Content provided by: Tiffani Ghere, Clinical Pediatric Dietitian

NUTRITIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR PRESCHOOLERS (Ages 2 - 5 yrs)

As your child enters preschool, a new dynamic takes place. They become aware of their peer group and answer to a new authority - the teacher. Table manners learned at home will be applied at school. Modeling good behavior at home is crucial to the establishment of healthy, long-term habits.

FAMILY MEALTIME
Meals should be activities that are enjoyed and shared, not rushed through. Use mealtimes to help establish traditions and family habits. Teach your child to eat slowly and pay attention to his eating. Keep mealtimes pleasant, and don’t scold at the table. Turn the television off at mealtimes and allow no toys or other distractions during the meal. Talk to your children about the peaks and valleys of the day – theirs, and yours. 

FOOD CHOICES
This is an age when kids are discovering what they like and what they don't like. Keep trying to introduce new foods, but don’t worry if they're refused. It's often an issue of texture or temperature, and not taste, that turns a child off certain foods. Offer the same food in different forms. Expect food “jags” and/or “strikes” — these are usually temporary, and will pass. 

FOOD PORTIONS
A “portion size” for this age group is about the size of your child’s fist. Don’t force your child to “clean” his or her plate.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY | PLAYTIME
Ensure that your children get plenty of physical activity – playing, tumbling, dancing, running  –  for at least 60 minutes each day.

SKILLS CHILDREN MAY HAVE
(Age 2 - 3 yrs)
The ability to name and identify shapes, colors, and textures
Learning to count

(Age 3 - 5 yrs)
The ability to count to 10 or more
The ability to name many foods and some cooking tools
Learning to read

COOKING TASKS CHILDREN MAY BE ABLE TO DO
(Age 2 - 3 yrs)
Begin to serve themselves at the family table
Peel a banana
Cut a banana with a table knife
Wash fruits and vegetables
Wipe the table with a sponge
Tear lettuce, shuck corn
Roll meatballs, cookies, and bread rolls
Spread peanut butter or cream cheese on crackers or toast with a table knife
Pick fruit and vegetables in the garden
Take stems off tomatoes
Shop with a picture list at the market

(Age 3 - 5 yrs)
Peel oranges, grapefruit, hard boiled eggs, garlic, and shrimp
Begin to measure ingredients with measuring cups and spoons
Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, shredded cheese, and grated vegetables into foods
Squeeze citrus fruits with a juicer
Identify and pick herbs in the garden
Scoop seeds out of pumpkins and cucumbers
Pour dry cereal for breakfast
Crush crackers or corn flakes into crumbs
Grease pans with butter for baking

NOTE: These are general guidelines. Please consult your pediatrician for specific needs.