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Dr. Fred Piaser

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GETTING YOUR TODDLER TO EAT   It's one thing knowing the right foods to serve your children. It's quite another thing to get them to eat. The following are some suggestions that might help. First, children learn by imitation. If you sit down for a nutritious meal, your child will learn to eat nutritiously. Also, do not expect your child to eat as much during the second year as he did during the first year. During the second year your child's growth rate decreases. Therefore your child's appetite decreases and he will eat less. Positive behavior modification is an excellent technique to use. If you put small portions on your child' s plate, it will be easier for him to successfully finish everything. For this you can give him praise. This makes mealtime an experience to look forward to.

Because you child is a captive audience at mealtimes, parents may use this time to teach or enforce family rules. Parents may also over direct their children's activity. Instructions and orders such as "Drink your milk. Eat your string beans. Use your napkin. Take your elbows off the table." will have a negative effect on the meal. Try to minimize these types of statements. When you must make a remark, try to make a positive statement. You can tell your child "You may splash water in the bathtub after dinner" when he starts to splash soup. If your chi ld drops peas from the plate you can tell him "Peas belong in your mouth or in your dish."

A well-rested child will eat better than a tired child. If children have been playing vigorously, a brief period of quiet activity before the meal will improve their appetite. It's difficult to get an excited child settled down to eat. Try to serve meals at the same time of the day. This consistency is important.

I would like to say a word about food safety. Whenever they eat, children should sit upright, not lying down or running around. Always supervise at snack and mealtime since a choking child cannot make noise to attract your attention. Some foods are safety hazards. Chunky pieces of meat, especially hot dogs, and round or hard foods like gumdrops, jelly beans, peanuts, or popcorn can get caught in the throat. Other foods to watch out for are nuts, grapes, raw carrots, corn, peas and peanut butter. These foods can become caught in a young child's windpipe if swallowed the wrong way. There are ways to make dangerous foods safe. Cut frankfurters into fourths lengthwise. Cook and mash carrots, corn and peas. Cut grapes into fourths. Serve peanut butter with jelly.

Mealtime can and should be an enjoyable and safe family experience.

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