Three to Six Years: Dietary and Developmental Highlights
Around three, children become increasingly social, more independent, and even more fun to be with than they were before. Preschoolers are particularly playful people who can be quite jovial and entertaining. They love to run, jump, dance, climb, and roughhouse. They find humor in the ridiculous, often laughing easily at the drop of a hat. Clownlike behavior is par for the course.
By three, a child can typically tell you what he wants, even when he can't properly articulate every word or stammers when trying to get through a sentence. With more words at their command, preschoolers can verbalize their feelings. That helps them to work through the tussles they get into with siblings, peers, and parents, and also affords them the ability to voice their food preferences.
A preschooler's increasing physical prowess means more freedom for parents but doesn't decrease the need for supervision. For example, children typically complete toilet training by the end of their third year, which means no more diapers to change. But it does mean you must check to see that junior washes his hands thoroughly after each visit to the bathroom to prevent making himself, and others, ill. One thing's for sure: Your child will have developed self-feeding skills by age three, if not earlier. That means you won't have to spoon-feed him, freeing you up to converse with your youngster and to teach him table manners. Eating with your child with few distractions helps him focus on the task at hand, too.
Four- and five-year-olds are eager, enthusiastic learners with active imaginations. They are curious about numbers and letters and may be capable of reading and writing some simple words by the time they start kindergarten. As your child gets closer to five, you may notice that she is increasingly interested in learning new facts in a spontaneous, fun, and creative way. Now is a good time to get your child interested in food-related activities that not only foster an appreciation of a variety of foods but help her develop simple math and science skills. For example, cooking healthy foods with your child provides practical experience with math, for example, counting out the number of eggs needed, and encourages eye-hand coordination in the measuring of ingredients and in stirring. Setting the table means kids must figure the number of people eating as well as the utensils for each person.
While children ages three through six are relatively agreeable people most of the time, they tend to test their limits. Quite often, mealtime is the battleground. That's why parents must keep their cool, now more than ever.
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Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.
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