Opinions on nursery lunchtime issue?

(45 Posts)
FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 10:20:51

DS1 is almost 3. He goes to nursery just one morning a week, but is going up to 2 days in September.
He has a mouth ulcer at the moment, and has been reluctant to eat with it, I warned the nursery of this when I dropped him off, suggested that he may need encouragement to eat, and no citrus or anythign that might aggravate it.
When I picked him up I was told he hadn't touched his lunch. None at all, or drink. I thought fair enough, although I can usually talk him into having a taste, they've got a few to look after. But then they said that when they were clearing up, he had said that he wanted it, but was told no, lunchtime is over. So he had no lunch. Is it me or is that a bit of a harsh lesson for a not-quite 3yo?
When I picked him up I thought he might be ill, he was really quiet and a bit grey looking. I fed him the contents of my handbag (a carton of juice, some rice cakes and a fruit/veg puree pouch) and within about 10 minutes he was perky and back to normal. It was only an hour after lunch time, but he was clearly needing his food.
I think I need to write a note and ask for clarification on what happened and their policy.
I'm annoyed that he wasn't given the opportunity to eat when he said he wanted it (why not just 5 minutes?) and moreso because I pay for the lunch.
It's a Montessori nursery, and they are usually really flexible with what activities a child does (no enforced joining in) so this surprised me.
I know he can be a bit distracted at meal times, and a slow eater, but I am not convinced letting him skip meals is a way to get him out of this. I am especially concerned about what happens next month, when I don't collect him until tea time.

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 10:22:35

I should add he is not a fussy or reluctant eater, he just sometimes takes his time with it (usually because he is chatting, or he delays because he thinks it is hot)

insancerre Tue 06-Aug-13 10:52:36

I am with the nursery.
he was offered lunch, presumably several times, he refused
when it was taken away he said he then wanted it but by then it was too late
he had had plenty of time to eat it
you had said he was off his food, he was going home after lunch anyway so they presumably were not concerned about him going without food as they knew you would be able to give him some
they also have to stick to a bit of a schedule- can you imagine the carnage if every 2 year old refused their dinner and were then given it when they later demanded it? the nursery day would literally be an all day diner
also, he does have to learn that he eats when the food is offered

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 11:06:33

Thanks for the clarification, I do understand the constraints, but I am also not sure what would generally happen in these situations, which is why I am interested in outside input.

I do have specific concerns to address, but this is not the place for that.

PearlyWhites Tue 06-Aug-13 11:13:24

I think that is very unfair and possibly illegal because you cannot deny a child a meal, I would complain personally .

JosiePosiePuddingAndPie Tue 06-Aug-13 11:18:33

My Ds's nursery would never leave a child hungry. Isn't that all there is to say?

Seb101 Tue 06-Aug-13 13:55:01

Every single nursery I've ever worked at or tempted at would have done this. You can't have children deciding when they want to eat; it would be total chaos! Allowances may be made if a child was ill, and may be taken aside a little later and offered a snack. But generally, children eat at set meal and snack times, if they don't eat, they wait till next meal time. To be honest skipping a meal once in a while wont cause any harm. It may well teach your child that the consequences
of refusing food is your hungry! Can you imagine if after lunch was cleared away, your child was allowed to continue eating. All of a sudden you'd have loads of little kiddies wanting the same! Then the next day, he and others would increasingly ask for and expect food outside meal times. Before you know it you'd have the poor staff running a full time canteen! I think what happened was acceptable and normal. Simply reinforce to your child ' oh you were hungry today at nursery weren't you? You must eat your lunch or you wont get anything else. Make sure tomorrow you eat up otherwise your poor tummy will be empty.' He will learn very quickly. This approach is widely recommended by health and childcare professionals as a good way to handle meal time refusals. Take it away, nothing else offered, wait till next meal.
Not sure the mouth ulcer is particularly relevant. He ate when you collected him, so he CAN eat when he chooses to. I think too much is expected of many nurseries, it's not one on one care, group care means they have to conform to the group to a certain extent.

Seb101 Tue 06-Aug-13 13:56:18

Pearly whites; they didn't deny him a meal. It was offered and he declined.

BabyStone Tue 06-Aug-13 14:04:00

I am with you, having worked in a nursery I have experienced children not wanting their lunch (for various reasons) we would always try and save the lunch for the child. Some times they have fallen asleep, or say they don't like it and by the time we've convinced them to try it, lunch time is over. We've even been told to keep 1 portion aside as X is at an appointment in the morning but should be back at lunch time. If they are not back and we have thrown the lunch away, we would give them a little snack if they were hungry or make sure they eat well at actual snack time. It can be a pain and in that scenario we would have to sort out staff/children ratios if one child is still eating and the rest have finished and they want to get on with activities or go outside but the Childs welfare is first priority

SunnyIntervals Tue 06-Aug-13 14:06:52

I wouldn't be impressed if my nursery did this. They could have said he could have it but had to eat it now and then they would clear in a few minutes. He isn't even 3!

BabyStone Tue 06-Aug-13 14:08:52

Sorry sent to early, in that particular circumstance we would have offered him something else that he might have been able to eat/drink. Simply telling the other children " X has a poorly mouth so he can not eat the hot dinner". I think you need to check the policy with the manager

SavoyCabbage Tue 06-Aug-13 14:18:47

I can see both sides. He's really little still and he has a sore mouth but on the other hand when there are lots of children you can't have them starting a meal when the others have finished and left the table as you would never get on to the next thing.

When insancerre said she was "with the nursery" I think she meant that she was agreeing with their stance rather than she worked there.

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 15:53:29

My problem is not that he didn't like it, or wasn't hungry, if that was the case then fine. What I would have done was taken it away and offered it to him later, or given a plain snack (like toast, so as not to encourage missing meals for treats). When I do this I always explain that he is hungry because he didn't eat his lunch, but I always give him something when he says he is hungry, because he is only small, and just learning to understand his hunger and how to deal with it.

He might have just been messing around, but he has never done this before, and if he is distracted or slow I find telling him to eat or saying I will count to 10 and he needs to eat or get down from the table will sort the problem out.

He is generally a very good eater, as I said earlier. He is not a fussy eater or a regular meal refuser. He eats with us at every meal, he eats exactly what we are eating, and has a good appetite. At nursery he eats new foods happily and has never had a problem.

What I believe happened (in case it wasn't clear) was that he was frightened to eat, in case it hurt his mouth - I had the same problem the night before, 3 times trying to eat his dinner he burst into tears because it hurt. I didn't say he was "off his food" I said he was struggling to eat and needed reassurance. I expect he sat there, worried that eating was going to hurt, but still hungry. Anyone who has ever had a really nasty toothache or the like knows how horrible that is. I don't think that the right time to teach lessons about schedules is when I child is in physical difficulty.

If he had not been in pain, and just being slow, I could understand it a bit better, but I still feel that taking food from under his nose as he expresses a wish to eat it is not something I can endorse. I will be contacting them, just to explain that in future, decisions like this are not to be made without my input.

I was only 10 minutes walk away, killing time for the last hour he was there, a quick phone call and I would have taken him away to have something he could eat.

Viviennemary Tue 06-Aug-13 16:01:21

I think it was mean that they wouldn't let him eat his lunch just because lunchtime was over. I wouldn't be happy with this approach at all for such a young child that had a sore mouth. They sound very inexperienced and not very sympathetic.

zzzzz Tue 06-Aug-13 16:05:49

I'm sorry I agree with the nursery. The child was offered food, refused it presumably for some time because meal times are not just a few minutes, and then changed his mind. I would prefer them to be consistent and clear away.

If your child was really in such enormous pain from a mouth ulcer that he couldn't eat, he wouldn't have been able to scoff the rice cakes and smoothy stuff in your bag. If it was me I would give less attention to the ulcer and help him learn to just get on with it. Waiting an hour for food will not have hurt him at all.

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 16:18:54

I'm not so concerned about him waiting an hour for food (though he was really flagging, I am more concerned about this being the usual approach when he starts on full days.

I haven't been making a big thing of the ulcer, I have been positive and encouraging when he is eating, I didn't bring it up with him, just the nursery staff. At dinner the night before he was bursting into tears, pointing into his mouth and saying "there's a spot in my mouth". When I spoke to him about why he hadn't eaten his lunch, he told me it was because of the spot in his mouth. I don't know if it was actually hurting, or if he was frightened after the night before, but that seems to be the reason for his refusal.

PeriodMath Tue 06-Aug-13 16:30:33

Ooh, people are hash aren't they? Poor boy, you have my sympathy OP. I think some flexibility should have been allowed. Sounds like it was a one-off, they should have treated him with more kindness.

PeriodMath Tue 06-Aug-13 16:31:04

People are harsh, not hash.

zzzzz Tue 06-Aug-13 16:44:29

You absolutely must talk to them about it because its important that you feel happy with what is going on with your young man.

I would want exactly this approach with mine though. I don't think it's draconian at all to say, "lunchtime is finished now" and move on. Downplaying minor ailments like mouth ulcers would also be my preference. I definitely wouldn't want anyone cajoling my child into eating. To me they sound calm and sensible. I doubt very much (particularly in a Montessori enviroment) that they are taking this stance for their own convenience.

SunnyIntervals Tue 06-Aug-13 16:51:31

Er, ulcers may be minor but they can be really quite sore. My DS is 25 months and was off his food when he had ulcers.

zzzzz Tue 06-Aug-13 17:09:34

sunny I wasn't for a moment suggesting that mouth ulcers can be sore and uncomfortable.

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 17:54:34

I'm not sure how to downplay the ulcer any more. He cried when he was eating and said it hurt, I gave him a little hug, told him I was sorry he was sore, but he needed to eat so he wasn't hungry later, then I sat and talked to him about cheerful stuff while he ate.

I told the nursery staff there had been an issue, so that they were aware, and could avoid feeding him anything that might make it hurt more.

That was it, no big fuss. I wouldn't expect them to make a fuss either, just to be aware that he had an issue, that might need to be taken into account, say, when deciding how to deal with him refusing to eat.

TiggyD Tue 06-Aug-13 19:40:52

It probably would have been a 45 minute long meal time. That's quite a long time to keep refusing to eat.
He's now learnt that if he says he doesn't want to eat anything, he won't have anything to eat. He learnt that his choices have consequences.

nextphase Tue 06-Aug-13 20:18:38

DS2 had a mouth ulcer last week. Noticed after a day of not really eating anything at nursery - they commented that he'd only eaten yoghurt and fruit all day, so they had offered him extra.
The next morning, I told them I though he was off his food due to soreness in mouth due to ulcers (2 on end of tongue). They promised to keep an eye on him
Picked him up at 4.30, and was told cereal bf eaten fine, they were worried about the texture of the lunch, so he got offered a plate of similar but not oven baked from the baby room, which he wolfed down. He then picked out the middles of the sandwiches for tea, but gobbled up 2 bowls of icecream. I was seriously impressed with the effort they had gone to for him.

Equally, I can see their point about lunch being over - but what would have happened if sleeping? Or is it a school nursery environment, rather than a childcare nursery environment, where I can see a tougher stance may be taken on most things, as he will be the youngest there.

FutureNannyOgg Tue 06-Aug-13 21:06:52

Tiggy, it is not that long, I have arrived to pick him up 45 minutes after lunch and they were all in the middle of an activity. Also, like I said, he wasn't eating because it hurt, that's a bad time to learn a lesson, even if I did agree with the means. I don't think it is appropriate for someone who isn't a child's parent can make the decision to withhold food to teach a lesson. As this thread shows, not every parent is comfortable with that.

Next, it is a nursery with a baby room, they take them from pretty small, but they do promote early independence more enthusiastically than some. The other reason I am questioning this is that my youngest is due to start there.

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