Feeding children of different ages

Different ages require different attention details from parents.

Michigan State University Extension encourages family eating time. Take each age level from this article and incorporate the attention details into your family food and meal time.

Infants:

Babies have their own body and verbal language of letting a parent know when they are hungry and when they are full. Infants should be fed on their own schedule. Remember that every child is unique with their own feeding schedule. Feeding time should be a calm, quiet and relaxing time. Always hold your infant when feeding them, as this will increase a sense of trust and close bonding for the parent and child. Never prop a baby up with their bottle as this could result in choking.

Always consult with your pediatrician about when to start different foods. When introducing solid foods, have the child be involved in feeding themselves as much as possible. Yes, they will make a mess, get food in their hair and play with the food. This is a time to be patient as your child is learning important things about food. When done, have the child help wipe-up the mess in front of them.

Toddlers:

Younger toddlers may seem to not eat well for different reasons. They may be more interested in the world around them than the food, as they are beginning to learn and practice independence and assertiveness, which can go along with eating. Also at this age (10 to 12 months) their growth spurts are slowing and their appetite decreases. Some toddlers do not like to try new foods and will automatically spit the food out. Again, be patient during this growing time.

Preschoolers:

Preschoolers acquire their eating habits by watching their parents. They are learning to use utensils and may go back and forth with using them and their hands. Preschoolers may get fussy over small matters such as what glass they use or the way their sandwich is cut. While these small differences are insignificant to adults, these small choices may be very important to the child. Try to point out the positive things that are going on at mealtime instead of nagging. Preschoolers are more likely to try new foods when they have helped shop for and prepare the food. As children grow in their cooking skills, they enjoy eating what they make.

School-age:

School-age children are good at doing things for themselves, and this should include making meals and snacks. It is good for children to feel confident about their abilities. Have them help shop and prepare meals with you. Earlier school-age children use adults as role models when it comes to manners. We may have to privately remind children of their manners and appropriate eating behaviors.

Remember that every child is an individual and they all learn at different rates. Be patient, calm and remember that this is a learning skill and we should continue to be good role models.

For more information about feeding your child read the Nibbles for Health newsletters.

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