Preschool Child



Characteristics of the Preschooler

Feeding The Preschooler

Some Great Snack Ideas




Characteristics of the Preschooler

The preschooler is gaining skills every day. He is able to communicate well, and participate fully in family activities. The preschooler is out to learn as much as he can about his world. The preschooler can help with all aspects of meal preparation: planning, shopping, storing, preparing, table setting and clean up. Encourage your preschooler to play a regular part in family chores. Preschoolers continue to need limits and rules. Rules need to be enforced consistently, not because of the mood or feelings of the parent. Don't put down a child because of who they are. Punish for infractions of rules, not for being childish.

Your preschooler is getting good at eating with utensils. Help her continue to gain skills in this area, by providing soft foods that she can learn to cut with a table knife. Allow her to slip back and use her fingers, especially when she is very tired. It can be fun to plan a meal that the whole family can eat with their fingers! Don't pressure a preschooler to have perfect table manners; set a good example, encourage good behavior, ignore inappropriate behavior. Scolding and pressuring a child will usually backfire - parents need to provide the most attention to the desired behavior and the least attention to the undesired behavior.

Go along with preschooler's preferences in things such as the shape the sandwich is cut in, or the glass she prefers to drink from. Allow childlike behaviors without comment. They will gradually fade especially if no attention is paid to them. Modify the size and texture of food to accommodate your preschooler's chewing and swallowing ability. Continue to offer and encourage new foods, but never force foods. Don't reward a child for trying new foods, this only elevates the reward and decreases the desirability of the new food. Preschoolers have good communication skills and getting him to talk about the new food may be the first step towards acceptance.

Preschoolers are great imitators. He is watching everything that you do and will want to do the same. Therefore it is very important that parents have their own eating in order. Parents need to eat and enjoy a variety of foods. If parents expect their children to drink milk with their meals, then parents also need to drink milk or something less desirable. Parents who drink soda can expect that their child will also want to drink soda. Parents need to eat with their children: setting the example in table manners, social interaction, acceptance of new foods and consumption of a variety of foods. The dinner table is not a good time or place for differences of opinion in feeding styles. Have that discussion when the children are in asleep.

It is also important to find out what kind of example caregivers are setting at meal times. Preschoolers will adopt the behaviors of the important people in their lives and caregivers fit into that category. Watch out for caregivers who do not sit down and eat with the children, caregivers who sip from soda or coffee all day long, and caregivers who restrict their own eating or talk about dieting in front of the children. Grandparents are also important people to preschoolers. Well-meaning grandparents who use candy or cookies as rewards need to be reminded that non-food rewards such as cuddling time or story time are healthier for the child.

Parents and caregivers also set the example for lifelong enjoyment of physical activity or the "couch potato syndrome". Plan family times such as nature walks, raking leaves, family soccer games, and bicycle riding to encourage the enjoyment of physical activity. It won't help to establish lifelong healthy habits if the parent or caregiver sits on the couch and tells the child to "run outside and be active".