When I visited a child care and preschool center in Virginia, toddlers, preschoolers, and pre-kindergartners cleaned and sanitized the tables before setting them for lunch. They put their own food on their own plates and poured their own milk. Teachers helped the children who needed it, especially the toddlers, who usually need a little physical support with holding, serving from, and passing bowls and pitchers.
Teachers sat at the tables and ate and talked with children, guiding them in sharing a pleasant meal and conversation, just like families do at home. Teachers use “family style dining” every day to help children learn self-sufficiency, social and conversational skills, as well as good nutrition.
After they were finished eating, each child cleaned up his own place. Teachers guided and helped as needed but didn’t do the work for children who were still awake and engaged enough to do it themselves. Why? Is that what you’ve seen preschools doing? Is that what you do at home?