Here at the Small Miracles family of preschools and daycare centers we understand that nutrition is a critical component of promoting proper growth and early childhood development. We believe that instilling healthy eating habits is part of our responsibility to each child in our care. Establishing a healthy diet early in life could have just as much of an impact on your child’s future quality of life as establishing proper study habits. As childcare providers, we’ve seen firsthand how readily preschoolers absorb the nutritional lessons their caregivers impart. If children are taught early on to enjoy trying new foods and eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains; those habits will stay with them the rest of their lives.
Ensuring that your child’s diet at home and away from home is a healthy one is crucial for a variety of reasons. The quality of the food your child eats while in daycare will affect more than just their short-term health and well-being. The more time your youngster spends in childcare, the more important nutrition becomes. Anything other than setting high nutritional standards set the stage for eating habits your child might never outgrow.
Preschool Food Programs and Nutrition
You may not realize it, but children model themselves – at least in part – after their teachers. It’s certainly true that parents exert the strongest influence on their child’s nutritional habits, but their other caregivers contribute to the eating habits children develop as well. They may spend upwards of five days a week in another adults care. It only makes sense that children identify with and emulate the teachers they see every day. That’s why in addition to complying with food safety and sanitation regulations, our childcare centers focus on nutritionally complete menu planning, on making sure our educators and staff members are well-versed in the essentials of children’s nutrition and tactics for promoting healthier eating habits. Beyond the healthier meals and snacks themselves; we believe it’s important to be good food role models by creating unhurried mealtime environments. We make mealtimes and snack times opportunities to engage our preschoolers in healthy eating conversations and encourage children to taste all of their foods.
Home Nutrition for Your Preschooler
It’s important to remember that preschool aged children have different nutritional needs than adults. Recognizing these differences will help you choose better snacks and make mealtimes healthier experiences. Here are a few tips to assist a parent in meal planning and snack selection.
- Organize and provide regularly scheduled snacks and place limits on unplanned eating
- Ignore any anti-milk hype you may have heard, include plenty of whole grains, a variety of vegetables and a rainbow worth of fruits
- Involve your preschooler as your prepare healthy meals. Doing so may help increase your child’s interest in new or unfamiliar foods
- Include one of your preschooler’s favorite foods in each meal. Meals should have at least one food that you know your child will eat
- Be sure meal portions are child sized. A good rule of thumb is one tablespoon of each food type for each year of your child’s age
- Get used to your preschooler’s childish table manners. Let your kid be a kid. Eventually they will pick up and emulate your table manners
Finally, remember that environment you create at mealtime is just as important at home as it is at your Small Miracles preschool. So think about comfort when selecting chairs, tables, dishes and even silverware for your preschooler. Don’t expect your child to sit perfectly still during the meal but comfort will foster a desirable level of activity reduction. You also won’t want to make meals overly strict occasions, excuse your child from the table once they’re finished or have clearly become disinterested in their meal. Yes meals are family times but they’re also a great times to teach manners and patience in addition to healthy eating habits by example. What your preschooler learns at your table will develop into lifelong patterns.