Pack a Little Patience for the Adventure
As a dietitian and mother of a 5 and 8 year old, I have found that feeding young children really is an adventure. The adventure was especially interesting with my 8 year old daughter when suddenly at age 2 she became a very “selective” eater. I quickly realized that encouraging a child to eat a variety of foods was much harder than I ever anticipated. A co-worker shared with me some research that a child’s fear of trying new foods peaks between the ages of 2 and 6. I found this to be true as shortly after she turned 6 she was more willing to try new foods again.
This experience taught me that patience is extremely important when feeding young children. Therefore, I really like the new USDA Nutrition Messages for Moms of Preschoolers. The messages focus on the need to be patient and let the child decide if and what they want to eat. Here are 3 of my favorite messages:
- Let go a little to gain a lot.
It’s natural to worry about a preschooler’s eating habits. Offer healthy foods and allow kids to choose from them. They’ll be more likely to enjoy meal time and eat enough, so everyone is happier.
- Think beyond a single meal. Keep in mind what your child eats over time
Meals and healthy snacks give children several chances every day to eat a variety of foods. If a child eats only a little or nothing at one meal, don’t worry. He’ll make up for it with other meals and snacks to get what he needs for good health over time.
- Patience works better than pressure.
Offer children new foods. Then, let them choose how much to eat. Kids are more likely to enjoy new foods when eating them is their own choice. It also teaches them how to be independent.
The messages were designed for moms, but can also be used by fathers, grandparents, child care providers or anyone else who feeds young children. There are several other nutrition messages too. Watch this short video as one mom explains how she has used the nutrition messages with young children.
You can view additional USDA Tips and Resources on Child Feeding HERE
Mary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources. Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals. You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/