Archive for October, 2010

Bring on the Great Pumpkin


As Halloween rolls around many parents begin thinking about how to handle the abundance of candy coming into the house.  Parents have found ways to help a child make the right choice or to lessen the amount of fun foods offered in a variety of ways.   When Halloween candy becomes excessive there are two plans I have used successfully.  One involves the Great Pumpkin.  Tell your child that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin comes out looking for candy to trade for toys.  After your child chooses a small number of candies to keep (number of candies kept equal to age in years until age 8), have them place the rest of the candy outside.  Like the Tooth Fairy, the Great Pumpkin will come while they are sleeping, take the candy and leave a small toy like a small toy car or package of markers.  As a child becomes older they may go along with this for the present.  Another idea is to take the candy, buy some graham crackers and canned frosting and build a gingerbread house.  Leave it around until Thanksgiving and then throw it away.  I have a friend whose sons prefer to keep them until July 4th and then blow them up. 

 Even if you limit the candy to 8 or 10 pieces you still need to decide on when and how often it can be eaten.  My children leave their Halloween candy in the kitchen and can have one piece a day until it is gone. Sometimes they forget about it before the 8 days are over.  Some people allow their children to eat as much as they can the day they receive it and then throw the rest out.  This usually leads to children eating more than feels right for their bodies.  We don’t want to encourage over eating.  Even with fun food, children should take their time with eating and stop when they are full.  They will do this if they know that there will be other fun food opportunities later in the week or in their lives. 

Set your limits and rules concerning these fun foods mindfully.  When children receive messages that fun foods are going to be scarce in their lives they give these foods greater value than other foods.  We don’t want to elevate the status of candy or other fun foods.  Let your child enjoy the rituals of the holiday as a special time.  Then return to your regular routine.

Moving on the Finger Foods

Babies usually let us know when they are ready for solids.  They keenly watch our every bite, lean towards our food, and point at it.  Most of us feel guilty for eating in front of them.  The mindful parent sees these cues, which are hard to ignore, and starts to feed their baby solids.  But how do you know when your baby is ready for finger foods and no longer needs purees and thick, liquid foods?  The signs are there, if you know where to look.

 Finger foods are foods that are solid, but soft or easily chewed, such as Cheerios, cooked beans, pieces of banana, skinned banana, canned peach or pear, steamed carrots, boneless salmon, shredded cheese, tofu, berries and slices of toast are but a few.  People foods are the foods you regularly feed your family, with the exception of choking foods such as (but not limited to) most raw vegetables, hard apples and fruit with the peel, hard small candies and nuts, whole hot dogs, and any thick goopy food like a dollop of peanut butter or cream cheese.

Keep in mind that physical development goes along with progression of foods, from purees to finger foods to people foods.  Be mindful and look for the signs of readiness.  Your baby started solids when they were able to push up on their arms with straight elbows while resting on their belly, had good head control and was a supported sitter.  When your child has progressed to being a very stable sitter, pulls up to stand, and can hold small objects between their thumb and first finger, they are usually ready for finger foods.  You will observe this, on average, between 8-10 months but age is not important. 

Don’t hold your child back by continuing with exclusively purred foods.  It’s more work for you and not the right work for them.  Your child needs to be able to explore developmentally appropriate foods just like they need developmentally appropriate play objects and environments.   Part of their work when they can pick up small objects is to pick up small objects.  Let your child learn to use their hands to get food into their mouths.  Let them learn that it is easier to pick up peas than applesauce.  Let them hold their own (open mouth) cup and learn to control the direction and flow of water.  Yes, this will be messy, but parents knows that practice makes perfect.  So you need to let them practice.

Beverly Pressey is a Registered Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and specializes in working with care givers of babies and children.  Beverly has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with child care centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher, speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at