One of my favorite teachers and I spent almost two days figuring out the snack procedure and set-up for her room. The result was utterly fantastic. She spent the first week or two of school focusing on presenting how to have snack and snack went along without a hitch for the rest of year. So read on if you want the best snack ever in your classroom! Step 1 is to get your name card and place it in the ladybug holder. This holds your space at the table and prevents the possibility of another child rushing in to sit at the table while the other child is getting snack at the snack shelf. My friend decided on a two-person snack table but this same procedure can work with three children if you have a large enough table. In the picture above, the placemats are reused all morning. Those and those cute little lady bug card holders stay on the snack table at all times. The children set up and clean up the rest.
Step 2 is to wash your hands.
Step 3 is to go and get a glass of water. Fill it up at the shelf and then bring your full glass to the table and place it on your placemat (to the upper right, of course).
Step 4 is to get some food! Choose what you like from what is available. (She likes to use portion cards but they're not required. If you use them, make sure your assistant/co-teacher doesn't start policing quantities. Instead, if you have an over eater, deal with that issue directly.) Make sure you leave room on the shelf for the children to place their plate while adding food. It is too much for most children at this age to hold the plate with one hand while serving food onto it with the other. Place your food so carefully on your plate and then bring your plate to your placemat.
Step 5 is to get utensils and a napkin. Then, it's time to sit down and enjoy your snack, alone or with a friend.
When you're done, you take your plate to the compost to scrape off any leftovers and then place it in the dirty dishes bin (underneath the washing bin; in the picture, the dishes are being washed in the left, top bin; the dishwashing soap is usually also on top by the sponge). Washing is not required but the dirty dishes bin is available for anyone who wants to do the dishwashing work. Then, bring your glass and then utensils to the dish bin. Finally, bring your napkin to the laundry basket (I prefer to use cloth napkins...lots of opportunities for cloth washing, ironing, and folding.)
Now, pick up your placemat by the corners (so nothing falls out) and bring it to the compost bin. Shake/wipe the crumbs in and return the placemat to the table. If you have a lot of wet snacks (like yogurt), you might want to use placemats that can be wiped clean or be sure to have a replacement supply available. Later in the year, and depending on the snack, you can add in a procedure for getting a cloth/sponge and wiping the table.
The children are also involved in preparing the snack every morning. As the adult is getting things ready (e.g., washing grapes, cutting cheese, cutting watermelon, or cutting muffins as in the picture below), the children are invited to join in and help. This work is available for whoever is interested and around at the time the adult is preparing snack (usually, the first task after arrival in the morning). This is not a group activity but just something that organically happens with one or two children. The adult just needs to quickly set out the required materials. In the picture, this girl needed a cutting board, a tray to place the cut muffin pieces, a knife, and a sponge to wipe up. A little bowl to put the empty muffin wrappers in would have been nice too.
Any food preparation work done as part of practical life can also added to the snack shelf. For example, if a child cuts bananas, they can place the sliced bananas for all to share on the shelf.
What do you think? Give this one a try and let us know how it goes!
For more inspiration, check out the Ritual of the Meal video from Montessoriguide.org.