Feeding your child
Feeding your child is part of parenting. Parents and caregivers help children to develop healthy eating habits.
It isn't about "getting your child to eat." As a parent or caregiver, both you and your child have a job to do!
As a parent, you decide:
- What – Offer your child the same food you prepare for the family as children do not need special foods. Use Canada’s Food Guide to choose a variety of foods.
- When – Create a routine of meals and sit-down snacks at about the same times every day, usually three meals and two to three snacks each day. This routine creates structure, and your child will learn that he/she will be fed. Offer only water in between meals and snacks.
- Where – Include your child at the family table where he/she can see you eating, learn about foods and how to feed himself/herself.
- How – Give your child the time to explore foods in a calm, pleasant setting. When eating, remove distractions, e.g. turn off the TV and remove things such as toys and games. Do not force or pressure your child to eat a certain food or to eat a certain amount of food. Offer new foods along with familiar foods.
Your child decides:
- How much to eat - Allow your child to eat enough to satisfy his/her hunger, whether that’s a small amount or more than usual. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t eat a lot at one meal or snack; he/she will soon have another time to eat.
- What to eat - Allow your child to decide what he/she will eat from what you offer. As a parent or caregiver, you do not need to prepare something different; doing so does not help your child learn to try new foods or to enjoy what the family is eating.
Consistency is important. As a parent or caregiver, be consistent in your job when feeding your child, and let your child do his/her job! This helps your child learn, and it also helps to make family mealtimes more enjoyable.
Don't forget, let those involved in the care of your child know about the different jobs in feeding!