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All about Parenting Toddlers , Issue #016 - Healthy eating for toddlers and preschoolers
August 13, 2003

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Shaping the life of your precious ones

All about Parenting Toddlers
Issue #016
13th August 2003

In This Issue:

1. The generous child: How to teach generosity
2. Healthy eating for playful toddlers & preschoolers
3. Latest updates on Parenting Toddlers


What to expect at this age

For 2-year-olds, generosity boils down to sharing something most don't want to do. In fact, some of the biggest toddler battles, with both parents and peers, are fought over sharing toys. If there's any silver lining to this behavior, it's the fact that it's perfectly normal. A 2-year-old's happiness is often based on his possessions (and having them now ), not on whether he's making anyone else happy by sharing. "We think that a toy is just a little plastic soldier or a Barbie doll, but a kid's identity is locked up in there," says Paul Coleman, a psychologist, family therapist, and the author of How to Say It to Your Kids.

A toddler may practice "proto-sharing," though, meaning he'll let friends look at a treasured object and perhaps even touch it, as long as he can still hold on tightly himself. There's no way he wants to give up his toy, but his willingness to show it off can be praised and recognized for what it is: a step in the right direction.

What to do

Demonstrate generosity.
Teaching by example is one of the most effective ways to influence your toddler's behavior. So during lunch, ask, "Want a bite of my sandwich, honey? Let me share it with you." Sharing a fun activity also leaves an impression: "I'm watering the garden come share the hose with me." The more you use the word "share," the sooner he'll learn what it means.

Discuss other people's wants and needs.
"You're trying to socialize your toddler to see a world bigger than himself," says Wayne Dosick, a rabbi and the author of Golden Rules: The Ten Ethical Values Parents Need to Teach Their Children. So when your preschooler says, "I want chocolate milk!" in the grocery store, you can reply, "Okay, that's what you would like. Now, what do you think Daddy would like? What treat should we bring home for him?"

"That way, you're not just saying, 'Hey, don't be selfish!'" says Dosick. "Instead, you're telling him in the gentlest way, 'Be aware of others' needs.'"

Pile on the praise.
Whenever your toddler does share, even if it's just proto-sharing, tell him how happy that makes you feel. "You were so nice to share your new truck with me!" you can say. Or "I'm so glad you shared your blocks with your baby sister. She's happy too." He'll be proud that he pleased you, and eventually generous behavior will come to him more naturally.

Set some toys aside.
It isn't easy to share everything. After all, "You wouldn't necessarily want your neighbor to drive your new car," Coleman points out. Your toddler may have an easier time learning to share if he knows that a few favorite items are just for him. If a friend is coming over and your toddler's especially possessive of his precious new teddy bear, let him hide it away beforehand. Tell him he doesn't have to share it because it's special, but explain that all his other toys will be for both children to play with.

Avoid punishment.
Try not to make a big deal out of it when your toddler doesn't share. Just let him know, gently, that you're disappointed: "Oh, it's too bad you can't share your truck with Tommy. Maybe next time you'll be ready to share." Be careful to avoid a struggle over behavior that's normal for a 2-year-old, though.

Let your toddler learn from his peers.
The best way for your child to learn to share is for his friends to teach him and they will! Try not to get involved in every battle over toys; kids eventually learn how to compromise when they realize that selfish behavior drives away playmates.

Look for the reasons behind his stinginess.
If sharing remains a major obstacle for your toddler, examine other issues in his life. Has your family just moved? Has he just started daycare, or has a favorite pet recently died? Sometimes a toddler will react to tough transitions by clinging more tightly to a beloved possession. In that case, "He's just holding onto something because he needs an extra security blanket," Coleman explains. Try not to get frustrated. Give him the time and support he needs to work through what's really bothering him, and save the sharing lessons for later.

The above article is written by Mary VanClay, a freelance writer in Northern California and a mother of two.


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Toddlers and preschoolers bring curiosity, enthusiasm and determination to each day. Their playful approach to life is how they learn. For parents, these critical years of growth and development may bring moments of concern about what their child eats. Your ideas about what your child should eat often clash with what the child will eat. Here are some guidelines.

Understanding Your Toddler & Preschooler

Dramatic changes take place between the years one and five. As children grow in size, they also develop their personality. They become more capable, more curious and more independent. At some time they all test the limits you set. So when a toddler says "no" to what used to be her favorite food, she is testing her new sense of control as an individual. When a preschooler asks "why" the carrots are orange instead of just eating them, he is showing his keen drive to learn. This is part of normal child development.

How Young Children Approach Eating

Although every child is different, you may have noticed some of the following traits in your child.

A natural curiosity.
Food is something to explore, to enjoy, to share with others.

A sense of purpose.
When hungry, children focus their attention on eating. When satisfied, their attention moves elsewhere.

Fluctuating appetites.
Appetites soar during growth spurts and periods of intense activity. They also dip when growth slows or when children are tired or excited.

A love of company.
Children enjoy eating with others and often copy their food preferences.

How do I know if my child is healthy?

Healthy children are active children. They seem to have boundless energy and love playing with their friends and family.

Healthy children grow according to their own patterns of growth with occasional spurts and plateaus along the way. Measuring height and weight regularly over time will reveal your child's growth pattern. This means more than single height and weight measurements at a particular age. A shift away from your child's typical growth pattern may be a sign of inadequate nutrition. Also remember that healthy young bodies are healthy in all shapes and sizes. Children need to learn to like their bodies and feel good about themselves-just as adults do.

Children who eat well, enjoy being physically active and feel good about themselves have a healthy approach to life.

What is a healthy eating pattern for children?

Small, Frequent Feedings:

Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating (Health Canada, 1992) promotes a pattern of eating which meets the nutritional needs of Canadians four years and over. For younger children, the number of servings and serving sizes are too large. Smaller portions of food are more suitable. Because young children eat small amounts of food at any one time, they need to eat frequently throughout the day to meet their nutrient and energy needs. This need is most commonly met by three meals with a nutritious snack between meals. Certain foods can be choking risks for young children. Popcorn, peanuts, chunky peanut butter, seeds, raisins, hard candies and large pieces of hard, raw fruits and vegetables can be too hard for your child to swallow. To help your child enjoy a variety of foods without the risk, cut grapes and other fruits, vegetables, hot dogs and meat into small length-wise pieces before feeding. Partially cook hard vegetables to make them softer and easier for your child to swallow and enjoy.


Choosing a variety of foods from the four food groups-grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk products, and meat and alternatives-is the cornerstone of healthy eating. The Food Guide emphasizes choosing complex-carbohydrate foods such as whole grain and enriched breads and cereals, vegetables and fruits. These tend to be popular foods with young children.

Young children should not be limited in their choice of nutritious foods because of fat content. Children, especially those with smaller appetites, need foods that provide energy and nutrients to meet their needs for growth and activity. This is especially true for toddlers. Choosing whole milk rather than lower fat milk for your toddler is recommended as a good source of energy and nutrition until he/she is at least two years of age. When toddlers grow into preschoolers, they can learn to enjoy the same lower fat foods, lower fat milk products, leaner meats, poultry and fish as chosen by the rest of the family. This helps them form the basis of lifelong healthy eating patterns.

Foods other than those in the four food groups can also add enjoyment to eating. Other foods such as cookies, cakes, and candy are fun to eat sometimes, but they should not replace foods that contain the nutrients and energy children need.

How can I best guide my child toward healthy eating?

You and your child, together, need to make decisions about healthy eating. Your child knows best how much to eat - they'll eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Your job as a parent is to give them a choice of a variety of good foods. By sharing in the enjoyment of eating a variety of foods, in a relaxed and trusting way, both of you are well on your way to healthy eating.

Author: Dietitians of Canada


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Latest updates on Parenting Toddlers

The Parenting Toddlers website is constantly being updated with more information.

Below are the latest additions :

Simple toddler party games suitable for birthdays or any parties

Some creative ideas for making your own Child Birthday Party Invitations

Tips and guidelines in buying or using child car seats

Some ideas and methods for teaching children to read

Guidelines and features to look out for when choosing child safety gates

Remember to check back often for more information on parenting toddlers.

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