure to be barraged by the articles on the ever growing problem of obesity. It seems as if it’s becoming an epidemic in many parts of the developing world. Children are confused by TV and radio ads touting fast food and sugar laden foods as well as “low-fat”, “fat-free”, “low-carb” and “trans-fat free” products. In addition to that, there are constant ads for diets, weight loss “wraps”, and gastric surgery.

As Montessorians, our purpose is to educate and prepare children for life. As childhood obesity continues to rise (as well as the diseases that follows it), we should strive to educate our children at an early age so as to help stop the spread of this condition. By educating both the child and the family, we are providing them with the necessary tools for living a healthy life.

According to Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Center for Eating and Weight Control, obesity is caused by poor food choices and by overeating (Tuna, 2004). Teaching children about a balanced and nutritious diet is a must for promoting healthy, growing bodies and minds. This is easily accomplished at all stages of development.

Modeling Good Nutrition in the Montessori Classroom - Healthy Choices Start With Teachers

Children are born with taste preferences towards the sweet and salty. Research claims that a young child needs to be exposed to new foods at least 10 times before they will accept it. Children also prefer foods they are familiar with versus foods they’ve never tasted. Studies also show that using food as a reward or withholding it as punishment also leads to overeating. The same is true for “forbidding” or denying certain foods. This often results in overindulging in that food when the adult (parental) control is not around.

At home and in the Montessori classroom it is important that parents and Montessori teachers are consistent role models. What kind of message does it send to a child if we ban chocolate in their lunches, yet they see their Montessori teacher eating chocolate for lunch? When children see adults eating or drinking in response to stress it sends a message that these are appropriate methods of stress relief.

Mealtimes should be a time to come together, to have polite conversation, and to share a meal. Use this time to model the grace and courtesy of sharing a meal together. Use a smaller plate for children to help regulate portion control. If a dessert is offered, it should be one that is nutritionally sound. It shouldn't be used as a reward for cleaning the plate, or for trying a new food. Conversely, it should not be withheld, either, for not eating or for bad behavior.

As part of the "Cosmic Education", Maria Montessori believed that a healthy mind, body and spirit are essential elements for success on the universal path of progress and development. With these, a human being has a better chance of making a positive contribution to the world than one who does not take care of his physical, mental, and emotional development. The Montessori teacher can play a key role by helping the children discover that good health is a pleasure they can enjoy from childhood into old age.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, June 19, 2007.


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