Importance of setting food patterns1,2
- Early childhood is a crucial period of development, growth and health of young children.
- Early life diet and feeding strategies play a major role in setting healthy food preferences and behaviours.
- As a parent, it's your duty to help your child learn healthy eating habits.
- You need to give your child a balanced diet with food from all 3 food groups, including vegetables and fruit, whole grain products and proteins.
How to help your child in setting food pattern2
- Offer your child 3 meals a day and 1 to 3 snacks (morning, afternoon and possibly before bed).
- Healthy snacks are equally important as the food served at meals.
- You must set regular meal and snack times that work for the whole family. It is important to share mealtimes and to eat with your children.
- Serve a balanced diet, comprising a variety of foods from all food groups at mealtimes.
- You can offer food in ways they can eat easily. E.g., cut into a piece, or mash food to prevent choking in younger children.
- Teach your child to use a spoon or cup, thus making them eat independently.
Importance of healthy sleep patterns3
- Sleep is an essential component of your child's health and well-being.
- Children are likely to have trouble functioning during the day if they don't get enough sleep. And may find it difficult to settle at night.
- Pre-schoolers generally need sleep of 10 to 13 hours a day.
- As your child approaches 3 years of age, he/ she will probably come down to one nap a day, but some children may still have a second nap at some point in the day.
Setting healthy sleeping habits for your child3,4
- Make a family priority to have sufficient sleep. Doing this for yourself shows your children that it's an important part of living a healthy lifestyle like eating right and exercising regularly.
- Maintain a regular daily routine. Setting up the same waking time, meal times, nap time and playtimes can help your child feel secure and comfortable and help with a smooth bedtime.
- It can help young children to start early with a bedtime routine such as brush, book and bed.
- Try creating a sleep-supportive and safe bedroom and home environment. Dim the lights before bedtime. Avoid switching on the light in the middle of the night or talking loudly when your child is asleep as it can wake them up.
- Don't give your child a bottle of juice or milk or drinks with caffeine in the bed. Water is fine.
- Don't overschedule. Apart from homework, many children today are scheduled in evening activities (e.g., sports games, lessons, appointments, etc.) that makes it difficult for children to get a good night's sleep.
- No screens prior to bedtime. Avoid giving children tablets, televisions, computer or video games in the bedroom.
- Learn to recognise your child's sleep problems, if any. The most common sleep problems in children are difficulty falling asleep, night-time awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnoea and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. If your child gets nightmares, reassure and comfort him/ her.
- Tuck your child into bed snugly so that he/ she feels secure.
- Feeding Infants and Young Toddlers: Using the Latest Evidence in Child-Care Settings[May 2017][Internet]. Available at: https://healthyeatingresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/her_ece_051817-FINAL.pdf. Accessed on Feb 19, 2020.
- Healthy eating for children[Internet]. Available at: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy_eating_for_children. Accessed on Feb 19, 2020.
- Healthy sleep for your baby and child[Internet]. Available at: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy_sleep_for_your_baby_and_child. Accessed on Feb 19, 2020.
- Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? [Internet]. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx. Accessed on Feb 19, 2020.