Sub-domain: Nutrition and Feeding

The  Nutrition and Feeding sub-domain covers goal twenty-four of the Idaho Early Learning Guidelines.

Using this guide

Scroll down to see the age group you are most interested in. Click on the goal to learn more about the goal's:

  • developmental growth
  • child indicators
  • caregiver strategies

There is an option to download the information at the end of each goal. When you click the link you will be brought to a new page where you can download the goal as a PDF.  

little girl eating healthy food

0 - 8 Months

Goal 24: Children eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Developmental Growth: Self-regulate food intake and indicate hunger and fullness.

Child Indicators: Breastfeeds, if appropriate for family preferences and circumstances. Regulates the speed and intensity with which they eat. Uses facial expressions and body movements to indicate feelings of hunger and fullness. May experiment with tastes of pureed foods beginning at 6 months, with approval of the physician. Explores food with fingers.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide an environment that is supportive of breastfeeding (breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for a minimum of 1 year, when possible). Plan feeding times and practices around the individual cultural and feeding needs of the child (if breastfeeding, use of breast milk; or if bottle feeding, use of formula). Follow child’s cues for when he/she is full or hungry. Offer appropriate finger foods such as ready-to-eat cereals, soft or softened fruits, and vegetables.

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6 - 18 Months

Goal 24: Children eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Developmental Growth: Begin eating soft and semi- solid foods; feed self different foods including finger foods; and indicate likes and dislikes of flavors and textures, hunger, and fullness with words and actions.

Child Indicators: Consumes a variety of foods. Explores food with fingers. Regulates the speed and intensity with which they eat Uses facial expressions and body movements to indicate feelings of hunger and fullness. Shows personal preferences. Begins to use fork and spoon, although not always with accuracy. Increases food vocabulary.

Caregiver Strategies: Offer child a variety of foods and nutrients. Treat meal times as an opportunity to help child enjoy food and become independent in feeding. Use a daily sheet for parents and caregivers to communicate with each other and provide a written record of what and how much the child eats at home and the center. Communicate with parents, grandparents, cooks, and caregivers about food allergies to provide a safe food environment for child. Avoid serving choking hazards (raisins; grapes; popcorn; hot dogs; hard candies; and other small, hard, round foods). Model nutritious eating habits. Provide child-sized utensils.

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Children’s physical development is influenced by external factors such as nutrition and access to health and dental care.

16 - 38 Months

Goal 24: Children eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Developmental Growth: Choose how much food to eat.  Participate in mealtime routines, with support.

Child Indicators: Expands recognition and eats a variety of foods. Distinguishes between food and non-food items. Makes personal food choices among options. Explores new foods when offered. Talks about being hungry or full. Uses cup to drink beverages. Begins using serving utensils. Begins to pass and receive food in serving containers. Uses fork and spoon, with limited accuracy, but continues to use fingers often.

Caregiver Strategies: Establish regular meal and snack times in daily schedules. Prepare and provide a variety of nutritious snacks and meals from child’s own cultural background and other cultures. Serve meals that include foods with a variety of textures, shapes, temperatures, sizes, and colors. Offer beverages in cups (1% or 2% milk, 100% juice, or water). Provide child-sized utensils. Provide child-sized serving utensils that help child to serve child-sized portions. Provide adequate space for each child to pass, serve, pour, and eat. Prepare and present food with consideration for child’s physical skills for passing and serving themselves. Sit down to supervise child before food is passed. Talk with child about how food and water help us to be healthy. Offer food at least every 3 hours so that child’s hunger does not overwhelm their ability to self- regulate food intake. Link new foods to familiar foods describing taste and textures. When adding a food that is new to a child’s menu, include other foods that are familiar to the child. Encourage child to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Develop a plan for cooperating with physician-prescribed diets (allergies, diabetes). If child has food allergies, talk with him/her about healthful food choices that fit his/her needs.

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36 - 60 Months

Goal 24: Children eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Developmental Growth: Participate in mealtime routines with increasing independence and become more consistent at using utensils to eat and serve self.  Eat a variety of foods and learn about food through observation and modeling during mealtimes.

Child Indicators: Accepts a greater variety of foods, displays greater acceptance of textures and flavors. Expresses food preferences using increasingly descriptive vocabulary. Uses spoon and fork but continues to use fingers for efficiency. Begins to have accuracy with a knife for spreading soft foods such as butter or jelly. Knows and uses routines for passing, serving, cleaning up spills, and clearing their place after meals. Uses serving utensils to self- serve food, with increasing accuracy. Passes food at the table and takes appropriate-sized portions or participates in other culturally- specific family serving styles. Expresses hunger and fullness using words such as “I’m hungry” or “My tummy is full.” Begins to identify sources of food.

Caregiver Strategies: Serve meals that include foods with a variety of textures, shapes, temperatures, sizes, and colors. Talk with child about food choices in relation to allergies, religion, culture, family choices, and overall health. Offer food at least every 3 hours so that child’s hunger does not overwhelm their ability to self- regulate food intake. Establish the expectation, for the child, to join with family or group at mealtime. Resist forcing child to eat. Provide child-sized utensils. Provide child-sized serving utensils that help child to serve child-sized portions. Provide adequate space for each child to pass, serve, pour, and eat. Provide opportunities for child to serve themselves from common bowls and pitchers. Involve child in planting, growing, and harvesting a vegetable garden. Provide opportunities for child to help prepare meals and snacks. Talk about food and nutrition concepts including texture, vocabulary, appearance, and preferences during meal times. Avoid serving choking hazards (raisins; grapes; popcorn; hot dogs; hard candies; and other small, hard, round foods). Provide directions to prevent choking (keep all four chair legs on the floor, avoid talking or laughing with food in mouth, take small bites, and finish chewing food before leaving the table).

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Attitudes, self-regulation, culture, and general areas of development are entwined with food and feeding.

60 Months - Kindergarten

Goal 24: Children eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Developmental Growth: Are curious and enthusiastic about foods and eating.  Take increasingly more responsibility for eating and food choices.

Child Indicators: Chooses from a variety of foods. States food preferences. Provides simple explanations for own and others’ food allergies. Tries most new foods.

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in preparing, serving, and eating a variety of foods. Talk with child about why certain foods are more nutritious than others (fruit is more nutritious than candy). Give child opportunities to provide input on food and menus. Provide family-style dining. Model healthy eating habits. Acknowledge child’s differences and preferences for food, but do not compare children’s eating characteristics.

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