Last Reviewed: March 2017
Feeding preschoolers - age 3 to 6 years
Feeding preschoolers can be fun because they:
- Want to learn and get better at everything, including eating.
- Are more willing to try new foods.
- Copy their parents so they're more likely to try foods that they see their parents eat and enjoy.
- Like to make their parents happy.
- Might ask for foods they see on TV or at a friend's home but will probably understand if you say “no”.
At this age preschoolers are able to:
- Use a fork and spoon, but will still use fingers to eat or to push food onto a spoon.
- Pour milk, water, or juice from a small container into a cup.
- Start learning table manners, like serving themselves, sharing, or refusing food nicely.
You and your child each have a job to do!
- Plan and make a healthy menu
- Offer meals and snacks at regular times
- Eat family meals together and make them pleasant
- Allow your child to serve himself and decide how much to put on his plate
- Let your child eat as little or as much as he wants
- Provide a child-sized cup, fork and spoon so your child can successfully feed himself
- Your child is watching and learning from you! Show your child you enjoy healthy mealtimes!
When parents do their job, it's easier for children to develop healthy eating habits.
Your child's job:
- Decide if he will eat
- Decide how much he will eat.
- Feed himself - he will get better at this with practice
- Canada’s Food Guide gives recommendations on the number of Food Guide Servings children should eat each day from the four Food Groups.
- A serving portion is the amount of food that your child actually puts on his plate and eats in one sitting.
- Preschoolers have small stomachs so they may only eat about 1/4 to 1/2 of what you might eat at a meal. (E.g. half an apple equals half a Food Guide serving from the Fruits and Vegetables food group)
- Help your child learn about how much to put on his plate by allowing him to serve himself.
- Children eat better when there are no distractions like TV or toys and no pressure from parents.
- Don’t worry if your child misses a meal, she can make up for it at her next snack.
Make sure snacks are served about two hours before mealtimes, so children are hungry enough to eat their meals.
Ways to Help Your Child become a Healthy Eater
When it comes to feeding your children, your goal as a parent is to raise healthy kids who enjoy eating.
Take them to a supermarket and talk about the foods that you are buying and how you will prepare them.
Children love being in the kitchen with you and working with food. Let them help you with meal or snack preparation by:
- Washing vegetables and fruit
- Tearing lettuce
- Mixing batter
- Pouring ingredients
- Spreading toppings with a plastic child-safe knife
- Greasing a pan or lining a muffin tray with paper muffin cups
- Cutting soft vegetables such as mushrooms with a plastic child-safe knife
- Helping to set the table
Are You Looking for Child-Friendly Recipes?
The Cooking Up Some Fun (1.8 MB, 30 pages) site will provide you with recipes you and your child can prepare together.
For more information:
Region of Peel - Public Health
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
to speak with a Public Health Nurse
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216