Lunchtime at The Essential Learning Group offers our kids more than a chance to eat, relax and socialize. For some, lunch becomes an engaging and valuable challenge, engaging our kids’ ability to stay focused and see a task through to completion. By turning eating into a game, we have given some of our kids a whole new reason to enjoy lunch. Not only do we engage stimuli they enjoy, we offer them a method of keeping themselves motivated to see their task through to completion in a timely fashion. The practice is valuable for their development of vital life-skills.
By winning the game over and over, they gain in self-confidence, make more productive use of their days, and develop methods for keeping themselves motivated and on point.
Geoffrey used to need more than one hour to finish his lunch. Too often, he would become distracted during the designated lunch time, and, well after most of the other children had finished, and moved on to other activities, he would remain at the table, eating sporadically.
Geoffrey thrives best when he is working within a predictable structure. When he has a clear idea of what is going to happen next, he is much better able to follow through on the next step of whatever it is he is doing. We designed an activity to suit his individual needs and interests. We knew that Geoffrey enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine, so we used smiling Thomas Trains as a visual motif. For the rest of it, we considered how we could best help Geoffrey to make the most of his lunch and his afternoon in Innovative Learning Center (ILC).
In the lunch game, Geoffrey moves a little token around the edge of a square board, advancing one space at a time, following pictorial cues for what to do next that are contained within each square. On some spaces, there is a picture of a carrot, and on others there are pictures of meat or of cups. As he lands on each space, he eats or drinks whatever corresponds most closely to the picture. The external aid allows him to keep a clear concept of what he needs to do, moment by moment, to get the job done.
For Carla, we use a similar game with some modifications to suit her learning needs. Instead of a train-themed board, she uses a Dora the explorer board. Instead of using a purely visual method for tracking her movement through lunch, we attach little cardboard spoons to each space. At each space, she picks up the little spoon and puts it into a little paper mouth. With the help of the predictable structure and the additional tactile stimuli of peeling and transferring her little spoons, Carla has the tools she needs to stay on track and to reach her lunchtime goal each day.