Toddlers and preschoolers tend not to eat how we think they “should.” In fact, they tend not to do much of anything how we think they should. Like how I thought my 4-year-old should lay quietly in his bed during nap-time yesterday when he thought is would be better to sneak scissors, give his stuffed animals haircuts and then cut off his little sister’s pony tail. But that’s another blog for another time.
Back to how our munchkins make us crazy with their eating habits. Young kids don’t eat according to My Plate charts, food group goals or serving sizes. They can be ravenous one day and seem to run solely off the energy they got from two crackers and a spoonful of applesauce the next. So, what’s typical? And when should you be worried?
Our kids all have vast and varied eating temperaments. It’s important to acknowledge that kiddos will naturally eat differently based on their unique personalities. With that in mind, all of these behaviors or within the realm of “typical” or “normal” when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers:
- Many kiddos do not eat set amounts day in and day out. Instead of looking at how they are eating each day, look at their diets over the course of a week. Chances are that they natural balance out pretty well.
- Most young kiddos prefer carbohydrates. It’s age-appropriate that your kid only wants pasta (or bread or mashed potatoes). This preference tends to go away as kids mature.
- Many young children change preferred foods on a whim. They may suddenly refuse what was their favorite yesterday.
- Their food intake will vary based on their activity level, growth spurts and illness. They tend to be better at listening to their bodies than adults in this way.
- Food jags, where they seemingly only want one preferred food are common during these years. These are usually less about the actual food and more about development and learning to exert their will. They pass when handled appropriately.
- Often young kiddos will eat a lot of only one or two things at a meal instead of choosing from everything offered. Only fruit at lunch and just the pasta at dinner.
Occasionally, kiddos do struggle with eating and you need to seek some professional help. Here’s some of those times:
- You just feel like something’s wrong.
- There is a rapid weight change on your kiddos growth chart across multiple percentiles.
- Your child becomes upset around new foods or cannot sit at the table with a non-preferred food.
- Your child is developing an increasingly limited list of accepted foods over time (this is different than a food jag that lasts a week or two).
- You notice issues with certain textures, chewing, swallowing, choking or pouching foods.
What kinds of seemingly wacky eating habits does your young child have?