At Yew Tree Farm School lunch is an important part of the day and it is used as an opportunity for the development of personal, social and emotional skills.
All students’ individual needs are taken into account. Many of our students benefit from sitting together as part of a larger group, helping them to develop their social skills. Other students prefer a quiet lunch and can sit with an individual member of staff or as part of a smaller group. Staff eat lunch with the students giving both staff and students the opportunity to learn about one another, building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. It is also a good way for staff to model nutritious eating and a healthy lifestyle.
Students are assigned tasks including making tea, washing up and organising a lunch time activity. These tasks are designed to help students with their communication and teamwork skills whilst providing them the opportunity to explore different job roles giving them an enhanced understanding of the real world and gaining life skills. Students are encouraged to take a leadership role in these activities, giving them a sense of achievement and responsibility.
The lunchtime activities are open to everyone, and students are encouraged to join where this is appropriate, but no one is required to participate. Activities are designed with an emphasis on fun, teamwork and turn taking. Physical activities are designed to develop balance, core stability, spatial awareness, coordination, and motor skills. Drama activities are planned to build confidence, learning about appropriate responses and self-control. Students design the activities with staff and make or build any props or equipment themselves. This gives the students a sense of ownership and encourages their creativity, giving them a great sense of pride when they see others enjoying their work.
During lunchtime students are given time and space to explore the farm field and allotment if they choose to. Staff always maintain a safe proximity at these times so students can chat together without feeling overlooked but also meaning staff can step in to assist instantly when needed to ensure the safety and happiness of all students.
Students have access to the mud kitchen, sensory wall, music wall and allotment. Students can use their senses to explore different textures and materials such as sticks, leaves, mud, ice, grass and other plants which can aid creativity, support imaginative play and stimulate brain development. Many children may feel their creativity stifled in a classroom while the outdoor environment provides a blank canvas and a rich palette of resources with which to create and express themselves.
Other activities including puzzles, board games, sensory toys, books and construction equipment are available for students. Playing games in smaller groups or 1:1 is beneficial for some who find larger groups challenging, to encourage their interaction and cooperation. Board games and puzzles aid students’ cognitive development, improve problem solving and planning skills.