Supporting Children’s Healthy Development During Mealtime in Early Childhood Settings

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the frequency of and relationship between responsive feeding practices used during early childhood education (ECE) mealtimes and high-quality teaching practices and teacher characteristics. We found variation in teachers’ use of responsive feeding practices. Teachers were more often observed using role modeling than supporting eating self-regulation. Programs that implemented family style meal service had a generally higher use of responsive feeding practices. Overall, we found positive associations between high-quality teaching practices and responsive feeding practices. Teachers’ Head Start status was associated with teaching practices and role modeling during mealtime. Teachers’ education and salary were associated with high-quality teaching practices. This study highlights the possible training needs for teachers related to responsive feeding practices and the need to expand classroom quality assessment to incorporate classroom routines. Finally, this study sheds light on the importance of building better interdisciplinary partnerships to support teachers during mealtimes and to improve ECE mealtime practices in order to help promote optimal outcomes for children in all areas of development.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Data Availability

The data that has been used in this study is confidential. All participants were assured raw data would remain confidential and would not be shared.

References

  1. Addessi, E., Galloway, A. T., Visalberghi, E., & Birch, L. L. (2005). Specific social influences on the acceptance of novel foods in 2–5-year-old children. Appetite, 45(3), 264–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2019). Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, 4th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://nrckids.org/CFOC.

  3. Barnett, W. S. (2003). Better teachers, better preschools: Student achievement linked to teacher qualifications. National Institute for Early Education Research [NIEER] Preschool Policy Matters, Issue 2.

  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2004). Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology, 4(1p2), 1–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Benjamin-Neelon, S. E. (2018). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: Benchmarks for nutrition in child care. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 118(7), 1291–1300.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Booren, L. M., Downer, J. T., & Vitiello, V. E. (2012). Observations of children’s interactions with teachers, peers, and tasks across preschool classroom activity settings. Early Education & Development, 23(4), 517–538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bradley, B. J., & Greene, A. C. (2013). Do health and education agencies in the United States share responsibility for academic achievement and health? A review of 25 years of evidence about the relationship of adolescents’ academic achievement and health behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), 523–532.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Buell, M., Han, M., & Vukelich, C. (2017). Factors affecting variance in Classroom Assessment Scoring System scores: Season, context, and classroom composition. Early Child Development and Care, 187(11), 1635–1648.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bullard, D. J., & Hancock, L. (2017). Compensation, turnover, and quality. 4.

  11. Burchinal, M. (2018). Measuring early care and education quality. Child Development Perspectives, 12(1), 3–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cooper, C. C. (2020). Tough love or laissez-faire? Exploring the feeding styles of urban preschool teachers and associations with nutrition-focused professional development. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01097-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cooper, C. C., & Contento, I. R. (2019). Urban preschool teachers’ nutrition beliefs, mealtime practices, and associations with training. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 51(9), 1047–1057. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2019.06.006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Degotardi, S. (2010). High-quality interactions with infants: Relationships with early-childhood practitioners’ interpretations and qualification levels in play and routine contexts. International Journal of Early Years Education, 18(1), 27–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. (2016). Head start program performance standards and other regulations. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/policy/45-cfr-chap-xiii.

  16. Dev, D., Hasnin, S., Sisson, S., Stage, V. C., & Tovar, A. (2020a). P28 Validation of an observational measure to capture feeding practices in child care centers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 52(7), S28–S29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Dev, D. A., Carraway-Stage, V., Schober, D. J., McBride, B. A., Kok, C. M., & Ramsay, S. (2017). Implementing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics benchmarks for nutrition education for children: Child-care providers’ perspectives. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(12), 1963-1971.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.07.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dev, D. A., Garcia, A. S., Dzewaltowski, D. A., Sisson, S., Franzen-Castle, L., Rida, Z., et al. (2020b). Provider reported implementation of nutrition-related practices in childcare centers and family childcare homes in rural and urban Nebraska. Preventive Medicine Reports, 17, 101021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.101021.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Dev, D. A., McBride, B. A., Harrison, K., Bost, K., McBride, B., Donovan, S., et al. (2013). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics benchmarks for nutrition in child care 2011: Are child-care providers across contexts meeting recommendations? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(10), 1346–1353. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.05.023.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Dev, D. A., McBride, B. A., Speirs, K. E., Blitch, K. A., & Williams, N. A. (2016). “Great job cleaning your plate today!” Determinants of child-care providers’ use of controlling feeding practices: An exploratory examination. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(11), 1803–1809. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.07.016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Dev, D. A., McBride, B. A., Speirs, K. E., Donovan, S. M., & Cho, H. K. (2014). Predictors of Head Start and child-care providers’ healthful and controlling feeding practices with children aged 2 to 5 years. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(9), 1396–1403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2014.01.006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Downer, J. T., López, M. L., Grimm, K. J., Hamagami, A., Pianta, R. C., & Howes, C. (2012). Observations of teacher–child interactions in classrooms serving Latinos and dual language learners: Applicability of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System in diverse settings. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(1), 21–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Erinosho, T. O., Hales, D. P., McWilliams, C. P., Emunah, J., & Ward, D. S. (2012). Nutrition policies at child-care centers and impact on role modeling of healthy eating behaviors of caregivers. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(1), 119–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Fisher, J. O., Rolls, B. J., & Birch, L. L. (2003). Children’s bite size and intake of an entree are greater with large portions than with age-appropriate or self-selected portions. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77(5), 1164–1170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Frankel, L. A., Hughes, S. O., O’Connor, T. M., Power, T. G., Fisher, J. O., & Hazen, N. L. (2012). Parental influences on children’s self-regulation of energy intake: Insights from developmental literature on emotion regulation. Journal of Obesity, 2012, 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Galloway, A. T., Fiorito, L. M., Francis, L. A., & Birch, L. L. (2006). ‘Finish your soup’: Counterproductive effects of pressuring children to eat on intake and affect. Appetite, 46(3), 318–323.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Greenhalgh, J., Dowey, A. J., Horne, P. J., Lowe, C. F., Griffiths, J. H., & Whitaker, C. J. (2009). Positive- and negative peer modelling effects on young children’s consumption of novel blue foods. Appetite, 52(3), 646–652.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Gubbels, J. S., Kremers, S. P. J., Stafleu, A., Dagnelie, P. C., De Vries, N. K., & Thijs, C. (2010). Child-care environment and dietary intake of 2-and 3-year-old children. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 23(1), 97–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Hails, K. A., Zhou, Y., & Shaw, D. S. (2019). The mediating effect of self-regulation in the association between poverty and child weight: A systematic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 22(3), 290–315. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-019-00279-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hales, C. M., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Ogden, C. L. (2017). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015–2016. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf.

  31. Hallam, R. A., Fouts, H. N., Bargreen, K. N., & Perkins, K. (2016). Teacher–child interactions during mealtimes: Observations of toddlers in high subsidy child care settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(1), 51-59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2007). Learning opportunities in preschool and early elementary classrooms. In R. C. Pianta, M. J. Cox, & K. L. Snow (Eds.), School readiness and the transition to kindergarten in the era of accountability (pp. 49–83). Washington: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Hegland, S. M., Aronson, S. S., Isbell, P., Benjamin Neelon, S., Rous, B. S., & Krajicek, M. J. (2011). Measuring health related aspects of quality in early childhood settings. In M. Zaslow, I. Martinez-Beck, K. Tout, & T. Halle (Eds.), Quality measurement in early childhood settings (pp. 135–160). Baltimore: Brookes.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hendy, H. M., & Raudenbush, B. (2000). Effectiveness of teacher modeling to encourage food acceptance in preschool children. Appetite, 34(1), 61–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hillemeier, M. M., Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., & Maczuga, S. A. (2013). Quality disparities in child care for at-risk children: Comparing Head Start and non-Head Start settings. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 17(1), 180–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Hughes, S. O., Patrick, H., Power, T. G., Fisher, J. O., Anderson, C. B., & Nicklas, T. A. (2007). The impact of child care providers’ feeding on children’s food consumption. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 28(2), 100–107.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hughes, S. O., Power, T. G., O’Connor, T. M., & Fisher, J. O. (2015). Executive functioning, emotion regulation, eating self-regulation, and weight status in low-income preschool children: how do they relate? Appetite, 89, 1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hughes, S. O., Power, T. G., Papaioannou, M. A., Cross, M. B., Nicklas, T. A., Hall, S. K., et al. (2011). Emotional climate, feeding practices, and feeding styles: An observational analysis of the dinner meal in Head Start families. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(1), 60. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-8-60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Hughes, S. O., Shewchuk, R. M., Baskin, M. L., Nicklas, T. A., & Qu, H. (2008). Indulgent feeding style and children’s weight status in preschool. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 29(5), 403–410. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0b013e318182a976.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Johnson, S. R., Finlon, K. J., Kobak, R., & Izard, C. E. (2017). Promoting student–teacher interactions: Exploring a peer coaching model for teachers in a preschool setting. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(4), 461–470.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Kwon, K.-A., Ford, T. G., Salvatore, A. L., Randall, K., Jeon, L., Malek-Lasater, A., et al. (2020). Neglected elements of a high-quality early childhood workforce: Whole teacher well-being and working conditions. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01124-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. La Paro, K. M., Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2012). Classroom assessment scoring system (CLASS) manual, toddler. Washington: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  43. La Paro, K. M., Williamson, A. C., & Hatfield, B. (2014). Assessing quality in toddler classrooms using the CLASS-Toddler and the ITERS-R. Early Education and Development, 25(6), 875–893. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2014.883586.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Locchetta, B. M., Barton, E. E., & Kaiser, A. (2017). Using family style dining to increase social interactions in young children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 37(1), 54–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Loth, K. A. (2016). Associations between food restriction and pressure-to-eat parenting practices and dietary intake in children: A selective review of the recent literature. Current Nutrition Reports, 5(1), 61–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Socialization, personality and social development (Vol. 4, pp. 1–101).

  47. Manning, M., Wong, G. T., Fleming, C. M., & Garvis, S. (2019). Is teacher qualification associated with the quality of the early childhood education and care environment? A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 370–415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Michael, S. L., Merlo, C. L., Basch, C. E., Wentzel, K. R., & Wechsler, H. (2015). Critical connections: Health and academics. Journal of School Health, 85(11), 740–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Mita, S. C., Gray, S. A., & Goodell, L. S. (2015). An explanatory framework of teachers’ perceptions of a positive mealtime environment in a preschool setting. Appetite, 90, 37–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Mita, S. C., Li, E., & Goodell, L. S. (2013). A qualitative investigation of teachers’ information, motivation, and behavioral skills for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in preschoolers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(6), 793–799.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8: A position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/position%20statement%20Web.pdf.

  52. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2020). Preschool and kindergarten enrollment. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cfa.asp.

  53. National Research Council. (2001). Testing teacher candidates: The role of licensure tests in improving teacher quality. Washington: National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Olvera, N., & Power, T. G. (2010). Brief report: Parenting styles and obesity in Mexican American children: A longitudinal study. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 35(3), 243–249. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsp071.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Pai, H.-L., & Contento, I. (2014). Parental perceptions, feeding practices, feeding styles, and level of acculturation of Chinese Americans in relation to their school-age child’s weight status. Appetite, 80, 174–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.04.029.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. K. (2008). Classroom assessment scoring system pre-K manual. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., Payne, C., Cox, M. J., & Bradley, R. (2002). The relation of kindergarten classroom environment to teacher, family, and school characteristics and child outcomes. The Elementary School Journal, 102(3), 225–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Ramsay, S. A., Branen, L. J., Fletcher, J., Price, E., Johnson, S. L., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2010). “Are you done?” Child care providers’ verbal communication at mealtimes that reinforce or hinder children’s internal cues of hunger and satiation. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 42(4), 265–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Riggs, N. R., Spruijt-Metz, D., Sakuma, K. L., Chou, C. P., & Pentz, M. A. (2010). Executive cognitive function and food intake in children. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 42(6), 398–403.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Scaglioni, S., Arrizza, C., Vecchi, F., & Tedeschi, S. (2011). Determinants of children’s eating behavior. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 94(6), S2006–S2011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Shloim, N., Edelson, L. R., Martin, N., & Hetherington, M. M. (2015). Parenting styles, feeding styles, feeding practices, and weight status in 4–12 year-old children: A systematic review of the literature. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1849.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Sigman-Grant, M., Christiansen, E., Branen, L., Fletcher, J., & Johnson, S. L. (2008). About feeding children: Mealtimes in child-care centers in four Western States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(2), 340–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Sleet, K., Sisson, S. B., Dev, D. A., Love, C., Williams, M. B., & Hoffman, L. A. (2019). The impact of responsive feeding practice training on teacher feeding behaviors in tribal early care and education: The food resource equity and sustainability for health (FRESH) study. Current Developments in Nutrition, 10, 23–32.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Son, S.-H.C., Kwon, K.-A., Jeon, H.-J., & Hong, S.-Y. (2013). Head Start classrooms and children’s school readiness benefit from teachers’ qualifications and ongoing training. Child & Youth Care Forum, 42(6), 525–553. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-013-9213-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. St Clair-Christman, J., Buell, M., & Gamel-McCormick, M. (2011). Money matters for early education: The relationships among child care quality, teacher characteristics, and subsidy status. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 13(2), n2.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Swindle, T., Rutledge, J. M., Dix, B., & Whiteside-Mansell, L. (2017). Table talk: Development of an observational tool to assess verbal feeding communications in early care and education settings. Public Health Nutrition, 20(16), 2869–2877.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Tan, C. C., & Holub, S. C. (2011). Children’s self-regulation in eating: Associations with inhibitory control and parents’ feeding behavior. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 36(3), 340–345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Tobi, H., & Kampen, J. K. (2018). Research design: the methodology for interdisciplinary research framework. Quality & Quantity, 52(3), 1209–1225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Tovar, A., Vaughn, A., Fisher, J. O., Benjamin-Neelon, S. E., Burney, R., Webster, K., et al. (2019). Modifying the Environmental Policy Assessment and Observation (EPAO) to better capture feeding practices of family child care home providers. Public Health Nutrition, 22(2), 223–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Tripp, B., & Shortlidge, E. E. (2019). A framework to guide undergraduate education in interdisciplinary science. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(2), es3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. United States Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS]. (2020). Head Start early learning framework. Head Start Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/school-readiness/article/head-start-early-learning-outcomes-framework.

  72. Ventura, A. K., & Birch, L. L. (2008). Does parenting affect children’s eating and weight status? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(1), 15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Funding

This research was funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma and the Early Childhood Education Institute and the Associate Vice President and Academic Affairs at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Each author has made substantial contributions to the conception of this work, analysis and interpretation of data, and revisions to this work. Each author has reviewed and approved the final submission of this work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adrien D. Malek-Lasater.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Malek-Lasater, A.D., Kwon, KA., Horm, D.M. et al. Supporting Children’s Healthy Development During Mealtime in Early Childhood Settings. Early Childhood Educ J (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01137-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Early childhood education
  • Mealtimes
  • Teaching practices
  • Quality
  • Responsive feeding practices