Preschool-age children (ages 4 to 5) are still developing their eating habits and need encouragement to eat healthy meals and snacks. These children are eager to learn, especially from other people, and will often imitate eating behaviors of adults. They need supervision at mealtime as they are still working on chewing and swallowing skills.
The following are some helpful mealtime hints for preschool-age children:
- Prepare meals, provide regularly scheduled snacks and limit unplanned eating. Serve your child most of the foods that the rest of the family is eating.
- Poor behavior at mealtime should not be allowed. Focus on eating, not playing with food or playing at the dinner table. Provide a quiet eating area with no TV or toys and plan a few minutes of quiet time before each meal.
- Running or playing while eating can cause a child to choke. Have your child sit when eating.
- Keep offering a variety of foods. Have the attitude that, sooner or later, your child will learn to eat most foods.
- Make mealtime as pleasant as possible. Do not put pressure on your child to eat, or force your child to “clean” his or her plate. This may lead to overeating which can cause your child to gain too much weight. Children will be hungry at mealtime if snacks have been limited during the day.
- Provide examples of healthy eating habits. Preschoolers mimic what they see their parents doing. If you have unhealthy eating habits, your child will not learn to eat healthy.