Sandwiches and Subversion: Teachers’ Mealtime Strategies and Preschoolers’ Agency

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Agency, directives, ethnography, mealtime, preschool

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Mealtimes are understudied processes in the social research on childhood. Our study uses ethnographic methods in two preschools in the southeastern United States to understand the types of strategies teachers use during meals and children’s responses to these strategies. We identified three strategies teachers used to attempt to modify children’s consumption: gatekeeping, directives, and hyperbolic justifications of consumption. We argue that children used agency to subvert to teachers’ strategies using silent and verbal techniques, including attempting to open packages of restricted foods, pretending to eat, and refusing to eat. Their subversion manifested in either “dissent” or “feigned assent.”

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Childhood, v. 22, issue 3, p. 362-376