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3 year old needing to be fed

  • 1.  3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-24-2020 08:18 AM

    I have a new student this year who is Vietnamese. He is an English learner with Vietnamese the home language. I'm looking for help on teaching him to feed himself. 

    We've just asked the parents to share his eating habits at home and learned they are still feeding him. We've also asked them to send his favorite foods, as parents provide lunch from home in our program. He has been bringing a sandwich, apple slices, and raw broccoli which he doesn't eat. We provide milk or water to drink in a small 4 oz cup and he doesn't drink it either. 

    Any suggestions or resources would be appreciated. Thanks



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    Heather Schmitz
    Johnston IA
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  • 2.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-25-2020 08:55 AM
    Hi, Heather. I was wondering how long this child has been enrolled in your program? What is his demeanor throughout the day? Is he connected with the teachers or children? I just wonder if part of his hesitation to eat is because of anxiety with the transition to a new school with a new language or if it is more in regards to the need to develop self-help skills. Helping him to eat will happen more easily if he is connected with the person teaching him.

    I teach at a school that serves a large percentage of children with special needs, and often we find that they are extremely particular about food. We have several children on food plans. Also, I recently took a very helpful course on the development of dual language learners. While taking the course, I realized some of the strategies that were suggested for DLL children were strategies that I was already using at my school with other children in my care.

    I would make it a priority to learn the words "eat" and "drink" in Vietnamese and pair them with the English phrases when communicating with him at meal time. Will he at least pick up and hold the food that is served? If not, since he is not accustomed to feeding himself at home, I would gently teach him hand over hand, how to hold the food, if he would be comfortable with that. He will need to be comfortable holding the food before he can eat independently. This might be made easier by asking for the sandwich and apples to be cut into smaller pieces while he learns.

    If this child is not eating anything at all, I would definitely feed him in the beginning and phase him into feeding himself. I would do this in correlation with teaching him to hold the food. So, he would practice holding a piece of the sandwich and I would feed him a bite. If he will eat with you feeding him, over a few days, I would give him a bite, then encourage him to eat a piece from his own hand, even if I needed to teach him hand over hand how move the food to his mouth. Last year, I had a little girl who would hardly eat anything at lunch, besides starchy foods and bananas. I had to slice the banana and feed it to her with a fork, while also teaching her how to do it on her own. I fed her at first to be sure she was getting food, but then I did "my turn, your turn" until she ate independently, giving her the occasional reminder to "take a bite". She even sliced it with her fork independently and then used the fork to eat it.

    My other consideration would be the food that is being served. Does he actually eat those foods at home or are they only sending that to school? We serve all of the meals at our school, so when we have a child with a meal plan, we make sure to keep some easy, highly preferred foods on hand. I would ask the family if he has any highly preferred, healthy snacks or foods, and ask them to send those with his lunch. The most popular items that we keep are crackers, bananas and cheese sticks. In the past, we've even kept yogurt around when necessary. We use these foods carefully, so that they do not prevent children from ever eating the food that is served. Depending on the child's tolerance and their food plan, we serve the preferred foods at a different time of day or we pair it with their meal. Extremely particular children will start by only eating the highly preferred food, then over time we transition them by saying, "First try that, then you can have some of this." Even if "trying" a new food means that they touch it with the tip of their tongue, and then over time, move into taking very small bites.

    Sometimes, we just anticipate a child's need for food. Right now, I have a little boy in my class who only eats a few of the foods that we serve and he is prone to meltdowns at lunch time because he is both tired and hungry. We give him a banana and a cup of milk, both highly preferred, about 45 minutes to an hour before meal time. Then, if he only eats a few bites at lunch or is too emotional to participate, we know that he has some food in his tummy, which is the most important thing.

    I don't know what your meal time looks like. We serve family-style meals at our school, where the teachers sit and eat with the children. So any time I have a child that needs assistance with food, they sit right next to me. Helping children to develop healthy eating habits and self-help skills is time consuming and takes extreme consistency, so I hope that you have the support that you need in your classroom. Good luck to you and your little friend!

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    Ashley
    Teacher; Curriculum Coordinator
    First Discoveries Academy
    Brandon, FL
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  • 3.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-26-2020 12:47 PM
      |   view attached
    @Ashley

    Your reply was compassionate and comprehensive.​

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    Susan Waldman
    Communities United
    Lexington MA
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  • 4.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-25-2020 10:13 AM


    I dealt with issue some years ago.

    Be carful how you approach this as it is a very cultural behavior. This Is one way the parents show love and care for their children.

    and this was how they were raised by their parents.

    You can't change the way the families do things, just go slow and sit with him. Feed him some food and then say you try it, or tell him you will help feed him and he will also help. My turn..eat....your turn.. eat. They mostly eat with their fingers. Be encouraging and go slow, he will learn



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    Catherine Wildes
    Jax Bch FL
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  • 5.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-25-2020 10:22 AM
    Hi Heather
    So glad you are gathering thoughts and experiences. As Ashley has written, our determination on what a child needs to eat is sometimes quite different than what he wants or needs.  Eating in a group should be relaxed and joyful.
    I have found that some Asian cultures believe that the child should rely on the parent for feeding.  This may be done purposely for inter-dependence.  In our culture, we believe in intra-dependence.  If at all possible, this concept should be discussed with the family.  We have had some Asian families who want their children to adopt our culture very quickly, as is witnessed by them giving their children English names.  Perhaps a family member might come for a couple of meal/snack times to reassure the child.
    Hope this all helps.

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    Deborah Moberly
    President
    Children 1st
    University Cy MO
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  • 6.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-25-2020 11:12 AM
    Having a family member join meal time is a wonderful idea and could help the child to feel more comfortable eating in a different environment.

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    Ashley
    Teacher; Curriculum Coordinator
    First Discoveries Academy
    Brandon, FL
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  • 7.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-25-2020 01:37 PM
    Hello Heather,
    Our criteria for entering our toddler classroom is that children must be able to feed themselves. Do you expect this in your preschool classroom?
    Have you talked to the child's parents about this?
    I notice that some cultures share their love and care by feeding the little ones.
    Also perhaps after the three year old relaxes and watches others, he or she will start eating.

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    Susan Smith
    Director
    Heart and Hands Montessori
    Lafayette CO
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  • 8.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-26-2020 09:11 AM
    Heather,
    It is so interesting learning how different cultures view child rearing. I experienced the same thing and we had a conversation with the family about their practices. During the conversation, I mentioned that once the child gets to kindergarten, the expectations will be that he could "self care"  With that in mind, I asked to work collaboratively to prepare him.  It was a great conversation and we slowly approached consistent practices both at home and school. I think above all else, it is vital that we honor their beliefs and practices and do our best to work together. Good luck. Pam

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    Pamela McCullough
    Director
    GSCC
    Holland PA
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  • 9.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-26-2020 02:15 PM
    Hello Everyone,
    Let me start by saying that in various cultures parents value have strong bonds in how they connect food to their children. It is an American standard that the belief is to eat independently by the age of 3. When a child comes from another culture it is our teaching methods that is introduced to the class in how we come together and eat at the table. Eating lunch and snack with the children in guiding them shows the same values that we all share as the school culture. "Values  & Culture" 101 my freshmen year in college.  Meeting with the parents in knowing a bit of their language can also embrace their culture in making the child feel less anxious among others who do not speak his or her language.These are difficult times adding Covid to the mix makes it more troubling. But meeting the parents in connecting each others differences can make a huge difference in the positive outcome for this child.

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    Milagros Neu
    Pre-K -K Teacher
    Virtual Preschool
    Maplewood NJ
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  • 10.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-27-2020 07:58 AM
    Thank you all for sharing your insights and for the suggestions. The culture is new to me and your insights are very helpful.
    We've asked the parents to send his favorite foods, as I don't think a sandwich is it. And we are prepared to help him eat by modeling and encouragement. We are also explaining to the parents the need for their help as he only comes 2 days a week, we are under the impression that they want us to teach him to eat (and potty). Again the communication is difficult do to the language barrier and is best via email.
    Thank you all!

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    Heather Schmitz
    Johnston IA
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  • 11.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-27-2020 01:27 PM
    Have you considered having a day to celebrate different family cultures at snack time? You could start with introducing traditional Vietnamese food and invite his family to bring some of their favorite dishes. This may positively encourage your student to share and see his family culture and the familiar food he enjoys being embraced within the classroom environment. It may further provide him the opportunity to show pride in a family recipe and with help explain it to the class.

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    Rebecca Marks
    Lithia FL
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  • 12.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-27-2020 11:11 PM
    It also might be something as simple as the food choices being too too difficult to eat for a young child who is first learning how to feed himself. You might want to suggest finger foods to the family. You would want to be careful and keep in mind choking hazards as well, such as cutting grapes and cherry tomatoes in half.

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    Rebecca Marks
    Lithia FL
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  • 13.  RE: 3 year old needing to be fed

    Posted 10-29-2020 09:23 AM
    Hi Heather - I came across this in my toddler classroom, and thought it was a matter of the child not enjoying the food that was sent in.  After chatting with their mom, it was discovered that the child was fed at home and therefore was not accustomed to having to feed themselves at all!  With that knowledge, I was able to assist the child (my hand over theirs on a fork) in learning to eat independently, but it did take a few weeks of sitting with them and providing instruction, as well as assistance.  I also was careful to make sure the child knew that at school "we help to feed ourselves", and did not ask the parent to allow the child to feed themselves at home - as others have mentioned, this is a cultural difference and I did not want to over step my bounds.  I hope this helps!

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    Kathryn Hagen
    Association Administrator
    CTAEYC
    Hamden CT
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