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How young children learn about food and eating

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It is important that toddlers see parents eating and enjoying healthy food – are you a good role model for your child? It is normal for young children to be wary about eating a food they have not met before and these are ways to help them.

  • Offer the food in a happy environment. Children tend to like foods that they associate with fun. (This is why fast food outlets can become so popular.)

  • Keep offering the food on several occasions. It can take 8 to 15 tries before the food becomes familiar and a child accepts it.
  • Don’t insist that the food is eaten and don’t offer a reward for eating it. Both of these measures have been shown to make children dislike that food.
  • Children are more likely to want a food if they are told they can’t have it or if it is used as a reward.

Children have the natural ability to know how much food they need and they do not usually overeat. However they can easily lose this skill. If children are pushed to eat more than they want or encouraged to finish everything on the plate, they may learn not to stop when they have had enough. This can lead to weight problems later.

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Encouraging Good Behaviour

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These 12 tips encourage good behaviour in children of all ages.

  1. Children do as you do. Your child watches you to get her clues on how to behave in the world, so, as a role model, use your own behaviour to guide her. What you do is often much more important than what you say. If you want your child to say ‘please’, say it yourself. If you don’t want your child to raise her voice, keep your voice at a reasonable level too.
  2. Keep promises. When you follow through on your promises, good or bad, your child learns to trust and respect you. So when you promise to go for a walk after she picks up her toys, make sure you have your walking shoes handy. When you say you will leave the library if she doesn’t stop running around, be prepared to leave straight away if she continues. No need to make a fuss about it – the more matter of fact, the better. Read more
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Preschooler Discipline

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The word ‘discipline’ actually means ‘to teach’ and not necessarily to punish. The true goal is to teach children the rules of behaviour so that they can use them. Children learn self-discipline by growing up in a loving family, with fair and predictable rules and expectations. Read more

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