Healthy Kids    

The Fundamentals of Learning To Eat

What toddlers learn and how they learn it

How toddlers learn to eat

A toddler learns to eat by practicing with both finger feeding and holding a spoon. Once they start doing it for themselves, you can expect an occasional mess - being a neat eater takes lots of practice.

Some toddlers will feed themselves certain foods but want a parent to feed them others. If this practice continues, it is possible that your toddler will build up faulty eating habits. They will discriminate between the foods they want and the foods you want them to eat.

Such a practice can develop into a parent/toddler tug-of-war. In the future you may find that she may not have an appetite for your foods. We urge you to allow your toddler to feed themselves in spite of the mess she may make.

Between the first and second years many youngsters will give up certain foods, particularly some vegetables. Accept their preferences and return to the rejected foods in a few weeks.

By pushing a temporary dislike on them, you increase the probability that the particular food may become permanently distasteful to them.

Your toddler's preferences may result in an occasional lopsided meal but from day to day or week to week their choices should even out to a well-balanced diet.

There is no doubt that the quality as well as the quantity of their appetite will change during this period. They may drink less milk, but a pint a day (in any form) is satisfactory to cover their needs if they're receiving a reasonable diet.

If they reject milk, don't force it just quietly take it away. Experienced parents report that each time a toddler says "no", their determination becomes stronger.

Should it happen that they are without a daily pint of milk or other calcium-containing products (such as cheese or yogurt) for more than two weeks, it might be wise to report to this to your physician.

Toddlers require variety in their menu just as we do. Chewy foods, especially finger foods like shredded carrot strips or a chicken leg are excellent for their emerging teeth and for exercising the muscles of the mouth.

The identical muscles used in chewing are used in speaking. Regular vigorous chewing practice will make the movements of tongue, lips, and jaws more proficient.

Caution: finger foods should be introduced with care and in small amounts, such as shredded carrots, not sticks. Meat bones should be checked carefully to make sure there are no small fragments that can come off and choke your toddler.