During the preschool years, your child should be eating the same foods as the rest of the family, with an emphasis on those with nutritional value. This includes fresh vegetables and fruits, nonfat or low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses), lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish, lean hamburger), and whole grain cereals and bread. At the same time, limit or eliminate the junk food in your child’s diet, and get rid of sugared beverages as well. See the following sample menu ideas for a four-year-old child.
Note: This menu is planned for a four-year-old child who weighs approximately 36 pounds (16.5 kg).
1 teaspoon = 1⁄3 tablespoon (5 mL)
1 tablespoon = ½ ounce (15 mL)
1 ounce = 30 mL
1 cup = 8 ounces (240 mL)
½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
½ cup cereal
4–6 oz. or ½ cup cantaloupe or strawberries or banana
½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
½ cup fruit such as melon, banana, or berries
½ cup yogurt
½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
1 sandwich—2 slices whole wheat bread with 1–2 oz. of meat and cheese, veggie and dressing (if needed) or peanut butter and jelly
¼ cup dark-yellow or dark-green vegetable
1 teaspoon peanut butter with 1 slice whole wheat bread or 5 crackers or string cheese or cut-up fruit
½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
2 ounces meat, fish, or chicken
½ cup pasta, rice, or potato
¼ cup vegetable
If your family would like to include margarine, butter, or salad dressing as a “side” option to any meal, choose low- fat or healthier versions, if possible, and only give 1 or 2 teaspoons to your child.
Parents of preschoolers should not aim for low-fat meals. In fact, research has shown that low-fat diets may actually promote unhealthy weight gain—especially if dietary fats are replaced with added sugars.
In an effort to halt the rising rates of childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement, Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools, recommends families take a broader approach to nutrition, considering children’s whole diet pattern—rather than simply the amount of sugar, fat, or specific nutrients in individual foods.
Keep Brain-Booster Fats on the Menu & Cut the Trans Fat
Fat is an essential part of a well-balanced diet and critical for your child’s growth and brain development. So, instead of trying to cut out fat from your child’s diet, focus on replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats. For example, the saturated fat in whole milk, coconut oil, or salmon is different from the saturated fat found in pizza, French fries, and processed meat products.
It is a good idea to routinely include oily fish (i.e., sardines and wild caught salmon) on the family menu. The omega 3 fats in these delicious fish are critical for brain development and are extremely heart healthy. As with any new food, repeated exposure is the key to your child’s eventual acceptance. So start early and serve often!
Trans fat, however, is one type of fat to try to avoid completely. Industrially-produced trans fats are found only in certain heavily processed foods. Check the nutrition facts label for the list of ingredients and avoid bringing any products that list “partially hydrogenated oils” or “vegetable shortening” into your home.
Simple Meal Ideas for Preschoolers
A balanced meal for your child should consist of a protein source, a generous serving of non-starchy vegetables, and a bit of whole grain or a starchy vegetable. A small serving of seasonal fruit for dessert helps to round out the meal. But, healthy food does not mean boring or bland. The addition of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and real butter results in meals that are more delicious and satisfying.
Example meal one:
2 to 3 ounces of fish that are browned in olive oil or baked and brushed with olive oil or real butter. Some good choices are cod, flounder, and wild caught salmon.
½ small baked sweet potato with 1 teaspoon of real butter
¼ cup or more of broccoli, cooked in olive oil and seasoned with an herb blend
A few slices of cucumber and cherry tomato halves
A small dish of sliced fruit
Example meal two:
Smothered black beans and rice: Place 2 tablespoons of brown rice in the bottom of a medium sized bowl. Top it with 1/3 cup black beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, snipped cilantro, ¼ cup shredded full-fat cheddar cheese, several slices of avocado, and 2 to 4 crushed blue corn tortilla chips.
Serve with a side of mixed fruit salad
“Can I Have a Snack?”
Planning mid-day snacks after preschool or child care can help prevent overeating at meal time. Steer clear of heavily processed, carbs such as pretzels, cereals, and flavored fish-shaped crackers—these do nothing to satisfy your child’s hunger. Instead, try serving protein-based foods that offer the needed fats hold your preschooler over until the next meal.
Satisfying snacks for preschoolers:
A few apple slices with peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, etc.
Whole or 2% milk Greek yogurt with fruit (or plain with sliced or mashed fruit)
Boiled egg served alone or with a bit of fresh fruit
Small bite sized pieces of raw veggies served with hummus
Small cheese cubes with 2 to 3 whole grain crackers
Remember: Good Eating Habits Must Be Learned
Preschool-age children are still developing their eating habits and need encouragement to eat healthy meals and snacks. As your child establishes food preferences, be sure to pave the way for good habits by being a good role model. Offering a variety of nutritious foods and limiting your child’s access to low-nutrient foods can help him or her learn to appreciate and make good food choices.
Pediatricians are more aware than ever that a growing number of children are overweight. Your doctor has been keeping track of your child’s height and weight since infancy, and he’ll be able to calculate whether your child weighs more than he should.
Steps You Can Take Now to Reduce Your Child’s Likelihood of Becoming Obese and on Track for a Healthy Life
Give some thought to the physical activity in your child’s life. Even though he continues to be a bundle of endless energy, a lot of that energy often goes to waste. Many preschoolers spend several hours a day in front of the TV or computer screen, rather than playing outdoors. In fact, today’s children are only one-fourth as active in their day-to-day lives as their grandparents were.
Whether or not your four- or five-year-old is overweight, you need to make sure that physical activity becomes and remains a priority in his life. These preschool years are a time when he should be developing his motor skills, improving his coordination, and playing games and sports with greater skill. You should make sure that he has access to age-appropriate play equipment, such as balls and plastic bats that will make exercise fun and something he looks forward to doing. Of course, these play periods must be supervised; you need to keep him away from dangerous situations like running into the street to chase a ball.
Make an effort to turn family time into a physically active time. On a Sunday afternoon, rather than going to the movies, take the entire family on a hike in the hills near your home. Or fly a kite in the park, play tag, or throw a ball back and forth.
You child’s body has undergone significant changes since the day you brought her home from the hospital. By now, as she moves through her preschool years, your child’s body fat has been replaced by increases in muscle and development, accompanied by a slimming of her arms and legs and a tampering of her upper body. Many children at this age still have a small potbelly or pear shape. Some youngsters of this age appear skinny, and their parents often worry that their children are undernourished or perhaps have illnesses that make them look thin.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where parents worry about something quite different. Their children are heavier than their playmates. These kids may be eating larger meals and snacking more often than their peers. They might be watching more hours of television and spending fewer hours being physically active.
The fact is that children come in many shapes and sizes. With their weights in mind, most kids fall within the normal range, although in recent years, more parents than ever are being told by their pediatricians that their youngsters are overweight. Your child’s doctor has been charting her height and weight since she was an infant, typically during every office visit in the first 2 years of life and then about once a year after 2 years. Your pediatrician can show you your child’s growth chart and tell you whether she has gained too much weight. The doctor may calculate your child’s body mass index (BMI), which after age 2 years is a good indicator of whether she is overweight. If your child’s BMI is above the 95th percentile for her age, she has a weight problem.
Amid the current epidemic of obesity, the preschool years are a time when a growing number of youngsters are first identified as overweight. If your child received this diagnosis, you and your family need to follow your pediatrician’s guidance on how to begin the journey toward successfully managing this condition. You doctor’s recommendations will probably be very similar to those found on this site, including guidelines for healthier eating and increased physical activity. Your doctor will monitor the strategies and efforts that your family begins adopting in the months and years ahead, making sure that your child is progressing in a healthy way.
Children feel better when they eat well. During the preschool and kindergarten years, your child should be eating the same foods as the rest of the family.
Your job as a parent is to offer foods with nutritional value in a calm environment and to have regular times for eating. Your child’s job is to decide whether he or she is hungry and how much food to eat when it’s offered.
8 Tips for Parents:
Offer a range of healthy foods. When children eat a variety of foods, they get a balance of the vitamins they need to grow. Healthy options include fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses) or dairy substitutes, lean proteins (beans, chicken, turkey, fish, lean hamburger, tofu, eggs), and whole-grain cereals and bread.
Don’t expect children to “clean their plates.” Serve appropriate portion sizes, but do not expect your child to always eat everything served. Even better, let your children choose their own portion sizes. It is okay if children do not eat everything on their plates. At this age, they should learn to know when they are full. Some four-year-olds may still be picky eaters. Parents can encourage their children to try new foods, but they should not pressure eating.
Offer regular meal times and sit together. Serve foods at regular meal and snack times. Try to be careful to not offer foods between these eating times. Children who are eating or “grazing” throughout the day may not be hungry at mealtimes, when healthier foods tend to be available. When it is meal or snack time, turn off the TV, and eat together at the table. This helps create a calm environment for eating.
Limit processed food and sugary drinks. Another parent role is to limit how much processed food is in the house and to limit fast food. Most important is to limit sugary drinks. Sugary drinks include soda, juice drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, and sports drinks. Sugary drinks can lead to cavities and unhealthy weight gain.
The best drinks are water and milk. The best drinks for children are water and milk (including non-dairy milk). Milk provides calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. Ice cream is okay once in a while, but it should not be offered every day. Whole fruit is preferable to fruit juice—even if it is 100% juice—as juice is a concentrated source of sugar and low in fiber. If you offer juice, make it 100% fruit juice and limit it to 4 oz. or less per day. It is best to serve juice with a meal, as juice is more likely to cause cavities when served between meals.
Small portions for small children. It is important to pay attention to portion sizes. Four- and five-year-olds need smaller servings than adults. Encourage your children to choose their own serving size, but use smaller plates, bowls, and cups.
Turn off the TV—especially at mealtimes. Television advertising can be a big challenge to your child’s good nutrition. Four- and five-year-olds are easily influenced by ads for unhealthy foods like sugary cereals, fast food, and sweets. The best way to avoid this is put in place a “media curfew” at mealtime and bedtime, putting all devices away or plugging them into a charging station for the night.
Teach table manners. At this age, your child should be ready to learn basic table manners. By age four, he or she will no longer grip the fork or spoon in his or her fist and be able to hold them like an adult. With your help, he or she can begin learning the proper use of a table knife. You can also teach other table manners, such as not talking with a full mouth, using a napkin, and not reaching across another person’s plate. While it’s necessary to explain these rules, it’s much more important to model them. Your child will watch to see how the rest of the family is behaving and follow their lead. It’s easier to develop table manners if you have a family custom of eating together. Make at least one meal a day a special and pleasant family time. Have your child set the table or help in some other way in preparing the meal.
It used to be that eating out at a restaurant was reservedfor special occasions and usually involved a table for 2, a white tablecloth, and leaving the children at home with a sitter. But not anymore. If yours is like most families today, eating out has become a way of life. Americans have been dining out in droves—spending roughly half of their families’ total food budgets and consuming nearly a third of all calories away from home.
Along with this convenience-driven movement comes the added pressure of getting our children to perform. It is generally easier to treat the task of teaching children healthy, safe, and socially acceptable eating habits as a work in progress in the privacy of your own home. At a restaurant, however, your family’s mealtime matters will be on exhibit, and your child’s diet, his developing dining skills, and your patience are much more likely to be put to the test.
With this in mind, we have taken the liberty of ordering for you our top 10 tips to help keep your child’s eating habits from turning into frustrating public displays of disaffection and make your family’s meals out on the town both healthier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Maintain a Healthy Attitude. Eating out requires a lot of social skills—skills that children must not only be taught, but be given the chance to practice. Each time you head out to a restaurant, be sure to remind yourself that being quiet and sitting still with one’s napkin across one’s lap throughout an entire meal doesn’t come naturally.
Pick a Restaurant That Caters to Kids…at least when you’re first getting started in order to take some of the pressure off. How do you know a family-friendly restaurant when you see one? Just conjure up an image of a romantic candlelit dinner for 2 and then look for the complete opposite. If there’s a “Kids Eat Free” sign in the window, the hostess is ready and waiting with a box of crayons, and the level of background noise is high enough to drown out any unexpectedly loud outbursts, it’s a safe bet the setting will better suit your needs. Of course, don’t forget to check the menu to make sure you’re not having to sacrifice all hopes of nutrition in exchange for family-friendly surroundings, and remember that as your child’s mealtime manners develop, you can look forward to dining at restaurants that cater to a more mature crowd.
BYOB. Although the stress of eating out at a restaurant can certainly leave some parents feeling like they could use a drink, this BYOB recommendation has nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. Instead, it is a reminder to bring your own backup. Bringing along a couple of mealtime accessories—whether that means a kid-friendly cup, plate, or utensils, or a coloring book and crayons. Simply anticipating your child’s needs can go a long way toward making the meal go smoothly and helping your child enjoy rather than ruin the ambience.
Food. It is perfectly acceptable to bring along some food for your child, just so long as you don’t rely so heavily on the bring your own approach that you miss out on your child’s golden opportunity to try new things. This option is best reserved for times when you know your child is unlikely to be able to tolerate the wait, for infants who have not yet taken to table foods, and for particularly picky toddlers.
Toys for Tots. When faced with a wait, a couple of books and a quiet toy or two can work wonders in helping to more peacefully pass the time—especially if they’re ones your child has not seen before. For babies, this may be as easy as supplying a rattle or rubber-tipped spoon, while for older children, a piece of paper and a few crayons is often all it takes to paint a prettier picture.
Accessories. Bring bibs and bottles in particular, but if you’re headed to a restaurant that doesn’t provide cups with lids, a sippy cup might also be in order. Similarly, rubber-tipped spoons and toddler-friendly forks can help limit the amount of time you’ll spend trying to keep the restaurant’s unsafe utensils away from your young child.
Keep in Mind That It’s About Time. Many of the problems children have behaving in restaurants can be traced back to having too much time on their hands. Boredom and impatience are not your friends. The longer children are expected to be on their best behavior, the more likely they are to become restless—especially if they have nothing to keep them occupied. Since the clock will be ticking from the minute you walk in the door, we recommend:
Calling Ahead. Make reservations or take advantage of call ahead seating to increase your chances of being seated at a table rather than in the waiting area when you arrive.
Going Early. By beating the rush, you’ll be less likely to have to wait for a table, service will hopefully be faster, your child will probably be less tired and crabby, and those seated around you will most likely be other families with young children who have exactly the same idea in mind.
Ordering Efficiently. On those days when you’re running short on time or patience, skip the formality of ordering drinks first and get your full order in the first chance you get. If you’re anticipating the need for a quick getaway, you might even request the check be brought out with the meal.
Clear Your Own Table. We realize that one of the clear-cut benefits of dining out is that you aren’t responsible for the cleanup afterward, but we’re actually talking about clearing the table before you eat. That’s because restaurants are seldom childproof to the extent necessary to keep your meal accident-free. Since the out-of-sight, out of- mind principle applies perfectly to this scenario, we suggest that as soon as you sit down to dine, scan the table for items that stand to disrupt your dinner and make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. We’ve listed a few of our personal favorites to get you started.
Candles. No explanation needed, except to point out that kids seem to be drawn to candles like moths to light, and if you let your child play with them, he’s playing with fire.
Knives. They are often put at every place setting around the table with complete disregard for the age of the person who is to be seated there. You’ll want to make sure you’re the first to grab for them. In fact, if your baby or toddler is not yet skilled in the use of utensils in general and is more likely to bang a fork and spoon than eat off of them, you’d be wise to grab those too. Instead, simply shift your child’s interest to the more age-appropriate utensils you’ve brought along.
Sugar and Spice. While children rarely end up getting hurt while shaking the salt or playing with the packets of sweetener, a spoonful of sugar spread across the table does nothing to help the meal go down.
Drinks. Even though spills are to be expected, they still tend to put a damper on the dining experience. You don’t need to stop ordering drinks—just make sure that they aren’t set at your child’s elbow or precariously perched too close to the edge of the table, and that they come with lids whenever they’re available.
Don’t Just Say No. Regardless of what sort of socially challenging show your child is putting on, be aware that just saying no, with no teaching and no ramifications, has been shown to be of little use once your child has passed toddlerhood. Before you even go out, discuss what you expect of your child and what the clearly defined consequences will be if he is unable to behave during the meal. Whatever you choose to use as a consequence, just make sure you’re willing and able to follow through—even if that means leaving the restaurant well before dinner has been served.
Take a Healthy Approach to Kids’ Meals. Restaurants offer a great opportunity to expose children to new foods and flavors, but they also run the real risk of serving as an excuse to check your nutritional goals at the door. According to one disconcerting survey, the top 5 most popular foods ordered at restaurants by children younger than 6 years were french fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream. This leads us straight to the topic of kids’ menus. No doubt about it, ordering off the kids’ menu can make your overall dining experience easier. The problem is that kids gravitate toward food they’re familiar with, and they quickly learn to order only off the kids’ menu—an ordering pattern that often becomes firmly entrenched. It also tends to ensure that almost 100% of their entrées will consist of a very narrow range of not-so healthy foods. Whenever possible, we suggest swapping out fries for a healthier side, skipping the enticing offer for free refills on soda altogether, and ordering milk instead. You can also encourage your child to broaden his horizons by looking beyond the confines of the kids’ menu by giving him the chance to taste foods off of your plate and/or ordering more nutritious fare off the adult menu.
Contain Costs. Part of the temptation to let children order off the kids’ menu stems from the fact that it is almost always less expensive. For less than the cost of an entrée, you can often get your child a main course, a side dish, a drink, and a dessert. That said, kids’ menus rarely offer a good deal when it comes to nutrition. We therefore suggest giving the following alternative cost-containment measures a try as well.
Share and Share Alike. To give your child exposure to a wider range of food choices while giving your wallet a break, consider sharing an adult entrée. This works particularly well if your child has a small appetite and your own entrées routinely go unfinished, or you have more than one child so they can share amongst themselves.
Downsize. Ask if you are able to order your child a scaled-down serving of an adult-sized entrée at a reduced price. Appetizers can also double as less-expensive kid-sized entrées. Just be sure to check first to see if the appetizer section is dominated by fried and fatty foods.
Two for the Price of One. Avoid the natural temptation to teach your child that he needs to clean his plate just because you paid for it. Especially with the oversized portions typically served in restaurants, take the approach of encouraging your child to eat only as much as he’s hungry for, and then take the rest home to serve at a later date. As an aside, this is a strategy that works as well for adults as it does for children.
Do you ever glance despairingly at what goes untouched on your toddler’s plate or consider what never makes it there in the first place and wish you could buy yourself a nutritional safety net to go along with a good book on the subject of food fights? If so, you are not alone.
It has been estimated that just over half of all preschoolers are given multivitamins. We’re pretty sure that’s a good bit more than are served broccoli on any given day. And we’re quite sure we can relate to the reasons why. When the going gets tough, it is often a whole lot easier to reach for a quick fix in a bottle of Flintstones vitamins and forget the fight. The fact that there are so many parents who do just that isn’t so much a food fight, per se, but a reflection on the parental feelings that so many share that what we’re feeding our children is nutritionally inadequate. While we can definitely understand the sentiment, it compels us to address the fundamental question: What role should multivitamins play in your child’s diet, and is it you or your child that stands to benefit from them more?
Who Needs ‘Em, Anyway?
We’ll come right out and say what most nutrition experts have been saying all along: Most children don’t need vitamin supplements at all! Yes, we realize that the perfect, vegetable-loving, cooperative eater we all long for doesn’t exist. But even taking all food fights into consideration, there are nevertheless very few instances in which a child’s diet is likely to leave him truly deficient.
If you need further convincing, we suggest you consider the following facts:
The amount your child needs to eat to get enough vitamins and minerals from his food alone is probably much smaller than you think. Even for the pickiest of eaters, it doesn’t take more than a very few picks from each of the basic food groups for children to get their recommended daily dose.
Many vitamins can be stored in the body. This means that your child doesn’t have to eat each and every one every day—affording you the option of spreading your efforts at achieving a balanced diet out over the course of a week or two without spreading the vitamins too thin.
Ironically enough, parents who are most likely to give multivitamins are also those who are most likely to be feeding their children healthy diets in the first place.
Vitamins can be found in some unlikely sources. Calcium doesn’t just have to come from cows, since it is contained in both supplements and many nondairy foods ranging from salmon, tofu, spinach, and sardines to rhubarb, baked beans, bok choy, and almonds—admittedly not all of which are an easy sell at the dinner table, but at least you have plenty to choose from!
And finally, many foods these days are fortified. That means that even if your child favors foods that do not come naturally loaded with all of the necessary nutrients, all hope is not lost; it’s entirely possible that food manufacturers have added them in for you. Classic examples include the vitamin D fortification of milk, margarine, and pudding, and the calcium contained in kid-friendly foods such as orange juice, cereals, breads, and even Eggo waffles.
Most parents want to provide more for their children than their parents were able to do for them. But, have you ever noticed how kids tend to have fun with things as simple as a cardboard box? It’s true.
Getting back to basics
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report on the importance of play explains that inexpensive toys such as blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets are more effective in allowing children to be imaginative and creative than more expensive toys that may be out of reach for many parents.
So, why not take that cardboard box and play with them? More than any material gift, YOU are the best toy your child will ever receive!
Not just kids’ stuff
While it may be hard to relax and give yourself over to play, view this time with your child as an adventure. You are not only promoting the many benefits of play, but also getting to know your child better and strengthening the parent-child bond. For starters, your role can actually be quite minimal and the play you undertake can be almost any activity.
Here are ten ideas that your preschooler will adore.
Bonus: You don’t need much time or expensive lessons or toys to participate in any of the activities listed!
Duck, Duck, Goose: Everyone sits in a circle. One child is “It” and goes around the circle tapping everyone on the head and saying, “Duck.” At this child’s discretion, he or she taps someone and calls out “Goose.” At the moment, the child tapped must jump up and chase the child who was “It” around the circle of kids. If the child who was “It” makes it around the circle and sits down, then he or she is “safe.” If tagged by the “Goose,” then he or she is out. Either way, the Goose is now “It” and the game resumes. Eventually, only two children are left. The last child left without being tagged wins.
London Bridge is Falling Down: Two children form a bridge by joining hands across from each other. As everyone sings the nursery rhyme, all the children pass under the up stretched arms. When the song ends, the arms are dropped around the child passing through at the time. Then, the song changes to, “Take the key and lock him up.” Those joining hands can start rocking arms back and forth. Preschoolers delight in being “locked up” and swayed to and fro.
Limbo: Bring a broom stick outside and ask two older children or adults hold the ends. Have the children go under the stick without touching it. If the stick is touched, then that child is out. After everyone has had a turn, the stick can be gradually lowered in increments. This can be done to music, too, if available.
Egg Races: Make some hard boiled eggs and bring them outside with some tablespoons. Have fun telling your preschooler where they have to walk, run, jump, etc., while balancing the egg on the spoon. This promotes balance and dexterity.
Simon Says: This is one of the most popular games for young children to play. It encourages good listening skills and focus. You are Simon. Stand facing your children and give orders, such as “Simon says to touch your nose” or “Simon says to do a jumping jack.” As you call out each order, the children must do whatever you do, as long as you have said, “Simon Says.” If you just say, “Do this,” whoever follows the action that you now do, is out. The last child standing wins.
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: You sing the tune and control the pace. Children have to touch the body part being mentioned, as it is mentioned. You can speed up the pace of the tune, and your child has to move faster and faster to keep up. It can get pretty funny as everyone tries to touch their knees and toes as fast as possible.
Nature walks: You can turn literally any walk outside into a nature walk—even a walk around the block. Observe the weather, animals, bugs, and plants. You might say, “Look at those big clouds,” or “Touch this grass. It is still wet from yesterday’s rain.” Preschoolers especially love exploring and are sure to have plenty of questions for you along the way!
Follow the Leader: Move all around doing different movements. Everyone has to do what you do. Simple. Great. Fun!
Tag: You can be “It” for starters. Everyone tries to catch you and tag you. If you are tagged, then that child gets to be “It.” Some designated spots can be considered “safe,” like all the trees, or park benches, etc. This is a great excuse to just run around!
Run Around: You can be “It” and call out things for everyone to do. For example, “Run from this tree to that tree,” or “Hop on one foot from this bench to that tree.” There are endless suggestions—you will probably run out of ideas before your preschooler gets bored!
While you may find many opportunities to capitalize on “teachable moments” during these activities, the key is to do what comes naturally to you as a parent. Playing together shouldn’t be a chore or something you feel pressure to do. Enjoy the time you spend with your child. It will pass all too soon!
Your preschooler may seem to be in constant motion much of the time. This is because she uses her body to convey thoughts and emotions that she still can’t describe through language. Moving her body also helps her better understand many words and concepts that are new to her. In addition, your child should now have a healthy attitude toward eating and consume food to give her energy, not to demonstrate defiance.