Dealing with a Picky Eater

Around two years old, most children will enter a picker phase of eating than their previous habits. As their taste buds develop and they begin to discover their independence, toddlers start to become very picky eaters who can leave their mothers feeling like short order cooks while trying to please them.

Picky eaters can be frustrating for anyone charged with attempting to get a balanced and varied selection of foods into their diet. The pickiness can continue well past toddlerhood as well, leaving parents at a loss. Take on your picky eater with a few tricks and tips to bring him to the table.

Don’t Give In

If your toddler knows that you are going to offer an alternative when he rejects what you have prepared for dinner, he will more likely to hold his ground and refuse to even try what’s on his plate. Your toddler isn’t going to starve himself – if he’s really hungry, he will eat what’s in front of him. Stick to your guns even if it means that your little one goes to bed a bit hungry for a few nights. Eventually he will realize that you aren’t going to bow to his picky eating ways anymore, and will start eating what is offered.

This is a very difficult task for most parents, who can’t stand the thought of their child going to bed without a good meal in his tummy. However, if you continue to give in and provide an alternate meal, you will encourage him to continue demanding something else and leave you cooking several meals to please everyone. It isn’t easy, but it will teach your child a valuable lesson.

There is Room for Compromise

Even with your stance on no longer playing the short order cook for your toddler, you can still make some concessions to provide meals she is more likely to find appetizing. Before you prepare dinner, talk to your toddler about what she would like to eat. The answer might consistently be “macaroni and cheese”, but there are even ways to work with that. Try serving a baked casserole of cauliflower and cheese or mixing a vegetable in with a homemade batch of macaroni and cheese for a healthier version than what comes from a box. You can also serve the requested food as a side dish. Once your toddler starts eating, she will be more likely to move on to the other foods on her plate after she has satisfied her craving for the cheesy stuff. It won’t always work, but at least it will get her to the table and eating without demanding something else.

Casseroles are a good option for picky eaters because they combine healthier foods with the ones toddlers love, such as pasta and cheese. Mix one up in a tomato sauce and she might not even notice the vegetables.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a picky eater is to keep offering healthy foods. If you remove those foods from the menu, you encourage the picky eating habits to continue and set your child up for a lifetime of poor nutrition.

By finding some common ground but continuing to offer a balanced children diet, you give your child the message that healthy eating is important to you and you aren’t going to give up. Even if it takes her a long time to give those foods a try, at least you will know you didn’t give up, or give in.

Children and the Vegetable Challenge

There is no food group that is more likely to cause a child to push away his plate than vegetables. They are the food that parents most commonly struggle with getting their child to eat.

All babies are born with a sweet tooth; they prefer sweet foods because breast milk, the food they are naturally inclined to like, is sweet. Most vegetables are not known for being sweet, however most babies eat vegetables fairly easily when they start solid foods. Many parents find that the trouble with vegetables starts a little later in life, generally in the toddler years. Unfortunately, it can carry over well past toddlerhood and become a battleground for many years to come.

Serving Vegetables Kids Like

A big part of the reason kids won’t eat vegetables is that they either don’t look very appetizing or are cooked poorly, leaving them limp and flavorless. Many vegetables already tend towards a bitter taste, which doesn’t go over well with young kids, and overcooking them can make it worse. Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and spinach are all likely to become bitter and unappetizing when overcooked, and they can be very hard to get kids to eat.

To avoid overcooking vegetables, try steaming them rather than boiling or microwaving. Not only will you preserve all the nutrients, but your vegetables will come out with beautiful color and a far less bitter taste. Even so, the right cooking method probably isn’t enough to get your kids to even try them to find out if they like them.

Add flavor to vegetables with sauces, dips and glazes for a taste your kids are much more likely to enjoy. Broccoli and cauliflower work beautifully with cheese sauces. Carrots can be easily glazed with a little honey. Creamy garlic sauce is a friend to green beans. Raw veggies served with a tasty dip are a great way to get older kids to dig in, and the cooking process hasn’t had a chance to affect the flavor or texture.

Hiding Vegetables

There are all kinds of recipes, even entire recipe books, out there aimed at teaching you how to hide vegetables. Some use a system of purees that you can hide in all kinds of foods.

Hiding vegetables isn’t the best way to teach your child healthy eating habits, but as long as you continue to offer the whole veggies, there is nothing wrong with a little creative cooking to ensure your child’s good nutrition isn’t being lost to picky eating.

Some vegetables are easy enough to hide in plain sight; you can mix mashed cauliflower in with mashed potatoes, for instance, and most kids will never know. The average kid won’t recognize the chunks in his pasta sauce as carrots, or the little green strips as spinach. But some are a little trickier. Finely diced vegetables can be easily added to meatballs, and your kids will never even see them.

Even if you choose to hide vegetables in your child’s food, remember to keep offering them; it’s important to their future healthy eating habits that they learn to give vegetables a try on their own. Hiding them while taking them off the menu in more obvious ways will make you child believe you no longer care if she eats them, which can lead her to believe it’s ok to skip them altogether. Hiding vegetables works for the short-term but doesn’t do much for long-term success.

Fruits or Vegetables: Which Does Your Child Prefer?

Just like grown-ups, children will develop a preference for certain foods. At around 2 years old, a child’s taste buds begin to change, resulting in the picky eating phase that is common to many toddlers. They have also realized that they have control over few things in life – and eating is one of them!

Many children prefer fruits to vegetables naturally; they are sweet, and babies are born with a predisposition to like sweet things due to the sweet taste of breast milk. Not all children will carry this sweet tooth into later life, however, and some will decide vegetables are more their thing. Even more commonly, they will come to like some fruits and vegetables while disliking others.

There is nothing wrong with developing a personal sense of taste, but it’s important to make sure your child is eating a balanced children diet as well. If your little one has a distinct preference for one or the other of these two nutritious choices, it isn’t the end of the world, but you should make sure you try to keep them both on the menu.

When Your Child Will Only Eat Fruit

Luckily, fruit is generally a pretty healthy choice for a child, and is certainly better choice than some of the other favorite foods kids have a tendency to choose. Your child can get a great source of vitamins and minerals from fruits, as long as the choices are varied. Eating only bananas won’t provide all the needed nutrition. Keep offering different fruits, but don’t give up on vegetables.

Sometimes, a child who likes only fruits will be more likely to try vegetables if you add a little sweetness to the mix. Try cooking carrots with a little honey; they are already naturally sweet, and the added sweetness of the honey might just put them over the top for your little one. Throw a sweet fruit in with the vegetables; try dried fruits mixed with green beans or peas, or combine sweet potatoes with apples.

If your child doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, try serving them raw or only slightly steamed instead. Keep a close eye out for possible choking hazards, but give fresh veggies and dip a try. If your child prefers fruit because it is crisp, cold, and uncooked, trying fresh vegetables might help.

If Your Little One Prefers Vegetables

It’s a rare child who chooses veggies over fruits, but it certainly does happen! If your child prefers vegetables, there really isn’t a whole lot to worry about as the nutrition provided by a diet rich in various vegetables is very well balanced.

Still, don’t skip the fruits. As with a child who prefers fruit, it’s a good idea to keep the diet as balanced as possible to ensure the best sources of nutrition. Keep offering fruit, and again try mixing it into the vegetables. Fruit makes a wonderful, convenient snack – try serving it with a yogurt dip to make it more fun.

Throughout childhood, your child will likely have several changes of heart as to what foods are on the in list and which are out. It is a time of developing tastes and opinions, and your little one is discovering personal preferences and learning how to express them. The best thing a parent can do is to keep offering different foods. The more often your child sees a food, the more likely it will eventually make it onto the “like” list.

Providing Enough Nutrition for your Toddler

When your toddler graduates from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk, she is no longer getting all the nutrition she needs in liquid form. Cow’s milk can’t replace all of the nutrients that were being provided by the breast milk or formula, so you will need to make certain that your toddler gets everything she needs from her food.

The key to good nutrition for your toddler is to make sure she eats a balanced toddler diet that offers a variety of foods. Different foods provide different nutrients, so the more variety in her diet, the better and more complete her nutrition will be.

Expanding Food Horizons

In the early stages of toddlerhood, before your little one decides to start getting picky about food, you should start offering as many different foods as you can, to introduce many new flavors. Spend some time in the produce department or at a local farmer’s market. Ask questions about fruits and vegetables you don’t recognize. They might turn out to be something you toddler loves, and could replace the nutrition missing from foods she refuses to eat.

Your toddler won’t eat everything you put in front of her, but the more different foods you offer, the more likely she will be to find something she likes. Every child, and even every adult, has some foods they simply don’t like and never will. Rather than forcing your child to eat something she really dislikes, try to find other foods that offer similar nutritional value to make up the difference.

Feed a Balanced Toddler Diet

The best way to make sure your toddler is getting all the nutrients she needs in her diet is to serve the right number of servings from each of the food groups. Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 servings of protein, 4 servings of dairy, and 3-4 servings of grains every day.

Spread all of these servings out over 3 meals and 2 snacks during the day, so that your toddler is only faced with a few foods at a time. The snacks are especially important as snack time is often when less than nutritious foods tend to hit the table. Make sure that every meal and every snack offers servings of nutritious foods, and skip empty calories that might fill your toddler up and cause him to skip out on healthier foods.

Using Supplements

If your toddler is getting the right number of servings from each food group every day, and eating a variety of different foods on a regular basis, it’s likely he is getting the right nutrition. Still, many pediatricians recommend a multivitamin supplement that can help to fill in any nutritional gaps in your child’s diet. Supplements are meant only to back up the foods your toddler eats, and shouldn’t be relied upon to provide all or most of the needed nutrients. Don’t skip servings of vegetables on the belief that the supplement will make up the difference.

Because toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, supplements are generally a good idea for those times when you just can’t get him to eat right. Think of them as a backup line of defense to keep your toddler healthy – but only a backup. No matter how difficult it might be, you should keep trying to get all the needed foods into your toddler’s diet every day.

How to Teach Healthy Eating Habits

Just putting healthy foods in front of your child isn’t necessarily enough to really instill healthy eating habits for a lifetime. One of the biggest problems in teaching your child how to eat right for good health is that we as parents don’t always practice what we preach. The best way to teach healthy eating habits is to demonstrate them.

Kids are Watching

You may think that your older baby or toddler doesn’t notice what you eat, but you are very wrong. From the time your baby becomes aware of what is going on at the table and wants to be a part of it, you are the example being set for everything from how to use a fork to how to chew with your mouth closed.

As your baby grows, he will notice more and more what you are eating and how it differs from what he is being served. If you have ever had a baby reach for what was on your plate while ignoring the food on his own, then you know that babies just want to try what everyone else is having. It should be obvious, therefore, that your baby will notice if there are no greens on your plate or if you are not eating your carrots.

Do as I say, Not as I do

Many parents believe that it should be enough to simply tell a child that they need to eat what is put in front of them. While it’s a good goal to expect your children to respect your wishes, with food, it’s unlikely to work.

Children learn early on that one of the few things they can control in their world is food. They can refuse to eat it, and there is very little you can do about it. You can’t order a baby or toddler to eat something they really don’t want to. And if you aren’t eating it either, that’s another strike against the disliked food.

Passing Down Good Habits

Even if you do eat your veggies, your baby might be slow to decide she wants to give it a try. But even if it takes time, seeing you eat a healthy baby food diet every day will give her the impression that this is the way everyone eats. The rules aren’t just for her, but for the entire family. Starting this habit from day one with your oldest child will help it to trickle down to the rest of the children to follow. Your baby will be modeling not only your behavior, but that of any older siblings. If you have successfully instilled good eating habits in the older children, it will make it easier to convince the next child.

The best way for your baby to always see that you are eating the same healthy diet you are offering her is to make sure that the family sits down to eat a meal together regularly. This will allow baby to feel that her meals are a part of everyone else’s meals. Family dinners are also a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and when sitting down to eat together becomes a pleasant habit, so will eating healthy foods together.

Teaching healthy eating habits doesn’t happen overnight. Every child will go through picky eating phases, but the best thing you can do is to hold firm and ride it out. As long as your child sees that you are eating right, eventually some of the lesson will sink in.

Getting Your Child Ready for Preschool

The first years of your child’s life fly by so very quickly. In an instant, you may feel as though you are dealing with a baby one day and a big kid the next. Though it may not seem like it at the time, the years fly by and so too do all of the many milestones. Before you know it, you are looking at an almost school aged child and wondering to yourself if they are ready for the next big step.

Preschool can be a huge step for many kids, while others just float into it with great ease. Just as every child has a different upbringing and different care each and every day, they will be different in their readiness for preschool. Though age is a big determining factor in their readiness, it’s certainly not the only one. You should think through other factors, particularly personality, when you make the decision to put them into preschool or not.

Is Your Child Really Ready?

First and foremost, there are certain age limits or restrictions that may help to make the decision for you. In many preschool programs, kids can start by the age of three but they must have turned three by December first of the current year. If they aren’t there yet, then they’ll need to wait for the next school year to start. This isn’t always a bad thing as it can give you plenty of time to prepare for the big step, but it is something worth looking into before you get them signed up for a preschool program. Some kids start preschool at four years old, but it is becoming more and more common these days that they start at three years old and then work their way up.

You also want to decide if they are ready in other ways too. Take a look at this preschool guide for example. Consider if your child can bear to be without you for a couple of mornings a week. If they have never been away from you at all, then this can be a shock to the system. It can also make their adjustment to preschool very difficult so plan accordingly. You also need to ensure that your child is potty trained before you enroll them in preschool. Many schools won’t even take a child unless they are potty trained and can work independently in this and other areas.

Helping to Prepare Your Child

Preschool is a big step for both of you, so it’s important to work with your child ahead of time to get them ready for it. First and foremost any exposure that you can give them to a school like setting can be a big help. Sign them up for a parent and toddler class beforehand to get them acclimated with the structure and feel of a real classroom. Be sure that they get plenty of exposure to other kids, because this will be a big help.

Though you want to be present for every big moment in their life, do your best to let them work independently whenever possible so they get used to that feeling. Work with them on lessons like the “ABC’s” or painting. Though you don’t need to put them through boot camp, any steps that you can take to get your child ready will really benefit them when that first day of preschool comes upon you.

What Children Learn Through Play

Playtime isn’t just fun and games. It is the most important tool children have for learning. From the infant years where babies learn simple concepts like cause and effect, through childhood, where play encourages learning of social skills and more, a child at play is a child developing.

Infants: Learning about the World

The earliest forms of play in infancy are the ways in which a baby discovers what is in his world, how it works, and how he fits into it. Through play a baby learns about cause and effect; how he can have an impact on objects and people, and how to elicit responses in different ways. He learns how to move his body, improve his motor skills, and make his way through the world. Play encourages an understanding of spatial awareness, object permanence, differences between objects and more.

Through play, an infant is also learning how to use his voice, how to communicate his needs and desires, and creating the building blocks of language. Games involving a lot of interaction with mom and dad are vital to this learning process.

Toddlers: Independence and Personality

Entering the toddler years, play is an avenue for a child to develop a sense of who he is as a person, and what his role is in the family. Play encourages your toddler to test his independence while learning – and then pushing past – his limitations. Toddlers begin to build a foundation for social skills and also develop imagination, both of which are important to future endeavors. As independence blossoms, your toddler will learn to play by himself and to solve his own problems

Your toddler is also swiftly adding to a wider knowledge base about the world, as he learns colors, numbers, sizes and even more abstract concepts like feelings. Vocabulary is expanding at an incredible rate as he learns the labels for more and more things and can relate experiences to each other. All of these things are learned through play, which becomes more imaginative and involving during these years.

Preschoolers: Social Skills and Problem Solving

As your preschooler begins to interact more and more with her peers, the play they engage in together will teach her vital social skills. Your preschooler is learning to share, and to think about other people’s needs. She is learning how to cooperate with other children, through negotiation, compromise and exploring options. She is learning patience, taking turns, and how to deal with delayed gratification. Play with others also teaches preschoolers about empathy; she is learning to consider other people’s feelings, and to understand how others might feel in various situations.

Although problem solving skills begin at a very young age, in preschool they go to a whole new level. Your preschooler is working with more abstract concepts and solving problems that are not always right in front of her. In addition to teaching cooperation, working out the issues encountered while playing with others teaches problem solving. At this age, she is also practicing these skills through role-playing games which allows her to see things from a different perspective.

Throughout childhood, the most important task at hand is learning, and the number one way children do this is through play. From infancy through into school, the skills learned at playtime build upon each other to help children to make sense of their world and prepare to be citizens within it.

Baby’s Bed: Purchasing and Preparing a Crib

Of all the things you will need for your new baby, the crib is one of the most important. Your baby will be spending a lot of time in his crib, and you will want to make sure he is both safe and comfortable.

Choosing a Crib

With the recent increase in crib recalls, choosing a crib should be undertaken with caution. While recalled cribs should be pulled from stores, mistakes can happen, so be sure to check any crib you are considering against recall lists. The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers up to date recall information on their website at http://www.cpsc.gov. You can save money by buying a used crib, but be extra cautious. In addition to ensuring that the crib hasn’t been recalled, check it over carefully for any signs of damage or wear. Also, older cribs may not be up to current safety standards, so check with CPSC standards before buying.

There are three basic types of cribs: standard solid cribs, drop-side cribs, and convertible cribs. Standard cribs are solid and do not have moving parts. Drop-side cribs have one side that slides down to make it easier to get baby in and out. Convertible cribs are often drop-side cribs as well, but also convert to a toddler bed and sometimes also to a full sized bed. These cribs sometimes require the purchase of separate kits for the conversion.

Most of the crib recalls in recent years have involved drop-side and convertible cribs, which has led major retailers such as Toys R Us to remove drop-side cribs from their stores entirely. If you are certain you wish to purchase a drop-side or convertible crib, be careful choosing one. Stick to higher-end, well made models, and register your crib so that you will be notified immediately of any recall.

Setting Up a Safe Crib

In order to reduce the risk of SIDS, it is recommended that you keep the crib free of loose blankets, stuffed animals and other items that could cause suffocation. You should not use a standard crib bumper as they present a suffocation risk to your baby; however, a breathable mesh bumper is considered a safe choice for keeping baby’s arms and legs from getting caught in the rails. Remember that until your baby starts to roll over, there is really very little danger of this happening, so a bumper isn’t necessary. Aside from this type of bumper, the only things that should be in the crib are a securely fitted mattress cover and sheet.

Look for a firm crib mattress that fits snugly inside the crib. Although mattresses and cribs come in standard sizes these days, there is always room for error. Try to push a finger in between the mattress and the side of the crib. If you can fit more than one finger, the mattress isn’t snug enough.

When putting your crib together, follow the directions carefully. You should check all screws and bolts regularly to ensure everything is still tight.

Mobiles are a popular crib decoration, but make sure they are securely fastened. As soon as your baby is able to sit up on her own, the mobile should be removed as she may be able to reach it.

When you place your baby in her crib to sleep, you want to know she is safe. Follow all of these precautions when purchasing and setting up the crib, and you will have the peace of mind of knowing you have done everything possible to provide your baby with a safe place to rest her little head.

What to Expect at Baby’s First Check Up

Your newborn will probably be due for his first in-office visit with his doctor at two to four weeks old. This first check up is a great time to address any concerns you might have as a new mother, and also an exciting chance to see how your little one is growing and changing.

At this visit, your baby will be weighed and have his head circumference and length measured. Then the doctor will give your newborn a thorough physical, and ask you some questions about his progress. Depending on your baby’s vaccination schedule, he may be due for immunization shots at this visit.

What the Doctor is Looking For

Your baby’s doctor will check his eyes, ears and mouth, and listen to his heart and lungs to make sure everything appears and sounds normal. The doctor will also check baby’s genitals to ensure everything is normal and also to check the progress of healing if your baby boy was circumcised. Next, the doctor will lay baby on his back and bicycle his legs to check for normal hip function.

Your baby’s weight and height will be recorded on a growth chart, which will track his progress throughout childhood. You will probably be given a percentile into which your baby falls for height, weight, and head circumference. The percentile simply tells you what percentage of babies fall above or below your baby at that age for these measurements. New parents are often concerned about percentiles, but there is no reason to be! As long as your baby continues to follow his growth curve, the percentiles are nothing to worry about.

Questions the Doctor May Ask You

Much of the discussion will revolve around baby’s sleep and feeding patterns. The doctor will want to know how often baby feeds; you will be asked how long she stays on the breast if nursing, or how much she takes in a bottle if using formula. Although it might seem like a strange question, your doctor will want to know how many wet and dirty diapers your baby has every day. This is important to ensure baby is getting enough food and liquid. You will also be asked how long her stretches of sleep are, and what type of pattern they follow.

In addition to checking her ears and eyes, the doctor will ask you some questions regarding sight and hearing. You will likely be asked whether your baby turns her head at the sound of your voice, and if she startles at loud noises. Sight questions might include whether baby makes eye contact with you or follows an object with her eyes. These questions will help your baby’s doctor to determine that your baby’s eyes and ears are functioning properly. Finally, you will be asked about baby’s strength and gross motor skills, such as ability to lift her head.

Questions You May Have

When your baby’s doctor has completed the examination, it will be your turn to address any concerns you might have. It’s a good idea to keep a list of the questions that have come up since bringing your baby home, so that you don’t forget what you wanted to ask. Don’t be afraid to speak up even if you think a question is silly. Your baby’s doctor is there to help you to understand your new baby’s development.

This first visit will set the tone for all your baby’s future check ups, which will follow the same pattern. Your doctor will probably want to see baby again at two months old for her next check up.

Equality and Family Responsibilities: How to Share the Load

Whether you are a two-income family, or one is the breadwinner while the other stays home with the children, finding an equitable method of sharing the family responsibilities can be a challenge. All too often, one parent winds up feeling they are bearing most of the burden. It’s not long before a feeling of being overwhelmed and underappreciated can set in. Keeping family life running smoothly is a task best shared, and the best place to start is by sitting down and formulating a plan.

Take It Seriously

If your partner comes to you complaining of feeling overwhelmed, the first instinct might be a defensive reply outlining just how hard you are working too. That might be true, but try your best to see it from the other side. Especially in a family where one person works outside the home and the other stays with the kids, things really can get off-balance in a hurry. The working parent often feels that because they have to leave the house and earn a paycheck, they aren’t responsible for doing as much around the house.

Bear in mind that a stay at home parent isn’t just doing one job, but multiple jobs every day. The tasks of caring for children, keeping the house clean, preparing several meals a day, and running all the various necessary errands keep this parent who “doesn’t work” going from dawn until dusk. There are no weekends from this job, no vacations, and no sick days either.

If you both work outside the home, you will have a limited number of hours when you are at home to make sure all the household tasks get completed. Both partners need to do their fair share to keep one person from becoming overwhelmed.

Figure Out What Needs to Be Done

Make a detailed list of the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Include everything from emptying the dishwasher to taking the kids to check ups. Seeing all the tasks laid out in this manner makes it easier to see just how much there is to get done! Split it into categories: housework, childcare, and errands.

Once you have your list, divide it fairly. There may be some tasks more suited to one partner or the other, and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes sense for a stay at home parent to take the kids to their doctor’s visits. But there is no reason that both parents can’t take turns making dinner.

If there is a task your partner just really can’t stand doing, offer to take it on, but pass on one of your more hated chores in return. You could also decide on a monthly or weekly rotation of chores, so no one is stuck with the same jobs all the time. Don’t forget the kids! Even toddlers can take on a few small chores, and it’s never too early to start teaching responsibility.

Post the list of regular jobs and who is responsible for each in a visible place as a reminder that everyone is accountable for their fair share. You might want to purchase a white board so that the jobs can be changed according to a rotation, or erased when completed.

Compromise is the key to harmony in the home. You will find that everyone is a lot happier when no one feels overworked and underappreciated!

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