Academic journal article Childhood Education

Feeding Young Children: Developmentally Appropriate Considerations for Supplementing Family Care

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Feeding Young Children: Developmentally Appropriate Considerations for Supplementing Family Care

Article excerpt

As larger numbers of children are being cared for in out-of-home settings, shared child care responsibilities have become the norm (Caldwell, 1986). A report by the Children's Defense Fund (1994) clearly documents this major societal shift:

* In 1993, 54 percent of mothers with children younger than 3 and 64 percent of those with children 3 to 5 were in the civilian labor force.

* More than 6.5 million children younger than 5 whose mothers were employed were cared for by someone other than a parent in 1990.

* Roughly two-thirds of the children in care were in family child care homes and child care centers.

In addition to the ever-increasing incidence of shared-care arrangements, a greater diversity of children are now entering out-of-home care settings. Young children with special needs often are cared for within the same out-of-home environments as their peers without identified special needs (ACEI/Sexton, Snyder, Sharpton & Stricklin, 1993; Goldberg, 1994; McLean & Odom, 1988; Ross, 1992). In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically prohibits child care and family care settings from discriminating against children and their families because of a disability (Surr, 1992).

As a result of these changes, the necessary and important child care activity of feeding now occurs both within and outside the home. Beyond meeting a basic survival requirement, caretakers must ensure sufficient nutritional intake to promote healthy, predictable patterns of growth and development. Furthermore, many children require special feeding adaptations because of either individual dietary requirements or limitations imposed by a disability. Caregivers also should understand that appropriate caregiver-child interactions during feeding times help develop important social-emotional and communication skills. Individuals supplementing parental care should know how to promote quality feeding experiences for all children under their supervision.

The authors hope to provide basic information about feeding to the growing number of individuals supplementing home care for very heterogeneous groups of children. Specifically, the authors will focus on the following two interrelated areas: 1) basic developmental information about the sequence of feeding skills and behaviors with accompanying implications for adults involved in feeding routines; and 2) considerations in meeting the nutritional and feeding requirements of very young children with special needs.


Supplemental caregivers need to be familiar with the typical developmental sequence of feeding skills and behaviors. Table 1 contains information about which specific feeding skills and behaviors are typical for young children in various age ranges. Such knowledge should be useful in ensuring developmentally appropriate care practices, as well as aiding the early identification of children whose feeding skills and behaviors signal the need for ongoing monitoring and possible referral. It should be noted, however, that each child develops on an individual time schedule that is influenced by a number of factors. Care [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] providers should never assume that children appearing to fall outside these developmental time ranges are necessarily delayed, atypical or disabled. Instead, they should collaborate with families to seek additional information and guidance from specialists such as physicians, nutritionists, speech and language specialists, and occupational therapists.


The general information and suggested guidelines that follow should assist supplemental child care providers in meeting the feeding needs of all children in more developmentally appropriate ways. Providers must be careful, however, to address the unique feeding needs of individuals within this overall context.

Bottle Feeding

Infants are born with automatic, reflexive responses that permit them to safely suck and swallow milk when the mouth area is stimulated. …

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