Offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day, consisting of the same healthy foods that you serve the rest of the family. Let your child decide how much of those foods to eat. Most children at this age are influenced by the eating habits of other people (family, friends, daycare, etc.) and can make a big deal over the color, appearance, and smell of certain foods. Try to downplay any commotion, and praise whatever is eaten. Mealtime should be as pleasant as possible, and you have already established control by offering good choices. A minimum of 2 cups (about 16 ounces) of skim or 1% milk is recommended daily for most children.
If your child attends daycare or preschool, ask about the foods served and your child's eating habits and manners away from home. Most children are interested in what will make them bigger, faster, smarter, and stronger, so take a beginner's look at the USDA Food Pyramid (ask us if you would like a copy) with your child and explain why good food choices will help her be better at whatever she chooses to do.
You are still your child's primary tooth brusher. Brush at least twice a day with a small amount of toothpaste. Dental visits are recommended every 6 months.
Most children sleep 8-12 hours a night and may take a 1-2 hour nap. Naps sometimes become "rest periods" at this age but still allow both the child and caregiver to have a break. Try to make bedtime as pleasant as possible. As the imagination develops, dreams may seem more real and can be frightening. It is often helpful to establish, with your child, a series of questions your child can ask herself if frightened (Is the frightening object real or pretend? Was the noise one I've heard before?). Or, establish actions your child can take to help herself (turn on the light, look at a book). See handout on "Common Childhood Sleep Concerns" if needed.
Toilet training can be a thrilling developmental stage, or a time of power struggles. It is important to understand your child's need to follow her own timing. If already trained, she may occasionally regress (especially at times of stress, such as changes in the household, vacations, starting preschool, illness). If not yet trained, your child will train quickly when interested and ready, and not a minute sooner!! Your job is to support and praise her for her successes, help her understand that accidents do happen, and remove all attention from unwanted behavior.
Minnesota law requires all children to be in appropriately sized, federally approved car restraints until they are age 4 and 40 pounds.
Know where your child is at all times, and supervise play activities. Start discussing "good" and "bad" touch and appropriate contact with strangers.
Keep all medications and toxic household products in a locked cabinet and make sure all have working safety caps. We also recommend that you keep the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) number handy. Remember: children imitate parents, so avoid taking medications in front of your child.
Use sunscreen (at least SPF 15) during all outdoor daytime activity.
Animals are very attractive, but can harm if provoked. Teach your child to approach all animals (even your own) with caution and respect.
If you have a gun, lock it out of site and lock the ammunition separately. If your child spends time away from home (friend's home, daycare, grandparents' home, etc.), ask to see if guns are accessible.
Teach pedestrian safety skills, and always wear helmets when biking.
Supervise all water activity and wear life vests when boating (it's the law).
Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable by taking breaks before you are desperate. Discuss this with your child's caregivers, too, and make sure everyone has the Crisis Connection phone number available (612-379-6363)
At this age, children begin to distinguish right from wrong and occasionally behave as expected! Safe, consistent limits and a predictable daily schedule are important. Encourage your child to control her behavior for positive attention and approval, and explain why certain behaviors are unacceptable. Adjustment to a sibling is a continuous process. At each new stage of development (of either child), rivalry may resurface. Attempt to let your children work things out on their own. Effective conflict resolution starts young.
We look forward to seeing your child again at age FOUR. No vaccines are usually due. Please try to be at least 10 minutes early for all scheduled well-child visits.