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starting in reception - school dinners or packed lunch?

(45 Posts)
rachelp73 Tue 12-Aug-08 22:09:54

My son is starting in Reception in a couple of weeks and while he is very excited and ready for big school, I can't help wondering how he is going to cope with lunches. He is not a huge fan of sandwiches but does eat things like curries and pasta which seemed to be on the menu given to us by the school, so at first I thought it would be better for him to start straight onto school dinners. He is also very naturally skinny and I thought that a bigger lunch might help him gain weight a bit.

However, I am starting to worry about him staying for school dinners as he is quite fussy about daft things like a bit of meat "having a brown bit" on it (his type of words), or him picking bits of tomato/pepper skin out of his teeth etc and being put off the whole meal.

He is also fussy about trying unfamiliar foods, and still not great with a knife and fork (we are still cutting his food up for him). Plus I'm worrying over little things like his ability to actually CHOOSE his own food at the counter (he's not very good at making quick decisions and I can just imagine them being too busy to wait while he decides what he'd like best). Another worry is that the dinner ladies will force him to finish what's on his place even if he hates it and that will put him off going to school altogether. Plus he's a very slow eater.

grin How neurotic do I sound!? I wonder if I'm pondering over it too much because I remember hating the whole school lunch thing myself when I was in infants as I was quite fussy and very slow to eat and the dinner ladies were real dragons! Plus the food was disgusting. grin I ended up going home for lunch I think for a while, but don't want to go down that road with DS!

If I send him with a packed lunch I've got the problem of what to put in it as I know schools are keen for packed lunches to be healthy but he's not that keen on most fruit, and frankly he could do with a lot more calories that he'd get from a couple of pieces of fruit -I would really want to put a chocolate bar in there too as well as some grapes or something, to give him energy. (he seems to need it, I think he's got a fast metabolism or something). Would they confiscate chocolate?!

I really would prefer him to stay for school dinners as I hope it might encourage him to try new things and be less finicky(also less hassle for me in the mornings!), but I just don't want to put him off school altogether if he gets all het up over lunch times.

Is he best starting off with a packed lunch, with familiar foods, while he settles into school? Then perhaps he can switch after half term or something?

What have other mums done? Also, do kids tend to want to do whatever their friends do?

I'm aware this might come across as neurotic but it was an issue for me as a kid and also it put my nephew off school when he didn't get on with school dinners in reception (his mum didn't actualy coax the reason he was miserable out of him for weeks and was really worried about him!) He was fine on packed lunches, and actually now, a few years later, he is happily back on school dinners (as that is what his mates are on!)

Aaaargh - what do I do?

ForeverOptimistic Tue 12-Aug-08 22:16:34

Ds will be having school dinners but I hadn't realised they have to choose at a counter. I assumed that the menu's would come home and you would pre order. Ds is so indecisive he will be deciding for the whole lunch hour! He can't use a knife or fork properly either, we are working on that at the moment!

slayerette Tue 12-Aug-08 22:18:06

I think you are over-thinking this smile but do understand you are anxious. My ds is a fussy eater at home but has school lunches (no choice) and has surprised me by what he has eaten - or been prepared to try - at school in comparison to what he is willing to do at home. He is much better at school; his teachers are firm but not dragon-ish over eating up. He often comes home having had seconds! (He is just about to go into yr 1 btw). With packed teas when he's in after-school care, I put in a wholemeal pitta with cheese or ham, grapes and carrots and some homemade cake or biscuits and juice. Have never been told off! Have you asked him what he wants to do?

slayerette Tue 12-Aug-08 22:18:55

Oh, and ds's teachers keep an eye on the knife and fork thing - help with cutting up and so on!

amateurmum Tue 12-Aug-08 22:21:48

I think packed lunch better to start as unfamiliar food just one more thing to cope with at the beginning. That is what I will be doing for dd1 when she starts full time school in January.

Both my older ds's have ended up having whatever most of their friends have as children with packed lunches do not sit with school lunch children. At the moment that is packed lunch for both although I would rather they had a school meal (less hassle in the morning!)

unknownrebelbang Tue 12-Aug-08 22:23:39

I started very faddy DS1 (now 14) on school dinners (well pre-school nursery). Whilst he is still quite faddy, he got on fine with the dinners and only started having packed lunches when he started high school.

I spoke with the staff at the nursery, and then at the (different) school prior to him starting, where the policy was to encourage the children to at least taste the food, but not to force-feed them.

feetheart Tue 12-Aug-08 22:29:53

DD started reception last year and I did what I thought was sensible and she has packed lunch for 2 days and school dinners for 3. Apparently she is the only one who does this but there doesn't seem to be a problem!!
She is quite fussy and the slowest eater in the world but has coped well, has been congratulated a few times (that she has told me about) by the 'dinner lady man' (male dinner lady!!) for clearing her plate and has tried different things so all in all a success smile
For packed lunch she has sandwiches/pitta, yogurt, grapes/strawberries, bidcuits/cake and a drink.
In her school they let reception children go into the dinner hall first so they have the time to choose and to eat if they need it. Also seems to be lots of people to help open drinks/take lids off yoghurts/clear up spills/etc

rachelp73 Tue 12-Aug-08 22:59:11

Oooh, am a bit less anxious now, after having read the replies. Thanks everyone! I love MN!

Slayerette, we kind of bigged up the school dinners idea with DS after we'd seen the menu and he was pleased to hear there is food he likes on there (and a bit of choice, too, each day). Then I told him he also could choose to have packed lunches, and he was keen on that idea too! Now he's veering between the two - probably my anxieties rubbing off on him, although I haven't actually told HIM my concerns about his abilities to cope, of course!

Am pleased to hear that these days dinner ladies (and men!) are not dragons. And didn't think they would have time to help cut food up, but then, thinking about it, what else are they there for?!

I will check if the school has a packed lunch policy or something to see if they are likely to be strict about contents, but from your posts it seems like they're unlikely to be hitler-ish about a biscuit! God knows he'll grow up healthier than I did, when I think about my 70s packed lunch - white sarnies, sugary drink, crisps and a biscuit blush Was worried it had gone a bit too strict the other way, but obviously not if biscuits and home made cakes are probably allowed.

Not sure if there's an option to mix and match packed lunch with school dinners, will check with the teacher. Was just concerned the teacher would be too busy worrying about other stuffto chat to a neurotic mum about a biscuit in a packed lunch! blush

Thanks, lovely lot! Have calmed down about it all. Will ask him what he wants to do once he's had his first week of mornings only there. (they stay for lunch the second week, then go home), then in full-time the third week.

DontCallMeBaby Tue 12-Aug-08 23:01:53

Schools could do with making it a bit clearer how lunchtimes work, to allow parents to choose with a bit more information at hand. I found something on the website for DD's school (her school as of September, that is) written by a parent, which explained that the children are taken through the choices after register. THAT is when they choose (at this one school), not while standing dithering at a counter. Unfortunately the article is buried away somewhere in the 'school diary' on a particular date on which a parent visited during lunchtime, and I can't find it again!

DD is going to take a packed lunch though, as I gave her the choice. And I gave her the choice while she was happily tucking into a John Lewis cafe lunchbox. Didn't think that one through.

ivykaty44 Tue 12-Aug-08 23:06:30

If you are going to send him in to school with a packed lunch - have a trial run at home for a couple of days.

Actually pack up his lunch as you would for school, then give it to him at lunch time in the bag and in the tupperware box, lace him in another room and say you are prteneing he is at school eating his lunch smile

Then you can peak, to see what he eats first, whether he can open the containers, how he manages and if he likes the food you put in.

It will put your mind at rest about his lunch and it will also give him a practice run at having his school lunch in his own enviroment - so one less new thing at school his lunch will be familiar.

unknownrebelbang Tue 12-Aug-08 23:10:42

Check out how strict the school is with regards to packed lunches.

Our Head leaves it to parents what goes in their lunchboxes, but I've seen threads on here which indicate a different story.

cece Tue 12-Aug-08 23:21:33

My DD is a very fussy eater and has school dinners. Mainly because when she was on packed lunches initially I kept forgetting to take them with us to school so she ended up with a school dinner anyway blush

TBH when the other children are around them I think they are much less fussy than when their mothers are with them.

Birdly Wed 13-Aug-08 10:19:36

All schools seem to vary in how they organise lunchtime.

DD starts in Sept, and they can choose to have either school lunch or a packed lunch, but they sit at the same table with the same children each day no matter what they're eating - they're not segregated into the packed lunch mob and the school lunch mob! grin

Apparently we will get the menus a week or so in advance, and choose what we would like our children to have each day. This gives the option to avoid anything they truly hate.

Biscuits and crisps are not allowed in packed lunches, but I'm not sure where they stand on home-made cakes, flapjacks etc.

It's a whole new world to unravel! grin

bozza Wed 13-Aug-08 10:33:57

TBH from what you write in your OP I would say go for dinners. You can always swap to packed lunches at a later stage if it is not working. DS has always had dinners and comes home gloating about the rice pudding or apple crumble and custard he has had for pudding. Sounds like these puddings would be good for your DS. grin I think you should be giving him the opportunity to see how he goes on. DD is starting reception in January and she is a slow eater. But I think things like pasta, or curry that she can shovel in may be a bit quicker than sandwiches for her.

Ds has been through stages of wanting packed lunches. When it happened in reception I eventually got to the bottom of him wanting a packed lunch box, so bought him a power rangers one for use on picnics, school trips etc. More recently I got the idea that it was because when he does have a packed lunch it is a one off and has treat type foods in it. I explained that this would not happen if he was having them at school. It would be brown bread sandwich, salad, fruit and maybe a yoghurt if he was lucky.

wannaBe Wed 13-Aug-08 10:42:25

tbh I don't think it has to be a one or the other choice.

My ds has packed lunches the majority of the time, but since he's been able to read fluently he's taken to looking at the menu when it comes home and on occasion has seen something he fancies and asked if he can have a school dinner that day.

We pre-order our school dinners on the monday, so give money in envelope with indication of which option child would like, it saves hugely on wastage of food.

So, maybe look at the menu every week and see what foods your ds would like? Then he could have dinner on those days and packed lunch on the other days.

For his packed lunch my ds has a home-made bread roll, fruit (either grapes or apple) and home-made cake or biscuit and a drink.

bozza Wed 13-Aug-08 10:53:52

Depends on the school wannabe. We have to decide on a half termly basis. Although I think they have some leeway in reception and it is a weekly basis. But really at our school it is one or the other. Maybe, OP, you should see if you can find out a bit more about your school's policy regarding lunches.

cece Wed 13-Aug-08 11:09:17

wannabe - that system sounds great but our school you have to be school dinners or packed lunch you can't do a bit of both. Oh no that would be far too convenient for parents! You have to give two weeks notice to swap from one to the other too. angry

wheresthehamster Wed 13-Aug-08 11:14:43

Lol at dinner ladies only job is to cut up food grin

Portofino Wed 13-Aug-08 11:26:15

My dd eats what she is given at school (there is no choice) though is dead fussy at home. I think it's the very fact of being sat with others and not wanting to be different. She was same whilst staying with her cousins - roast beef sandwiches and milk on her cereal when she refuses such things normally.

She came home from school one day and told me about the pasta and brocolli concoction she'd had for lunch - "it was absolutely delicious, mummy". I cook brocolli - will she eat it, will she feck! It could of course be my cooking....[shame]

wannaBe Wed 13-Aug-08 11:35:09

bloody hell cece that's outragious. I'd be complaining strongly to the head, the governors, and anyone else who would care to listen about that.

I would be surprised if they're legally allowed to even do that tbh, after all it's not just a school dinners school, so if you want to send your child in with a packed lunch then you have the right to do so. And they can't make you pay for a meal your child hasn't eaten.

mrz Wed 13-Aug-08 12:45:50

Remember school lunches are often supplied by private companies who make the rules and the school has little if any control once the LA has awarded the contracts.

cece Wed 13-Aug-08 14:28:55

apparently it is so the cook knows how much food to order hmm

I have complained on many occasions to the school but it makes no difference...

mrz Wed 13-Aug-08 14:38:31

It is normal policy in many schools to insist that parents can only change each half term from school meals to packed lunches.

unknownrebelbang Wed 13-Aug-08 20:25:27

Our school expects two weeks notice if a child wants to change to packed lunches.

It doesn't always get it.

WilfSell Wed 13-Aug-08 20:30:41

Please also consider school lunches as things worth supporting if they're good: hot, cooked and usually balanced healthy food.

Schools have made loads of effort to improve things since Jamie got involved but parents are pulling out in droves.

Soon - as in many schools already - we risk ending up with NO school meals service...

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