Children’s active participation during meals in Early Childhood and Care Institutions
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGlaser, V. (2019). Children’s active participation during meals in Early Childhood and Care Institutions. Childhood, 26(1).
From the Introduction: How do Early Childhood and Care Institutions (ECCs) arrange their meals? Several studies find that meals are often regulated and managed by adults so that the children have few opportunities for spontaneous speech and expressions (Smidt, 2003; Markström and Hallden, 2009). The meals also appear to be characterized more and more by a focus on health and proper diet (Smidt, 2003). It seems that self-control and strict dietary rules have taken precedence over other aspects of shared meals. If true, this deviates from current ideals about children's involvement, active participation and exploration. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Kindergarten Act passed by the Norwegian Parliament (2005) and the General Plan for ECCs (FPK2017) focus on the right of children to participate. According to the General Plan, ECCs have an obligation to provide the opportunity for children's participation by facilitating and encouraging children to express their views on everyday activities. The children should be given regular access to participate in and have influence on the planning and assessment of the activities. The purpose of this theoretical review is to reflect on how ECC staff arrange the meals and how children are given opportunities to actively participate during meals in Early Childhood and Care institutions (ECCs). This is mainly a theoretical study in which I discuss a selection of findings from previous research in light of Norbert Elias's theory of civilization (1994). First of all, I will refer to research on the organization of meals in ECCs. I will then discuss possible consequences when emphasizing rules and routines in light of Elias' perspectives on civilization as a phenomenon. Finally, I will present research that illustrates how to open for children's active participation to a greater extent (Ahlmann, 2010; Andersen and Holm, 2013; Bae, 2009; Bjørgen, 2009; Brunosson, 2012; Grindland et al, 2011; Iversen and Sabinsky, 2011; Johansson and Pramling Samuelson, 2001; Smidt, 2012). The research I refer to is mainly from ECCs in the Nordic countries. Some of the research that has been chosen is from UK and US because they are of special interest for my study.