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Feeding Your Preschooler: What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

We’re pulling from our archives to talk about daily menus for toddlers.

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Montessori Primer: We Are What We Eat

Welcome, new readers! We are so glad you’ve taken a moment to visit our blog, where we regularly share rich, easily digestible info for families about Montessori both in the classroom and in the home. Today, we continue our Montessori Primer with an exploration of the importance of nutritious foods and the role they play in your child’s readiness to learn. Please join us on Monday when we’ll take a brief break from our Primer to roll out the welcome mat to our blog, highlighting the content we’ve shared and helping new readers get acquainted.

No discussion regarding lunch is complete without looking at nutrition. It is easy to trade convenience in lieu of food value. For dinners, we put together meals that are balanced nutritionally for our family, but sometimes approach lunch by trading home cooked meals for pre-packaged options. Most parents fear that nutritionally rich items will simply go uneaten and be thrown away.

Dr. Montessori was one of the first to recognize the link between nutrition and the brain. Maria Montessori believed that as guardians of children, we need to prepare the child for school by preparing their bodies with nutritionally rich foods. “You are what you eat,” should be kept in mind. Children who are prepared for their day with proper breakfast are better prepared to learn in the classroom. Lunch serves the same purpose. Children need a balanced meal to help them focus during the rest of their day. In Dr. Montessori’s book The Secret of Childhood she states,

“One of the most striking things about our normalizing [Montessori] schools is the fact that children who have been freed from their psychic deviations and have acquired a normal state lose their greedy craving for food. They became interested in eating correctly and with the proper gestures.”

Children should be involved in preparing their food. Let your child help you pick out the fruits and vegetables they choose to eat. Set up a station to help them prepare their meals easily. Teach them about how food fuels their bodies, and always teach them the importance of grace and courtesy.

For more ideas on packing healthy lunches that children enjoy eating, visit Laptop Lunches, the makers of a bento-style lunchbox kit, who provide many useful tips on creating attractive and nutritious meals.