Caring for a baby or young child means thinking about the food you feed them, the time you spend reading, singing and playing games with them, and the things you do to keep them safe, healthy, and growing well.
Good nutrition is essential for your child’s growth and development. The healthy eating habits you teach your child now will last a life time. When you and other caregivers provide nutritious foods in a caring and supportive eating environment, your children develop positive attitudes about eating, and they learn to feel good about themselves and the world around them.
Infants: Birth–12 Months
Give your baby the best possible start by choosing to breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding your baby only breast milk until age 6 months, and breast milk plus solid foods from 6 - 12 months and beyond. Babies communicate about feeding through behavior cues. You can trust your baby to let you know how much he needs to eat, and when he is ready to move on to the next stage of feeding. To learn more about feeding your baby:
Toddlers: One–Two Years
Your toddler is learning all the time—from you, her role model for everything! It’s important you teach her to eat a variety of healthy foods. With a little planning, your whole family can enjoy the same foods at mealtime. Toddlers eat best when mealtimes are relaxed, and they don’t feel pressured to eat more than they want. To learn more about feeding your toddler:
Preschoolers: Three–Five Years
Preschoolers are naturally social, and they love sharing family meals. They also love to help in the kitchen, and can do many simple cooking tasks with your support and supervision. Cooking and eating together are great ways to learn about new foods and to enjoy being with each other. When you offer healthy meals and snacks on a regular schedule, you can trust your preschooler to know how much he should eat to grow the size he is meant to be.
Food and Feeding
- Ellen Satter Institute Improve the quality of your family’s life through the joy of eating. People are healthier in all ways when they eat and feed with practicality and enjoyment.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics Information regarding your child’s physical, mental and social health; policies and guidelines; publications and other child health resources.
- Sesame Street Healthy Habits for Life Information and tips to encourage healthy habits in your family.
- Choose My Plate Health and nutrition information to help your family eat well, be active and grow healthy.
- Healthy in a Snap Information on shopping, storing, preparing and eating healthy foods.
Cooking and Recipes
- ChopChop Healthy, simple recipes you can make and enjoy with your family. Join ChopChop Cooking Club!
- Let's Cook with Kids Healthy recipes that are easy to prepare and both kids and adults will love!
- Good and Cheap – Eating Well on $4/Day A cookbook for people with very tight budgets.
- What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl Cook books, recipe tools and more.
Resources for Vermont Families
- Vermont 211
- Vermont Food Help
- 3 Squares VT
- 3 Squares VT at Farmers’ Market
- Free & Reduced Price School Meal Program
- Hunger Free Vermont - Early Childhood Nutrition Hub
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA)
- Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)
- Vermont Food Bank - Food Shelves
- Vermont Farm to Family Program
Children are born to play, and physical activity is essential for their healthy growth and development. From birth, children learn about themselves and the world around them through movement. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. The skills you teach your child through active play will build her self-confidence and help her develop a life-long love for physical activity.
Being active helps children:
- Feel good about themselves
- Be healthier and have a lower risk of chronic disease
- Sleep better at night
- Enjoy family time
Play every day! Babies need safe opportunities to move and explore. They love “floor time” where they can reach, roll and crawl. Toddlers and preschoolers need a combination of supervised independent playtime, as well as planned activities where they can practice using specific physical skills. Explore the physical activity resources in your community - it’s a great way to spend time together as a family. Find more ways to be active with your little ones:
- Fit WIC encourages your family to play every day with ideas for indoor and outdoor play, building skills, and finding new places to visit. See links below for more ideas for increasing physical activity with your little ones.
- Building Bright Futures for information about upcoming playgroups and other family evens in your community.
- Fit & Healthy Kids
- Find and Go Seek for information about weekend events, after-school activities, camps, festivals, story times and so much more that are happening in Northern Vermont.
- Let’s Move for information and support to help parents make healthy choices for their families and their communities.
- Park Finder to find forests and parks near you that offer a wide variety of outdoor activities.
- National Wildlife Federation Nature Find to find information on nature places and events near you.
- Map of Play to find a playground or kid’s park near you.
Childcare providers (and parents, too) can find out more about healthy eating and physical activity by going to our Child Care and Early Learning page.
There are many helpful community resources to help families with questions related to health and safety.
- Strengthen Families and Child Abuse Prevention
- Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence
- Children’s Environmental Health
- Healthy Homes
- Child Passenger Safety
Childcare providers and families may find the information regarding preventing the spread of illness, playground safety, safe sleep, managing food allergies, and emergency response planning at Child Care and Early Learning
Tooth decay (also called early childhood caries, or ECC) is the single most common chronic disease of childhood. Your oral health and dental hygiene practices affect your child’s oral health. Early tooth decay is mostly preventable. Learn what you can do to keep your child’s smile healthy:
The first years of a child's life are critical for his or her health and development. Parents, health professionals, educators, and community partners can work together to ensure children grow up to reach their full potential. For more information on child development visit Help Me Grow.