Parenting Advice

    Toddler Snacking and Baby Care

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    1602_ParentalGuidance_QI feel like my whole day at home with my 2-year-old revolves around food. What’s a good snacking strategy? Should I wait until he acts hungry, or schedule a time for a healthy snack?

    1602_ParentalGuidance_AFor a 2-year-old, food is a big deal! Using utensils, sipping through straws, pouring juice into cups, and tasting so many flavors are the wonderful things young children like to do. But, if you have swinging doors on the pantry or the refrigerator with shelves within reach of endless options, less-than-ideal snack habits interfere with mealtime and healthy eating.

    As parents, we need to be mindful of what we can do to help create healthy habits. As role models, we are laying the groundwork for years to come. There are a few things that are out of our control, things that we cannot force our children to do. We cannot make our child sleep, we cannot make our child potty train, and we cannot make our child eat. These three things happen when our child is ready, but it is important to know we can still manage these events, and provide a framework that encourages success.

    Scheduling a time for snacks is a great idea for this very reason, as it is something parents can do to encourage a healthy habit. If we monitor the timing, watch the caloric intake, limit the carbohydrates, and curb the sugars, we can help our children be more successful at mealtime. It is great practice (and it can take great patience!) for a young child to sit at the table with his family for a meal and wait to be served. So many things can be learned at the family dinner table, like communication skills (Can you tell Daddy what you did today?), taking risks (Try that mango!), and respect (Tell Mommy, More peas, please!).

    Being aware of portion size is key.  Also, understand that small children might be more successful with five small meals instead of three traditional, larger ones. If we allow our children to snack on demand, beneficial fruits and vegetables may become replaced with crackers and processed pre-packaged snacks. We cannot make our children eat, but we can control what foods are offered and when.

    1602_ParentalGuidance_QI know babies are the ones who are supposed to get separation anxiety, but I think I’m the one who can’t let go. I feel like I can’t trust anyone to stay with our 4-month-old. Is this normal?

    1602_ParentalGuidance_AI think this is completely normal, and many new parents feel the exact same way. With our babies, parents are establishing the bond of trust. When a baby cries, we react immediately by taking care of her needs, whether it is changing a diaper, or filling a tummy. As new mothers, we are learning all of the nuances that make taking care of needs easier by listening to cries and knowing the routine.

    As that trust bond develops and strengthens between parent and child, it should expand to your confidence in others to care for your baby. Having someone new care for the baby will help her learn to adapt to change. Be open and honest concerning your reservations about leaving your baby with a sitter, family member, or childcare provider. Provide as much detail as possible about the baby’s routine, eating and sleeping habits, and any tricks that could help comfort the baby. At first, take short, quick outings, and check in to make sure the time apart is successful.

    Gradually, it will become easier to leave your baby, and your little one will become more comfortable with others.

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    Michelle Johnston
    Michelle Johnston has worked with parents and caregivers as a family educator with Commonwealth Parenting for eighteen years. She is the mom of four.