Meal times for pupils should be "important social, cultural and aesthetic experiences", according to a veteran campaign leader for pre-schooling.
Peter Moss, writing in the latest issue of Children in Europe magazine, says that, at its best, this is the experience in other European countries.
A survey of nurseries and schools across Europe suggests that lunching with peers gives children a positive attitude towards eating, which can have a significant impact in later life.
Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, comments: "In the UK, many three and four-year-olds go to school nurseries part-time and do not stay for lunch."
In a German kindergarten, children help to bake bread, pre-school children in Sweden make a cooking hole for eating outdoors and Italian youngsters look after school vegetable gardens.