Family meals are important for your child. Letting your child eat with you makes him feel like part of the family. Your child should be feeding himself completely on his own. If you haven’t already, switch to skim milk.
Your child should be offered foods from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products). Don’t force your child to “clean the plate,” but also don’t allow your child to dictate what’s served. Allowing your child to choose between two healthy options will avert many battles (“Would you like apples or bananas with your sandwich?”). If she doesn’t like what’s served and refuses to eat it, wrap up the plate and serve it later when the child is hungry.
Your child will not go hungry if there is food available. A child will quickly learn that she can get sweets or junk foods with every meal if she gets them every time she refuses to eat something healthy. Small meals with healthy snacks are recommended: yogurt, fruit, vegetables, cheese, cereal or baked goods that are not high in fat or sugar (crackers, pretzels, Cheerios, etc.). Limit fast food.
Vitamins and Fluoride/Teeth
Vitamin D supplement is necessary if your child does not drink at least 32 ounces of vitamin D-fortified milk/day. Give your child a multi-vitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D per day. If your water supply does not have fluoride, fluoride supplement is needed until the age of 12 years.
If your child is unable to rinse and spit effectively, he should use either no toothpaste or a non-fluoridated toothpaste. Excessive fluoride ingestion will cause fluorosis (mottling of the permanent teeth) in children. Teeth should be brushed in the morning and at bedtime. Many children can rinse and spit, so these children should use fluoride toothpaste. All children are different, but this is a good age to consider your child’s first dental appointment. If you feel your child is not ready, you can wait until age 4 years.
Development and Discipline
Make an effort to catch your child being good, and praise her. It is important at this age for your child to hear praise when she does something you like. Children at this age often want to do things themselves. This is normal. Patience and encouragement are important so your child can learn skills (feeding, dressing, and bathing herself) and gain confidence. Make the extra time to allow your child to do things herself and learn.
Here are some good methods to teach your child about rules:
- Divert and substitute. If a child is playing with something you don’t want her to have, replace it with another object or toy. This approach avoids a fight and does not place the child in a situation where she will say “no.”
- Teach and lead. Have as few rules as necessary to ensure safety, and enforce them. If a rule is broken, provide a short, clear explanation (“No. We don’t climb on the furniture.”), and then place the child alone in “time-out” for three minutes. Do not give any eye contact or speak with the child during this time. It is important that the “time-out” IMMEDIATELY follows a broken rule.
- Be consistent with discipline. Don’t make threats that you cannot carry out (e.g. don’t tell your child you won’t be taking her to a party if you cannot change these plans at the last minute). If you say you are going to do something, do it. The response to a broken rule should occur EVERY time the rule is broken, so the child understands that this behavior is never acceptable.
- Be sure to childproof your home. Read the tips for safety we have provided. Preventive childproofing can avert many discipline problems. You won’t need many rules if your child does not have access to dangerous, valuable or messy things.
Read to your child frequently
Reading to your child will help your child learn more quickly. Make reading to your child part of every day, and choose books with interesting pictures and bright colors. Set rules for TV watching. Limit total TV time to 1-2 hours/day, and watch TV with your child to monitor the topics that arise. Children should not watch shows with violence or adult themes. Turning the TV off will allow your child to pursue physical activity and creative play. These are very important for your child’s development.
Beginning to learn to dress themselves
Your child should be learning to dress and undress himself, feed himself with a spoon, ride a tricycle, and throw a ball overhand. He should be learning to copy simple shapes and to color. He should know most body parts. He should make sentences that are 3-4 words long. Ask your doctor if you are concerned about your child’s development.
Many children are toilet trained at this age, but it is normal if your child is not. Ask your doctor for advice if you are frustrated by this process. Be sure to praise your child when progress is made and don’t shame a child when there are setbacks.
Your child’s bladder is still developing, and accidents are unpredictable and unintentional. Many children who are toilet trained during the day still wear a diaper at night.
A regular bedtime and routine are important. Routines make your child feel secure and help them fall asleep easily. This routine may include a snack and book, and should include brushing teeth. If your child awakens a lot at night, ask your doctor for advice.
Call Your Child’s Physician If:
- You are concerned about a fever or if your child is listless
- Your child does not want to drink fluids or vomits multiple times in a day
- Your child does not urinate for 8 hours
- Your child exhibits difficulty breathing
Routine infant vaccinations are usually completed before this age. Your child may need to catch up on some shots at this year’s visit. If your child can cooperate, a vision and hearing check will be done. The next check-up is in one year. Before starting kindergarten, your child will need more vaccinations.