One of the many problems a teacher or a daycare provider can face when dealing with toddlers and preschoolers is proper nourishment. Theses young children will often be messy to feed or will be too choosy when it comes to their food. They would often prefer junk food or sweets and reject foods that are healthy for their growing bodies. This is often frustrating to adult since they want to be able to provide the child with proper well balanced meals. Often there is a lot of bribery and groveling involved just to be able to feed the child with the right food. These are just short-term solutions to the problems however you would need to find more lasting and proper solutions to help these toddlers develop a good eating habit.
A child’s eating habits can vary daily until they develop a certain eating habit. To avoid being frustrated and helpless, adults have to learn to set certain expectations with regard to how a child may react towards certain types of food. Children are in the experimental stage in their life and they want a lot of variation. If they tend to like a specific texture and taste you can expect that they would usually stick to that or some would prefer foods to change everyday. The amount of food that they would also consume would often vary. This is normal behavior for a child and one should not approach this behavior with so much contempt.
Food Portions for Children
Dr. Paula Ebrit’s book Dr. Paula’s Good Nutrition Guide for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers (De Capo Press, 2001) states that the portion size for these children is about the size of two walnuts. A toddler’s stomach is relatively small, which is the about the size of his or her fist, big food proportions of food would most often than not overwhelm the child. Don’t offer portions that are larger than their fists and it is important to permit the child to make different choices on the food to take. Be able to provide them with a wide range of textures in different small proportions.
Children will also have some food jags. Food jag is when a child would want to eat the same food over and over for a period of time. This is not something to be really worried about. This can be common to most children. If they want to eat the same kind of food again and again, let them as long as the food he is eating is relatively healthy. If the food that he wants to take is not really healthy for him you may want to incorporate some healthy foods in between to compensate. Don’t try to approach this state in children with strong emotions since it may only aggravate the situation. Understand that though this may be normal, it should only happen for a short period of time. . If the child continues to have the same food jag for months, it would be best to consult with your child’s pediatrician.
Camouflaging Unwanted Foods
There is a number of ways to feed a child healthy food that they don’t like to eat. This constant battle with your child and the children under your care need not go on for ever. As with anybody even adults, food presentation is the key to allow them to eat the food. Choose colorful vegetable and present them in different variations. You may also offer healthy dips for your children like raw vegetables dipped in cream cheese or peanut butter. Just make sure their not allergic to the dip you are making. Another way to let them eat the healthy food without forcing them to the child is by mixing them with foods that they like to eat. A good example is if a child refuses to eat carrot, you can finely grate the carrot and mix them with their spaghetti sauce that they like.
Forcing a child to eat a specific kind of food will not help and would further escalate the situation. They may totally just end up hating the food till they grow up or worse hate you for it. What you can do is incorporate in your child’s learning the benefits of eating healthy food and proper nutrition. You can tell them stories of how beneficial these foods are to them in making them grow and become healthy. You will need to have patience, understanding and be a good role model for them to learn not to be picky eaters and develop a good eating habit.
Snacks for the Toddlers
Aside from their regular meals, preschoolers and toddlers would usually ask for snacks. You want to be able to give healthy snacks and avoid giving junk food to these young kids so that they can develop a healthy body and mind and at the same time develop good eating habits. Try to come up with different healthy snacks and different variations. You want to avoid snacks that are high in salt or sugar content. This can cause sugar high for them and become hyperactive. Choose snacks rich in vitamins and minerals such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
To add parental trust for your daycare you can provide the parents with a list of snacks you intend to feed their children. This way they will know what you are feeding their child and inform you if some of the snacks and food you will be providing will not be good for their child. The U.S Department of Agriculture food Guide is a good resource material in looking for the right foods to provide the children under your care.
Avoid too may foods saturated in fats like meats dairy products and palm and coconut oil. Remember you want to be able to provide the children in your daycare the best care possible and providing them with the proper nutrients in food is one of the most important things that you can do for them. Take time developing different food variations that would help you reach your goals.
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