Making the most of mealtimes with young children
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Making the Most of Mealtimes with Young Children. Insert Date Insert Name of Instructor. Welcome. Topics we will cover today include:. Describe what a Healthy Mealtime Philosophy (ATTITUDE) is; based on Ellyn Satter’s Approach and the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

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Making the Most of Mealtimes with Young Children

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Making the Most of Mealtimes with Young Children

Insert Date

Insert Name of Instructor


Topics we will cover today include:

  • Describe what a Healthy Mealtime Philosophy (ATTITUDE) is; based on Ellyn Satter’s Approach and the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

Topics we will cover today include:

  • Learn steps in creating a mealtime setting that supports healthy, pleasant mealtimes.

Topics we will cover today include:

  • Participate in group activities learning what to say and what not to say to encourage healthy eating in a supportive manner.

  • Participate in group activities dealing with challenging feeding issues.

Acknowledge credit to:

  • Credit to Ellyn Satter Associates for the teaching materials and handouts.

    • Helping Children Eat and Grow Well in Child Care, Pam Estes, Ellyn Satter Institute

  • Dr. Janice Fletcher and Dr. Laurel Branen, University of Idaho, Feeding Young Children in Group Settings

  • Child Care Resources in Missoula, MT

    • Jennifer Swartz and Judy Kendall

    • Ellyn Satter Approach to Feeding Correspondence Course

  • Montana Child and Adult Care Food Program Staff

    • Phone (406) 444-4347, Toll free (888) 307-9333

  • Montana Team Nutrition Program

Are Mealtimes Important in Childcare?

  • WHY?

  • What life-skills/health habits do children learn at mealtime?

  • Mealtime experiences now shape future relationships with food.

ES Approach to Feeding

  • The Feeding Relationship

    • Raising COMPETENT and CAPABLE Eaters

  • The way feeding is conducted can support a child being competent with eating, growing appropriately, and doing her part to contribute to mealtime harmony. (Or not!)

A Positive Feeding Relationship maintains a

Division of Responsibility

  • Adults do the what, when, where of feeding.

  • Children do the how much and whether of eating.

Division of Responsibility for Infants

  • The parent/caregiver is responsible for what

  • The child is responsible for how much (and everything else)

Division of Responsibility for Toddlers through Adolescents

  • The parent/caregiver is responsible for what, when, where

  • The child is responsible for how much and whether

Jobs adults need to do with feeding:

  • Choose and prepare the food

  • Provide regular meals and snacks

  • Make eating times pleasant

  • Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior

  • Not let children graze for food or drinks between times

  • Let children grow into the bodies that are right for them

If adults do their jobs with feeding, children will do their jobs with eating.

  • Children will eat

  • They will eat the amount they need

  • They will eat an increasing variety of food

  • They will grow predictably

  • They will learn to behave well at the table

Division of Responsibility and Healthy Feeding Relationship

  • Children are born wanting to eat, knowing how much to eat and will grow the way nature intended.

  • Healthy Feeding preserves these qualities throughout the growing up years.

  • Adults provide structure, support and opportunities.

  • Children choose how much and whether to eat from what the adults provide.

Think about the ES Approach to Feeding as we watch a few video clips……

  • Toddler

  • Preschooler

  • What makes you feel good about this meal?

  • What makes you feel not so good about it?


  • Offer variety to broaden child’s food experiences

  • Don’t use food as punishment or reward

  • Encourage but don’t force child to taste food

  • Allow sufficient time for each child to eat

  • Children, staff and volunteers eat together

  • Offer all the same food

What is the purpose of showing these videos?

  • Do I have to do something as soon as I get back to my center?

  • No…… we want you to think about the feeding relationship, be watchful and aware of what you and your staff do and say at mealtime.

  • Consider how you feel about this personally.

Why is a Healthy Feeding Relationship important for life-long health and building a foundation for healthy kids?

Parents and Providers want to know:

  • How do I get my children to eat?

    • The right food?

    • The right amount of food?

The Answers

  • You don’t GET your child to eat

  • She gets herself to eat

  • Your child knows how much to eat

  • He will grow the way nature intended

  • You play a supporting role

  • Moreover…. Your child will eat the way YOU do

Don’t make it complicated!The ES Method:

  • Is simple and practical

  • Is based on trust, respect and developmental stages

  • Makes feeding easier, less stressful and more enjoyable

  • Allows clear lines of responsibility for caregiver, parent and child

  • Takes the worry out of feeding

Children are UNPREDICTABLE eaters

  • A lot one day, a little the next

  • Not a square meal

  • Eat what they like, not what they “should”

  • Accept foods one day, reject the next

  • Rarely eat a new food

What research tells us about how kids eat

  • Fascinating stuff that kids are born with!

    • Ability to self regulate food intake

    • Prefer high calorie, energy dense foods

    • Scared of the new from 2-6 yrs

    • Timeline to keep trying. 6-8 weeks!

    • Wide variances meal to meal; day to day

What research tells us about how kids eat

  • Children eat what they know and like

    • Offer familiar and new foods together

  • Children tried a new food quicker and eat more of it when adults are eating the same food (and eating it enthusiastically.)

  • Portion size affects how much they eat

    • If self serve, they take an age appropriate portion size and eat less of it.

What happens when adults cross the line of the Division of Responsibility….

  • When adults restrict foods/calories, children gain MORE weight.

  • When adults pressure, bribe or coerce children to eat more, the children eat LESS.

  • Kids feel bad about themselves and mealtime is not pleasant for anyone.


  • Our history with feeding and eating influences how we act and what we think!

  • Consider these questions and how these situations can cross the lines of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

Food Acceptance

  • At your family table, were allowed to pick and choose from what was available?

  • Did your parents (or you) make special food-or short order cook?

  • Did you have rules about what you had to eat?

  • Did you have to hurdle- eat this before you could eat that?

  • Did you have the one-bite rule?

  • Did you have to eat certain foods before you could eat dessert?

  • Did your parents eat the same foods they made for you?

Food Regulation

  • At you family table, were you allowed to eat as much or as little as you were hungry for?

  • Did you have to clean your plate?

  • Were you restricted in the amounts you could eat?

  • Was there only so much food to go around?

  • Were you allowed to eat as much as you wanted of some foods but not of others (even though there was enough of everything)?

  • Did your parents eat less than they wanted (even though there was enough of everything)?

About our eating

  • Can you depend on your sensations of hunger and fullness to tell you how much to eat?

  • What do you think your upbringing has to do with your capability-or lack of it?

  • Take emotions out of feeding and follow hunger and satiety cues.

Let’s take what we’ve learned about feeding in a healthy way and built it into a Healthy Mealtime Philosophy for your programs.

Healthy Mealtime Philosophy for Child Care

  • Let’s look at some sample Healthy Mealtime/Child Feeding Policies.

    Based on the Division of Responsibility in Feeding

10 Steps Handout

Family Style Meals

Tips for success

What elements of Family Style Meals support a Healthy Feeding Philosophy?

How does it work in your programs?

Using it with different age groups.

A quick word about gourmet eaters

  • Let them be responsible for whether and how much

  • They are served the same meal as everyone else

  • Encourage; don’t bribe, coerce, trick

  • Don’t label with negative terms “picky, etc.”

Let’s Practice

  • Group Activities

  • What to Say and What Not to Say

  • What do you say to be encouraging at meal time?

Think of a challenging feeding situation.

  • How would a clear mealtime philosophy help solve this challenging situation?

  • Educating parents on a healthy feeding philosophy and the division of responsibility.


  • Sharing Time

  • Learning from each other

  • What works for your program?

  • What do you need ideas on/tips for?

Healthy KidsHealthy Communities





Thank You!

Insert contact information for the class instructor here.

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