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

Adrien D. Malek-Lasater, Kyong Ah Kwon, Diane M. Horm, Susan B. Sisson, Dipti A. Dev, Sherri L. Castle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEarly Childhood Education Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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