The things children learn at this age tend to stick with them, so it’s important to keep an eye on what lessons they’re learning, no matter how difficult the process can be. Yes, your toddler may not remember or follow every word you say to them, and every parent wonders from time to time if anything they taught their child actually stuck. But in the long run, your toddler will benefit from you teaching them how to make good choices and how to take care of themself.
One of the best things you can teach your toddler is healthy eating habits, since food and nutrition are things that affect how your toddler feels and lives as they grow. Here are some things you can do to reinforce healthy food behaviors both at and away from the table.
Give your toddler a wide selection of food
It’s tempting to serve your toddler whatever they enjoy, over and over again. Mealtimes would be a lot easier, right? But it’s important to expose your toddler to all kinds of food right now, even if they don't love them at first. The more they get used to different tastes, colors, and textures, the more likely they are to start enjoying all kinds of foods. Plus, this way you can be sure they’re getting a wide variety of minerals and vitamins.
No criticism at the table
Sitting down to an unfamiliar plate of food might be stressful for your toddler. What they need right now is encouragement and positivity. If you’re going to comment on your toddler’s progress at the dinner table, it’s more helpful to compliment the things they do well, like trying new foods or feeding themself, rather than criticizing what they aren't doing. Your toddler will love hearing these kinds of things from you and it will help build their self-confidence.
Balance out food with physical activity
Getting enough exercise will help regulate your toddler’s appetite, and help make their body stronger and protect them against health risks that come with a sedentary lifestyle. The earlier you encourage your toddler to be active throughout the day, the better.
Eat meals together
Not every family has the time or ability to eat meals together, but if possible, this is something worth working for. Your toddler will be able to pick up good habits while enjoying time with you or the whole family. Making mealtimes more pleasant can help decrease the anxiety your toddler might feel around unfamiliar foods, too.
Lead by example
One of the best things you can do for your toddler is to demonstrate healthy eating behaviors. Your toddler looks to you and the rest of your family for guidance, so embrace your role model status and practice the behaviors that you want your toddler to pick up.
By instilling healthy nutrition routines in Baby, you’re helping them learn to be more independent and more comfortable making decisions for themself. It might not seem like much right now, and it won’t be easy all the time, but in a few years, it will make a world of difference.
“Top 10 Tips to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits.” Heart. American Heart Association, Jul 22 2016. Web.
“Teaching Toddlers Good Food Habits.” UCSFBenioffChildrens. The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Web.
Children’s Health Team. “5 Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching Kids Good Eating Habits.” ClevelandClinic. Cleveland Clinic, Jul 17 2014. Web.