3 to 8 Years: Feeding Your Preschooler/Early School Age Child

Your child stops being a preschooler when he stops struggling continually for control, becomes more cooperative, and shows signs of wanting to please you. Along with everything else, feeding becomes easier. The preschooler/early school age child wants to please you and wants to get better at all that he does - including eating. But in some ways, that makes feeding harder. You can get a child in this developmental stage to eat more, less, or different foods than he wants. You can keep after him about table manners, even though it is still natural for him to use his fingers along with his silverware. But if you do, it will make him feel bad about eating. He will lose his pleasure in learning to eat the foods you eat. He will lose his ability to eat as much as he is hungry for and stop when he is full. He will, that is, provided he is a compliant child. If he is not so compliant, he will fight back and feeding will become a battle ground. Stow your agendas, make meals with food you enjoy, eat with him, and follow the division of responsibility in feeding.  Then trust your preschooler to manage his own eating

  • Have 3 meals a day at set times and sit-down snacks at more-or-less set times. Say no to between-times food and beverage grazing - except for water.
  • Sit down and eat with him, don't just feed him. Be good company.
  • Be family-friendly in your rmeal and snack planning, not by catering to your child, but by including some foods that everyone can eat and enjoy. putting together meals that allow everyone to be successful.
  • Let him serve himself and eat his way - fast or slow, much or little, 1 or 2 foods. Let him eat in any order, even if he eats dessert first.
  • Let him have more of any food (except dessert), even if he hasn't cleaned his plate.Excuse him when he is done.

For more about feeding your preschooler (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Child of Mine; Feeding with Love and Good Sense, Bull Publishing, 2000. Also see www.EllynSatterInstitute.org to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.

See also: Division of Responsibility in Feeding and Division of Responsibility in Activity

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©2016 by Ellyn Satter published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org. You may reproduce this article if you don't charge for it or change it in any way and if you do include the for more about and copyright statements.