While toddlers and preschoolers need constant supervision, school-aged children are becoming more independent, making their own decisions and (hopefully) exercising self-discipline. Childhood is filled with rapid growth. During this time, physical, social and mental skills are developing while children experience the wonders of permanent teeth. Other growth areas are ramping up; kids are building bone mass that will carry them through the rest of their lives, strengthening their cognitive skills and abilities, and shaping their social behaviors.
Nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is critical, as the downsides of a diet with insufficient micronutrients can have a lasting impact on physical and mental growth, development, and function. Kids and pre-teens are at risk of poor nutrition for many reasons, including picky eating, skipping meals and eating too much junk food. Don’t let this time slip away – give children the nutrition they need now to fuel their bodies for future health.
The Early Childhood Years
- Young children need to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits early on. Children pattern habits after parents and caregivers. Good role models are important.
- Preschoolers quickly grow and change physically, mentally, and socially.
- Preschoolers need healthy food to meet their growth and developmental needs. These can best be met by following national and/or local food guide recommendations for ages 2 – 5.
- Parents and caregivers know the importance of nutrition to a child’s physical and mental development to grow and develop. However, they also need to be good role models.
- Meal and snack times teach sharing and socializing skills. Small children have small stomachs and get full quickly. They need child-sized servings for meals and snacks that respect local traditions and customs.
- Note that even pre-school children can learn basic kitchen and gardening skills.