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Feeding Toddlers: Feeding Chart, Meal Ideas, and Serving Sizes

What and How Much to Feed Your Toddler

From the WebMD Archives

Your child is walking, climbing, running, and "talking" nonstop now. Such developmental milestones mean his nutritional needs have changed, too.

Welcome to toddler territory. Armed with some basic know-how, you'll discover how best to nourish your child up to age 3.

Feeding Toddlers: How Much to Serve?

It's ironic: Because of a slowdown in growth, toddlers. who are far more active than infants, have lower calorie needs, pound for pound. That doesn't diminish the importance of good nutrition. but it does present some challenges.

Toddlers need between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day, depending on their age, size, and physical activity level (most are considered active). The amount of food a toddler requires from each of the food groups is based on daily calorie needs.

In addition to choices from each of the food groups, toddlers need the equivalent of 3 to 4 teaspoons of healthy oils, such as canola oil and tub margarine.

Toddler Feeding Chart Feeding Toddlers: Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Self-Feed

Every day, toddlers hone their motor skills, including at the table. Mastering the pincer grasp, which allows children to pick up small bits of food (and other objects) between their thumbs and the forefingers, is one of the first steps to self-feeding, says pediatrician Tanya Remer Altman, MD, author of Mommy Calls .

Children start to develop the pincer grasp around 9 months, the same time they're ready for a lidded sippy or straw cup filled with infant formula or breast milk.

Many toddlers can self-feed an entire meal at around a year old, while other toddlers may need help until 18 months or so, Altman tells WebMD.

"After age 2, most toddlers can use a regular cup without a lid without spilling, but if they enjoy a straw cup or a sippy cup, there's no harm in that," Altman says.

Once a child discovers he can get food into his own mouth. he may not want you to help so much anymore.

Toddler self-feeding gives a whole new meaning to the term mess hall, but it's worth it to let him try to get food into his mouth. says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, author of Feed Your Family Right! and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Self-feeding is an important developmental skill that parents should nurture," Zied says.

Allow children to self-feed as much as they can and want to, advises Altman, but if they aren't getting enough food, you can help, too.

Feeding Toddlers: Milk and Other Dairy Products for Toddlers

Dairy foods, particularly milk, are rich in bone-building calcium and vitamin D. There's no rush to serve a child milk, however.

"Wait until his first birthday to offer cow's milk," says Zied.

The reason? Unlike fortified infant formula, cow's milk is low in iron and may lead to iron deficiency that compromises a child's thinking capacity, energy levels, and growth. Breast milk is low in iron, but the iron is well-absorbed by the child's body.

Most toddlers begin by eating full-fat dairy foods for the calories, fat, and cholesterol necessary to fuel their growth and development. In some cases, your pediatrician or registered dietitian may recommend 2% reduced-fat milk, so ask what is right for your child.

By the age of 2, most toddlers can start transitioning to lower-fat dairy foods, such as 2% reduced-fat milk or 1% low-fat milk, Zied says.

Milk is particularly beneficial because it provides vitamin D. Children of all ages need 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Toddlers require 16 ounces of milk or another calcium -containing product every day. It is possible to have too much of a good thing, however.

Like any beverage, filling up on milk leaves less room for foods, including iron-rich choices such as lean beef, chicken, and pork.

Feeding Toddlers: How Much Juice?

Strictly speaking, children do not need juice. The AAP recommends limiting fruit juice intake to 6 ounces a day or less until 6 years of age.

"It's better to get your child accustomed to the taste of water than juice at a young age," Altman says.

It's not that fruit juice is bad. It's an important source of several vitamins and minerals that fuel growth, including vitamin C. Fortified juices offer additional nutrients. such as calcium and vitamin D, too.

The problem is, drinking [fruit] juice, even when it's diluted, may give kids a taste for sweets, Altman says. Drinking fruit juice at a young age could encourage the consumption of the "liquid calories" that some experts have fingered as a contributor to childhood obesity. And excessive fruit juice intake may cause cavities.

Altman suggests sticking with whole fruit for toddlers. "I don't know very many toddlers who don't like fruit," she says.

Feeding Toddlers: What About Multivitamins?

A multivitamin/multimineral supplement (multi) designed for toddlers won't hurt and may even help a child's diet, Zied tells WebMD. Opt for a liquid formulation until the age of 2 and then discuss a chewable with your pediatrician.

"Toddlers are erratic eaters, and some may go days or even weeks coming up short for one or more nutrients ," she says.

Dietary supplements provide some insurance against a toddler's unpredictable eating, but they are just that -- supplements. not substitutes for a balanced diet. Multis fall short for many nutrients toddlers need every day, including calcium.

Multis with vitamin D may be in order if your toddler doesn't get the recommended 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

The body makes vitamin D; its production is initiated in the skin by strong sunlight. Living in a northern climate increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency in children and adults, making the case for supplemental vitamin D compelling.

Few foods other than milk are good sources of vitamin D. Some good ones include:

  • Cereal, ready-to-eat, fortified: 40-60 IU for 3/4 to 1 cup.
  • Fortified orange juice: 50 IU for 4 ounces.
  • Eggs, whole (yolk): 20-40 IU for one large.
Feeding Toddlers: How Much Salt?

Zied and Altman agree: Children should become accustomed at a young age to the natural flavors of food rather than to a salty taste.

But it may come as a surprise that the salt shaker is a minor source of sodium in the American diet.

Processed foods, including toddler favorites such as hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets, provide 75% of the sodium we eat.

Too much dietary sodium has been linked to high blood pressure in adults. Research suggests a lower sodium intake during childhood may lessen the risk of high blood pressure with age.

While it's a good idea to avoid the salt shaker, it's even better to cook from scratch as much as possible. "Limit processed products and season food with herbs and spices to cut down on the salt in your family's diet," Zied advises.

Feeding Toddlers: How Much Sugar?

It’s not possible to totally escape sugar. Natural sugars are present in some of the most nutritious foods, including fruit, veggies, and milk.

But a bigger concern is the overall quality of the food. Whole foods have many nutrients to offer. Processed, sugary foods -- such as candy, cake, and cookies -- are often packed with fat and lack other nutrients. Added sugar is found in healthier choices also, such as breakfast cereals, yogurt, and snack bars.

Zied says older children get upwards of 25% of their calories from sugar, far too much to ensure nutritional adequacy.

"Generally speaking, sugary foods are OK in small doses," Zied says.

"She suggests avoiding soft drinks and limiting fruit juice intake as well as serving more fruits and vegetables with each meal you give your little one."

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on October 20, 2011

Wagner, C. Pediatrics. 2008; vol 122: p 1142.

Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics: "The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005."

Feng, J. Hypertension. 2006; vol 48: p 861. web site.

Tanya Remer Altman, MD, author, Mommy Calls.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, author, Feed Your Family Right; spokeswoman, The American Dietetic Association.

Ward, E. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. Alpha, 2005.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Other articles

Games for Toddlers

Games for Toddlers

Toddlers learn by playing and they learn a lot between ages 1 and 3. At 1, a child may be working on a wobbly walk and just starting to use words. But by 3, most can balance briefly on one foot and speak in short sentences.

During these important years, toddlers will enjoy playing simple games with their parents and other caregivers. But they also can start enjoying group games with other young children, though they'll need adult assistance.

Group games offer a chance for kids to be social, though toddlers will more often play alongside their friends rather than with them. They enjoy being around other kids, but will focus more on the leader or parent.

Later, kids progress from side-by-side play (parallel play) to a kind of play that allows more give and take between them. Along the way, toddlers will enjoy group games and can begin learning important lessons from them, such as how to take turns.

Getting Started

Expect a little chaos at first. In other words, when toddlers play a game, you have to define "game" very loosely! They're full of energy and want to explore, so don't be surprised if they can't focus for long or follow rules to the letter.

With that in mind, try the group games below if you're having a party or hosting a playgroup.

Circle games are a mainstay for toddlers. It's an easy format — just gather your toddlers in a circle. Make sure all the children can see the adult leader and that everyone has room to move.

Game: Two Little Blackbirds

How the game is played: With singing and hand motions, the adult leads the children in a song about opposites.

  • Two little blackbirds sitting on the hill
    (Start with your hands behind your back .)
  • One named Jack
    (Bring one hand to the front with your pointer finger extended .)
  • One named Jill
    (Bring your other hand to the front with pointer finger extended .)
  • Fly away, Jack!
    (Put the hand and finger representing Jack behind your back .)
  • Fly away, Jill!
    (Do the same with your "Jill" hand .)
  • Come back, Jack!
    (Bring "Jack" back to front .)
  • Come back, Jill!
    (Bring "Jill" back to front .)

You can make up additional verses, such as the ones below. Just choose a spot for the birds to sit ("snow" in the first example). Then choose a pair of opposites and make the second of the words rhyme with the spot where the birds are sitting (snow and slow).

  • Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow. One named Fast. One named Slow.
  • Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud. One named Soft. One named Loud.
  • Two little blackbirds soaring in the sky. One named Low. One named High.

Tips for adults: Act out the words you're singing to emphasize the opposite pairs. If you're using the "fast/slow" variation, move your finger quickly or slowly.

What the game teaches: Opposites and imitation.

Game: Walking, Walking

Number of kids: Any, though a smaller number will probably be easier.

How the game is played: The verse is sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques" and the participants move according to the words of the song. They walk when singing about walking, hop when they sing about hopping, etc.

Walking, walking,
Walking, walking,
Hop, hop, hop!
Hop, hop, hop!
Running, running, running,
Running, running, running,
Now we stop.
Now we stop.

Tips for adults: Keep the circle of motion the right size for your group: large enough not to create traffic jams but small enough to keep the kids in the circle.

What the game teaches: Different types of gross motor movement, including how to be still.

Game: The Hokey-Pokey

How the game is played: An oldie but goodie. Everybody stands in a circle and does the motions to the corresponding words of the song. Toddlers won't know right from left at this point, but they'll understand the body part and can follow your lead.

  • You put your left foot in,
  • You put your left foot out,
  • You put your left foot in, and you shake it all about!
  • You do the Hokey Pokey
    (Raise hands in the air and wiggle fingers. )
  • And you turn yourself around
    (Turn around in a full circle. )
  • That's what it's all about!
    (Clap with each syllable .)

Other body parts: other foot, hands, head, backside, whole self.

Tips for adults: Choose body parts that toddlers know, and throw in a new one now and then. Make sure to sing slowly enough that the kids can follow along.

What the game teaches: Names of body parts, following directions.

Game: Over the Water

How the game is played: A simple verse is sung and each child gets a turn to be the "star" of the song. Before each verse, the adult asks, "Anna, what would you like to catch?" and Anna might say, "A tiger." The verse is repeated with each child's name and chosen animal until everyone has had a turn.

  • Anna over the water
    (Move one hand across the body like a rippling wave. )
  • Anna over the sea
    (Move the other hand across the body in same way. )
  • Anna catch a tiger
    (Grab in front of you to "catch" the animal. )
  • You can't catch me!
    (Point at self or let the child chase you. )

Tips for adults: Sometimes kids will need help with choosing an animal. Keep momentum going by encouraging swift decision-making. Giving the child a choice between two animals he or she knows is a good strategy.

What the game teaches: Listening, waiting, and taking turns.

Parachute Games

Play parachutes are often used in childcare centers and child gym programs. They work well because they float down and create a dome effect underneath. If you don't have one, try a large bedsheet.

Game: Parachute

Number of kids: Enough to maneuver the parachute or sheet. A few adults will help.

How the game is played: Have the children and your adult helpers encircle the parachute or sheet. Raise it high overhead and say, "Up, up, up." Bring the parachute down low and say, "Down, down, down." Repeat several times. Lift the parachute up high again, cue your adult helpers, and say, "Under, under, under," then have everyone rush under the dome of the parachute or sheet.

What the game teaches: Gross motor movement, waiting, and listening.

Game: Umbrella

Number of kids: Enough to maneuver the parachute or sheet. A few adults will help.

How the game is played: Have the children hold the edges of the parachute or sheet. Say, "I hear thunder! I think it's going to rain!" while helping them shake the parachute or sheet. Lift the parachute or sheet high and let it fall, while calling the kids, one at a time, to run under the parachute or sheet. ("Sarah! It's raining! Run under the umbrella!") When everyone is under, play again. This time, have everyone get under the umbrella at once.

Tips for adults: Some kids just don't like having things put over their heads or faces, so watch to make sure that all kids are feeling safe and happy. If someone doesn't want to run under the parachute, you can say, "Josh likes the rain. He's going to help hold our umbrella!"

What the game teaches: Gross motor movement, waiting, and taking turns.

Games can be lots of fun for toddlers, but watch for signs of weariness. In other words, know when to stop if kids are getting tired, hungry, or bored. Maybe the next group activity needs to be having a snack or taking a nap!

Date reviewed: March 2014

Reading and Play Ideas for Toddlers - Look! We - re Learning!

Reading and Play Ideas for Toddlers with Family Fun Friday!

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Do you have toddlers in your family? It’s tricky to keep them entertained for long, especially if you’re trying to teach a lesson or get them interested in early reading and math.

Good news! This week’s Family Fun Friday is featuring great reading and play ideas for toddlers that were shared last week. If you’re a blogger, be sure to link up your best posts below for a chance to be featured next week!

Monica created Family Fun Friday and blogs at where she shares free preschool tools and printables, encouraging words for moms, and ideas for having fun together as a family. Follow: Blog / Facebook / Pinterest / Twitter /Google + / Bloglovin’ / Instagram. Monica will feature Family Fun Posts .

Selena is a homeschooling graduate and a veteran homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She blogs at Look! We’re Learning! about unit studies, foreign language, and homeschooling with ADHD. Follow: Blog / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram / Twitter. Selena will be featuring homeschooling and kids’ crafts.

Herchel enjoys blogging about parenting, organizing, crafting, and having good old-fashioned kid fun her blog Scrggbug Corner. Follow: Blog / Facebook / Pinterest / Twitter /Google +. Herchel will feature organizing and family fun.

Britta was a military kid and is a military wife, now living in the high desert of Arizona and far, far from her New Orleans family. She happily homeschools and writes about the intersection of God’s Word and her world at Britta Lafont

Everyday Holiness. This year Britta wants to find that sweet spot between getting more done and enjoying the process. Britta will feature Delicious Recipes. Follow: Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram.

Christin blogs at illuminate. As wife to her high school sweetheart and mother to three premature children, she’s learned that God is the Perfect Party Planner and sometimes the unexpected is the greatest gift of all. Follow: Blog / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram / Twitter. Christen will feature Inspirational Posts.

Here are my favorite posts for this week!

1. Make a fun outdoor car track with pavers and chalk with the instructions from Niccola on Tuesday!

2. Early Bird Mom has some tips for teaching kids to play by themselves – awesome if you need a tiny break!

3. Help little ones learn phonics with these adorable beginning sound “pancakes” at Growing Book by Book!

4. Plan a complete preschool year with these preschool homeschool ideas from The Relaxed Homeschool!

5. To help your kids understand what they read, use the activities for reading comprehension from Mosswood Connections!

6. Best Toys 4 Toddlers has a list of simple outdoor play ideas you can do in any weather!

Were you featured? Grab the Family Fun Friday button below!

Stop by to see what my co-hosts are spotlighting this week!

Bloggers are invited to share their best family-friendly and mom-inspiring posts in the link-up below.

  • Link your post.
  • Link back to the link party.
  • Follow your host(s).
  • Spread the word. Share and pin your favorites.
  • Mingle! Bloggers love comments.
  • Grab a button.
  • If you link up, you permit the hosts of Family Fun Friday to use your pictures/ideas as part of future posts and/or social media.

Family Fun Friday is a growing link-up with over 200 bloggers sharing their posts each week. Each host shares her favorites from the week before, increasing your chances of being featured. Co-hosts will also be pinning their favorites to a community Family Fun Pinterest Board. This link party opens up at around 4 pm EST on Thursdays.

Please be aware that by linking in Family Fun Friday you give our hosts permission to use your images to create a collage for our features. We may also use the collage to promote Family Fun Friday through our individual social media accounts.

Speech Therapy Ideas for Christmas for Toddlers

Speech Therapy Ideas for Christmas for Toddlers

Providing new, interesting, and developmentally-appropriate activities are important ways to keep therapy sessions fresh and hold a young child’s attention. At this time of year, this can be easily accomplished by incorporating holiday related activities into your own therapy routines.

If you’d like for me to do the planning for you for lots of different children for practically the entire month, I have 2 fantastic projects that will provide lots of FUN speech therapy ideas for Christmas for toddlers:

Don’t spend hours searching the internet for ideas that might work for helping toddlers with significant delays learn to complete early learning tasks and therapy activities. I’ve done the work for you and the instructions are right here! Mommy bloggers have written cute ideas on their websites or on Pinterest for similar activities, but many times the directions for introducing and carrying out the tasks are not specified. The activities certainly aren’t modified for toddlers and young preschoolers with developmental delays and learning challenges. These videos will make these activities applicable for ALL young children.

Typically developing toddlers will also love these activities. By introducing these tasks in a structured way, we’re helping ALL children learn important concepts which will lay the foundation for early academic skills and for learning language. In most of the activities you’ll also be targeting fine motor and motor planning skills, so our colleagues who are OTs love these ideas too.

Each title includes an hour online video and downloadable pdf. Once you purchase the video, you’ll receive a password for immediate access to watch the video and the link to the pdf with your written treatment plan.

In the video I’ll explain step by step instructions for designing specific therapy activities based on holiday themes. I’ll walk you through how to gather the materials, plan each activity, and even teach you exactly what to say to engage a a toddler or young preschooler, target new play and cognitive skills, and teach new language skills. I’ll discuss and demonstrate several goals for each therapy activity and provide practical application tips to increase your effectiveness and make sure you know what you’re doing!

You’ll also receive a comprehensive written treatment plan in downloadable pdf format to pair with the activities demonstrated on each video. In the written guide you’ll find a list of suggested goals, materials, instructions, and strategies to make this a productive learning opportunity for both the child and you! Goals are included for social, cognitive, both receptive and expressive language, and perhaps even speech intelligibility skills in very young children.

This information is appropriate for use by speech-language pathologists, committed parents and grandparents who are looking for structured therapy ideas for home programming, occupational and developmental therapists, early intervention and preschool teachers, and other professionals who work with toddlers with language delays and developmental disorders.

Both the Christmas Therapy Guide and 12 Tasks for Christmas are written in a homework format and may be copied and shared with families during sessions. It’s a fantastic parent and caregiver training tool for SLPs and other therapists who work in early intervention.

More specific information about content of each video is listed below.

Therapy Guides are available for purchase separately for $ 15 to $19.99.

ASHA credit and/or a certificate of completion will be available for speech-language pathologists and other therapists who complete the required paperwork. You’ll need to download and print the forms and return them to us for processing via regular or email at Specific instructions will provided after purchasing each video.

CE credit will also be available if you’ve previously purchased either of these videos for a $5 CE processing fee per video. Email me at for help with that with HELP WITH CHRISTMAS VIDEO CE in the subject line.

Christmas Therapy Guide

In this video you’ll find 6 different holiday activities with 5 to 10 different goals for each activity for targeting social, cognitive, both receptive and expressive language goals with additional ideas to begin to work on speech intelligibility skills in very young children.

Activities are designed for use in individual sessions with toddlers or young preschoolers at home or in a clinical setting. Some of the ideas can be modified for use with small groups of children.

You may already own many of these toys and supplies or may be able to adapt what you have on hand. Most other materials can be purchased inexpensively at dollar stores, Walmart, Target, and other retailers that sell holiday items.

The activities are loosely organized by developmental level. The easier activities are at the beginning of this guide and the complexity increases with each new play routine. Goals are organized within each activity in the same way. Prerequisite or easier goals are listed first and more advanced objectives follow.

The written guide is 16 pages and lists goals, materials, and modifications for each therapy activity.

12 Tasks for Christmas

This video is designed to teach you how to develop 12 simple cognitive activities or “tasks” to help a young child learn to attend, participate, and finish an entire task through early structured learning opportunities.

Because this is a Christmas series, we’re using the 12 Days of Christmas for inspiration. You’ll see 12 different activities you can easily develop to use with your little clients if you’re a therapist or your own child if you’re a parent.

So many of our little friends with language delays have a hard time paying attention, participating in therapy activities and completing an entire task, even when it’s playing with a toy. By beginning to work with these kinds of kids with short, simple cognitive activities, we’ll help these toddlers build attention and learn to complete an entire activity start to finish.

When we use activities that are highly visual, rather than language based, we’ll also be playing to a child’s strengths rather than his weaknesses.

This is the starting point for therapy for many children with autism. You’ll get better initial participation with these activities than with anything else you may try. You’ll also be establishing great activities for a home therapy program.

This material is ideal for committed parents, therapists, and other professionals who work with young children with language and other developmental delays.

In addition to the video, you’ll receive a 14 page written summary with a list of easily obtainable materials, set up directions, and detailed instructions for making these activities productive learning opportunities for both the child and you! If you’re a therapist, the activities are written in an easy-to-follow “homework” format, perfect for providing parents for education and suggestions for home practice.

Troubleshooting tips are included in case a child is having difficulty learning or completing the task.

For more background information about why these tasks are used in therapy, take a look at the Resources and References page at the end of the written therapy guide.

As a therapist you can make many of these things this year and then save them to use every December for the rest of your career. Once you learn the basic premise for developing these activities, you’ll also be able to take the ideas and design your own activities to use throughout the year.

As a parent, you will be able to make these activities yourself to do with your own child during your 1:1 time at home. Many children can learn to be independent with these activities. Eventually you can bring these games out when you need your child to be able to play on his own for a few minutes.

Many therapy programs for children with autism such as TEACCH and preschool methodologies such as Montessori and Reggio Emilia programs use these kinds of tasks to teach a child to become independent during learning activities. However, adult intervention is absolutely essential at the beginning to help a toddler with developmental delays learn what to do and be able to get through an entire task. All of the instructions for teaching young children are provided at an introductory level in the video and in the written therapy guide.

Strategies are also included for helping move a child toward independent use of the task over time.

Cost is $15.00. Click here to purchase 12 Tasks for Christmas.

Watch a clip from Christmas Activities for Toddlers:

Here’s wishing you super FUN therapy sessions during the holidays and most of all, a Merry Christmas!