Fruits and Vegetables for your Baby

Preparation and cooking

  • Wash your hands with soap thoroughly under running water.
  • Ensure the bench is clean and utensils have been washed in hot soapy water.
  • Wash vegetables or fruit.
  • Peel (if required) and chop vegetables/fruit into small pieces.
  • Place into a saucepan with a small amount of water. Or put a little water into a microwave safe bowl.
  • Boil the water in the pot, once boiling, add the chopped vegetables.
  • Gently simmer with a lid on or cook in the microwave until very soft. This may take about 10 minutes on the stove but you may have to experiment in the microwave to find the right amount of time.
  • Allow to cool slightly.
  • Drain the vegetables in the colander.
  • Place in a bowl and mash with a fork, hand blender or food processor until the food is soft and smooth. As your baby gets older (about 7-9 months) the texture should become lumpier.
  • Mix with boiled water, breast milk or formula until you reach the consistency your baby needs.
  • Only put the amount of food you think your baby will eat in a bowl, unused food should be discarded as the bacteria from your baby’s mouth can cause an upset tummy.
  • If food is not to be eaten immediately, store in fridge until needed (food can be kept in the fridge for 24 hours).
  • Make sure food has cooled before feeding it to your baby. To test the temperature of the food, wash your hands thoroughly then put your finger in the food to check that it is not too hot for your baby. It’s best not to test the temperature by eating the food yourself as this may spread germs from you to your baby.

Storage

Any extra food that has been made can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for the next day or frozen for use within 3 months. It always a good idea to date food as you can forget when items were put in the fridge or freezer.

You can freeze extra food in ice block containers. When these are frozen the food can be transferred to plastic bags or containers in the freezer.
Frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight or under cold water in an airtight plastic wrapper or bag, stirring the contents from time to time and changing the water every 30 minutes. Foods can also be thawed in a microwave oven, using the defrost setting.

General tips

If travelling, prepared food should be carried in an esky with an ice pack and on arrival at your destination placed in a refrigerator. Food should be used within 4 hours.

You do not need to add any sugar or salt to your baby’s food, so if you are preparing the whole family’s vegetables/fruit take out the baby’s portion before adding any salt or sugar.

Your baby can progress from soft smooth textured food to foods of different textures quite quickly. Gradually include coarse mash, grated, minced and finely chopped foods. At around 9 months foods can be of a soft diced texture.

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Child-friendly fruit and vegetables: in pictures

Foods Not Suitable Under 12 Months

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk should not be used as the main drink for infants before the age of 12 months as it doesn’t have all of the vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to grow and develop. Cow’s milk has large amounts of protein, sodium and potassium which can overload your baby’s immature kidneys.

Small amounts of cow’s milk can be used when cooking your baby’s food from about 9 months. After 12 months of age, your baby can begin to have plain whole cow’s milk as a drink.

Reduced-fat milks are not recommended for children aged less than 2 years, as they need the fat for energy.

Milo and flavoured milks are not recommended for young children as they contain large amounts of sugar.

Beverages

Fruit juice is not recommended for babies. It is better for your baby to eat fruit.

Soft drinks are very high in sugar and are not recommended. They also increase the risk of tooth decay.

Giving infants tea and coffee is not advisable.

Honey

It is recommended that honey is not given to children aged under 1 year as it may contain the spores of a type of bacteria that can cause a very serious illness (infant botulism) in babies. After 12 months of age, your baby is less susceptible to this bacterium.

Salt and sugar

Do not add salt or sugar to your baby’s food.

Processed foods, foods tinned in brine and snacks, such as chips, should be avoided due to high salt levels. Gravies and stock cubes not specifically for infants are also very high in salt. They should be used sparingly if infants are going to eat family foods containing them.

Salt may damage your baby’s kidneys. Your baby will receive all the salt their body needs from breastmilk, formula or natural food sources.

A high consumption of sugar and sugary foods can encourage a sweet tooth and lead to tooth decay when first teeth start to come through. Avoid sweet biscuits and rusks so infants don’t get into the habit of expecting sweet snacks. Limit the frequency of desserts.

Low-fat foods

Low-fat foods are not suitable for children under 2.

Choking hazards

Infants are at an increased risk of choking. Food should be cut into small pieces and hard vegetables should be lightly cooked.

Foods that might cause choking include: hard biscuits, raw apple, carrots, celery, sausage skins, whole peas, corn, beans, grapes, nuts, popcorn, hard lollies, corn chips, small bones or gristle.

Babies and young children need to be sitting when eating and drinking to avoid choking.

Other unsuitable foods

Do not feed these foods to infants:

  • Uncooked fermented meats (salami)
  • Raw or uncooked meat (particularly minced meat), poultry, fish and shellfish
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover and radish, due to the higher risk of food poisoning associated with these foods
  • Raw egg; all eggs should be cooked well to prevent salmonella poisoning and products containing raw eggs should be avoided

Want to know more?

Health Department of WA – Child and Adolescent Health – Baby’s first foods
Raising Children Network – Food allergies and food intolerances

Finger Foods

Finger foods are anything edible your baby can hold. They need to be in small sizes that are easily picked up by small hands.

Your baby may become interested in finger foods anywhere from 8 months of age. Babies need to be able to sit with little or no support and have commenced eating solid food before being introduced to finger food. At first they may grab the food using their fist but this will change as their pincer grip develops (this is when babies use their thumb and index finger to pick up objects such as food). Finger feeding encourages this development and helps with hand to mouth coordination.

Your baby does not have to have teeth to enjoy finger foods.

Before offering your baby finger food, wash their hands and sit baby up in a highchair. Do not let baby lie back in the stroller when eating. Never leave your baby alone when eating as they may choke.

Always feed your baby when they are sitting down in a high chair or at a little table and chairs as they move to the end of the first year of life.

Finger Food Suggestions

Breads and cereals

  • Wholemeal toast with mashed avocado or mashed pumpkin on top
  • Cooked pasta twists plain or with a tomato sauce
  • Soft, cooked brown rice pressed into a small ball
  • Rice cakes
  • Italian bread sticks
  • Set polenta

Fruits and vegetables

  • Soft, ripe or cooked fruit wedges (e.g. banana, pear, peach, kiwi fruit, rockmelon, mango etc)
  • Peeled orange or mandarin with the flesh removed from the segments
  • Grated apple or cooked peeled apple slices that are soft
  • Dried fruit soaked in water until soft
  • Soft, well-cooked cool vegetables (e.g. broccoli florets, cooked carrots, roasted sweet potato, zucchini, cooked asparagus spears etc)
  • Avocado and cucumber cut into sticks

Dairy foods

  • Grated hard cheese
  • Cheese cut into sticks

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs and legumes

  • Small pieces of well cooked meats
  • Small meat or chicken mince balls
  • Cooked flaked fish removing any bones
  • Scrambled egg yolks
  • Firm tofu chunks

What to avoid

Foods to avoid include those that don’t breakdown into small pieces easily. These can be a choking hazard.

Hard foods that might cause choking include:

  • Hard biscuits,
  • Raw apple (if not grated),
  • Uncooked carrots,
  • Uncooked celery,
  • Sausage skins,
  • Whole peas,
  • Corn,
  • Beans,
  • Grapes that have the skin still covering,
  • Nuts,
  • Popcorn,
  • Hard lollies,
  • Corn chips, and
  • Small bones or gristle.

Want to Know More?

The Raising Children Network – Finger foods: in pictures
Pregnancy, birth & baby – Introducing solid food

Sleep- Helpful Tools

At birth, a full term baby’s brain weighs about 400 grams and has around 100 billion brain cells. By the time your baby turns 3 years of age, their brain weighs 1100 grams! 

Check out these sleep guides for your 0-5 year old.

Average Sleep Chart guideSleep Range GuideSleep / Feed Diary sheet

tip sheet, Quick Sleep & Feeding Guidetip sheet

Safe Food Guide For Pregnancy

You may find during pregnancy that you need to change your eating and drinking habits.
To meet the extra demands of pregnancy you may need to consume more nutritious foods and drinks. The key is to start small and be consistent.

Pregnancy safe food guide

tip sheet, tip sheets

Food preferences

Children, like adults, are attracted to certain textures, flavours and presentation. When we are children, appetite is a personal and innately well-controlled mechanism.

Remember, the preschooler years are all about:  

  • exploration and finding out who they are;
  • discovering what they like and don’t like; and 
  • seeing how much influence they have over their environment.  

Food choices and temperament

Consider your child’s temperament for a moment. Do they:  

  • like lots of rough and tumble, tickling, and noise? 
  • hang back and consider new environments before jumping in and having a go? 
  • like things ‘just so’ and predictable events and order in the day?  
  • hate scratchy clothes and labels and new bedding, clothes and shoes?
  • love getting their hands in the mud, taking their shoes off, and enjoy chaos?  

Not surprisingly, these adorable traits our children are developing will in some way be expressed in their food choices; textures, flavours, presentation and how they eat. It is not necessarily predictable, but as you get to know and fathom your child (which will take years!) it seems reasonable to indulge some of your child’s strong preferences around food. 

Common food preferences

Here are a few preferences to consider. Compare notes with other parents to check out what successful approaches they have come up with. 

‘Drinking’ their food
  • Raw juice: fruit and vegetable blends
  • Shakes: milks (cows, goats, coconut, nut milks)
  • Smoothies: mix a milk base with a variety of fruits
  • Soup: homemade from weekend roast bones stock, chunky or pureed.
  • Slushies: frozen/fresh fruit blended with ice chips
  • Custards: homemade egg custard
  • Yoghurt drinks: fruit or plain, thinned with milk
Strong flavours and casseroles
  • Bolognaise sauce combining five vegetables: cook down then puree with tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, celery before adding mince
  • Slow cook one-pot meals with variety of vegetables
  • Gravies, soups and sauces with quality stock
  • Homemade tomato sauce or ketchup where you can add more vegetables
  • Use natural flavours: garlic, herbs, spices, chilli, curry, strong cheeses, mushrooms
Crunchy or crispy food
  • Raw vegetables with dips
  • Toast breads that are sliced very thinly
  • Oven toast vegetable ‘shavings’
  • Homemade potato wedges coated in spice mix and oven roasted
  • Homemade popcorn
  • Dry quality cereal mixed with nuts and seeds (watch out for choking hazards and allergies)
Sweet foods
  • Homemade cakes like carrot cake and use other novel vegetables and fruit in the recipe
  • Homemade biscuits made with oat flour, golden syrup or honey
  • Homemade icecream
  • Homemade jam: just stew down some berries, will not need added sugar
  • Homemade egg custard with fruit
  • Frozen mashed overripe bananas (naturally very sweet)
  • Pikelets made with an extra egg for more nutrition

Keep it simple

Parents often feel stumped when it comes to thinking up recipes and combinations of food in the preschooler years.

In truth, it is more straightforward, economical, and better received if we serve simple food.  

Eating food from your plate (or someone else’s!)

You may find that your preschooler will like to eat food off your plate.

Food is a lot about trust and association. If it’s okay for you to eat it, your child figures it should be good for them too!

The mental connections preschoolers make when they sneak a green bean off your plate soon after they tipped their serve on the floor may be hard to understand, but if they eat it, celebrate!

It may be frustrating at the time, but it makes survival sense for your child.

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Preschoolers nutrition and fitness 

Healthy Kids Association – Food and nutrition 

Tuning in to your baby

Being emotionally present with your baby is how connections are created. 

Tips to connect

  • Spend gentle, loving time with your baby when they are awake.  
  • Talk softly and sing to your baby. 
  • Hold, cuddle and stroke your baby so they learn to be safe and loved. 
  • Look into your baby’s eyes when you are feeding or holding them. 
  • Watch and listen so you can learn your baby’s different cries, signals and what they mean. 
  • Copy some of your baby’s gestures. This shows your baby that you have heard them and you are replying. 
  • Talk to your baby as you do things together let them know what you are going to do next. 
  • Say the same words every time, e.g. “I am going to pick you up now,” or “Here we go.” 
  • Your baby won’t understand your words at first but they will learn from the tone of your voice and sounds. 

Helping your other child tune into your baby

Be honest and let your other child know that the new baby won’t be able to be a playmate for a long time. Explain that the baby will cry a lot and not to worry, this is baby’s way of letting us know what he needs. Explain that the baby may wake through the night for a feed. 

Your first child may have a range of emotions, from excitement to jealousy or even resentment. This is perfectly normal. Your first child’s age and temperament will also play a part in how easily he adapts to sharing his or her space. 

Younger toddlers are not able to talk about their feelings, and they may go back to behaving like a baby (regression). Be ready for extra tantrums, acting out or clinginess. Even if you have done all you can to help your child to adjust, they may still feel left out and upset. 

Language

“I know you feel upset when I am feeding the baby and you want to play. I like playing with you too.” 

It’s common for a toddler to sometimes ‘over-love’ the baby. They may hug too tight or kiss the baby too hard. This shows their confusion and the love-hate feelings they may have for the baby. Show them how to be gentle. 

Children of different ages

Parents might see different behaviours from other children, brothers or sisters when there is a new baby in the house. The behaviours could depend on their age.  Encourage them to share their experiences and feelings. 

Regression

Regression behaviours may include wanting a bottle or dummy or to be carried or dressed by you. Parents should encourage and praise their children for being good but ignore regression. 

Hitting

If a child hits the baby, they should be removed from the situation and told that you are very cross and that “we don’t hit”. Don’t let them hit you either. The lesson is to teach them that hitting is not how to show angry feelings. 

Predictability

Keep a child’s routine as much as possible as children feel more secure when they know the order of things. 

Respecting and valuing

Give children special time and attention, perhaps when the baby is asleep. Read or play together every day if you can. 

Give some special big kid privileges such as staying up an extra 10 minutes. Stress that the baby isn’t lucky enough to have these privileges, e.g. “You can go to the cinema with daddy now because you are a big girl but the baby can’t.” 

Encourage friends and family to show affection to your older child as well as to the baby. 

Parents should explain to an older child that even if they are busy with the baby the child can always let you know if they want attention.  

Mention you may not always be able to stop what you are doing, but will spend time with them as soon as you can. If you give reassurance, they may become less demanding.  

Try and involve them as much as possible when you are responding to the baby. They like to be part of the action. Praise them for being helpful. 

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network – Talking to your baby 

Raising Children Network – Reading baby body language 

Parenting a preschooler

Parenting a preschooler presents many new challenges and many new joys. Witnessing the change in development that comes with your child going to preschool can be heart-warming and exhausting.  

You will be required to listen to lots of stories as preschoolers try to articulate and make sense of what they have been seeing, hearing, learning and experiencing.  

New experiences and talents

Preschoolers will want to be more independent with doing things for themselves and will also want to be helpful around the house. Parents can offer encouragement and guidance to assist their preschooler to build their confidence as they learn to master new skills.  

Be patient and mindful to reward effort, not just outcomes. Sometimes things get messy or go a little wrong.  

Your child’s abilities, personalities and temperament will become a little bit more obvious. This can help parents to identify how they can support, nurture and guide their child through this stage of development. 

Your preschooler will develop new artistic talents whilst they are at preschool. You will be presented with works of art and craft that your preschooler will be very proud of, so make room on your fridge and walls!  

Working with challenges

Parenting a preschooler may bring new challenges for parents, such as another baby in the household or another baby on the way.  

For parents who work, it might mean that preschoolers need to be picked up from pre-school by someone else. You may be asked to be involved with the pre-school so you may need to negotiate time with your employer.  

Use of parental leave and sick leave may also increase as children are exposed to more illnesses in the class environment and bring those illnesses home.  

Good communication and co-parenting skills will help parents to manage these new challenges. Putting in place self-care practices such as eating healthy food and exercising are important to support good health and wellbeing for parents.  

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Preschooler play & learning: Preschool and Talking and listening to preschoolers 

Department of Education WA – The start of compulsory schooling – Preprimary 

Food for preschoolers

Now is the time to create strong foundations for your child’s future health. Find out what foods to encourage and what foods to limit or avoid.

Recommended food intake

Carbohydrates and starches: 4 serves

For example: bread, pasta, rice, potato, noodles, oats, cereal, pikelets  

Fruit and vegetables: 6 serves  

For example: Raw, steamed, dried, stewed, pureed, mashed 

Protein: 2 to 4 serves

For example: red meat, white meat (chicken, turkey), fish, beans, lentils, eggs, nuts 

Dairy: 1.5 to 2 serves

For example: cheese, yoghurt, cream, butter (cow, sheep or goat). 

Drinks

Water, milk

Additional foods – small amounts

For example: sauces, mayonnaise, oils. 

Preschooler growth

This range and quantity of foods will not necessarily be achievable every day. For preschoolers, nutritional intake and amount is measured over weeks rather than days, compared to the more predictable adult eating patterns we know.  

Preschooler‘s growth at this stage is characterised by a lengthening of limbs, torso and increase in head circumference. Body weight is effectively ‘re-distributed‘. This dramatically changes their body shape from compact and ‘chubby‘ to a more defined shape for arms, legs and tummy, which can be alarming to some to see ribs clearly for the first time! 

This is a normal slowing in the rate of growth. In first year, weight triples, contrasting with the next two years where weight may only increase by about four kilograms. 

Developmental factors  

The following factors influence a preschooler’s relationship with food at this time:  

  • Curiosity about their environment – they are discovering and exercising independence and control over their environment.  
  • Attention span is brief.  
  • Experimenting with saying ‘NO!‘  
  • Repetition and experimentation is a strong drive. This can show as periodic ‘obsession‘ with or preference for certain foods, colours, or shapes and a particular bowl or cup.  
  • Childhood illnesses can affect appetite and memory of foods they associate with the incident (e.g. a bout of gastro may be linked in their mind to the last thing they ate) and can influence future rejection.  
  • New situations and unfamiliar people are treated with suspicion or caution – this goes for new, unfamiliar food too.  
  • Moods and tiredness can strongly affect desire for food, either for more or for less, and can precipitate tantrums.  

Five reasons to choose nutritious foods  

1. Brain growth 

The brain is growing intensively at this time. It will triple in size between birth and three years of age.  

2. Additives and behaviour 

Certain processed and poor quality foods loaded with additives have the potential to cause negative behavioural effects in your child.

3. Development of taste preferences 

Tastes and preferences for certain foods are laid down in early childhood. If we cultivate a taste for high sugar, salt and artificial flavours, it is very likely to become a habit retained in adulthood.  

4. Role modelling healthy food choices 

By providing and eating these foods yourself, parents demonstrate strong role modelling with good food choices. Your child learns 90% from deeds and doing, not verbal instruction – “do as I do, not as I say”.  

5. Building strong health foundations 

Health effects from nutrient poor food or highly processed foods are not necessarily immediate but have longer term effects. By making good food choices at least 80% of the time, you build strong health foundations for the future. It is not just about the number of calories, it‘s about the quality of the food you eat.  

Nutrient dense food

The foods in the table below have high levels of nutrients compared to the number of calories they contain. For example, an egg has protein, fats, Vitamin A, B Vitamins, iron, phosphorous and selenium, all for 70 calories.  

Fruit
Vegetables
Protein
Carbohydrates
Fats
applesasparaguseggsoatsbutter
bananasbroccoliyoghurt (plain)seedscoconut milk
blueberriescauliflowermilkbrown riceghee
cranberriescabbagecheeseschickpeasolive oil
figscapsicumsbeefchiafish oil
kiwifruitonionschickencocoacream
lemonsfennelliverpotatoesflaxseed oil
garlicshellfishegg pastanut oils
mushroomsfishnut flourscocoa butter
herbslamb  
sweet potatolentils/legumes
tomatoes 

Nutrient poor food

The foods in the table below offer a lot of calories for poor return on nutrients—or even a negative effect from consuming it. For example, a snack of a donut and a can of cola is full of refined flours, sugars and trans fats, which provide a lot of calories (450) but contain no minerals or vitamins. The body feels full but is still craving nutrients that have been refined out.  

Starches  
Sugars
Processed snacks
Drinks/additives  
white flour  white sugar  frozen pizza  cordials  
packet biscuits  corn syrup  most sausages  energy drinks  
instant noodles  lollies  processed meats  sodas  
pasta  icecream  processed cheeses  colas  
donuts  jams  packet soupsfruit drinks  
processed cereals glucose  sauces  syrups  
chips and crackers
flavoured milks  
cakes‘diet‘ drinks

 

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network –Preschooler nutrition and fitness 

Healthy Kids Association – Food & nutrition 

Guiding behaviour

Between the ages of 4 and 8 years your child may behave differently. This is because their brain is growing and developing. At this stage you will also notice physical changes. You may have difficulty understanding what’s happening or managing some of these new behaviours.  

There are a number of strategies that you can use that will help you achieve a calmer, more content household with happier children and parents. Every household will have different priorities depending on your family values and external influences affecting your life at the time. Helping children to understand why we need to behave in certain ways can be useful.  

Most parents are keen that their children learn what is acceptable social behaviour. It is helpful if parents develop an understanding of what is realistic in terms of physical and emotional development. Child Development 5-6 Years and Child Development 6-8 Years 

Consistency is the key to successfully guiding your child’s behavior. At this challenging time, try not to let your own emotions or feelings get in the way. 

Acknowledging your child’s good behaviour is a powerful and effective tool. Make sure to notice all the positive behaviours, commenting on them and praising them as often as you can. By acknowledging a child’s good behaviour, parents will find themselves rewarded by  having a happy child and acceptable behaviour.  

It is important to create a safe, interesting and stimulating environment for our childrens’ developing brains and active bodies. Often undesirable behaviour will occur when children either become bored of their current environment or unstimulated. There are many activities and experiences that we can provide for our children which are free.  

These include: 

  • getting out in nature,  
  • playing in parks,  
  • visiting friends,  
  • swimming,  
  • attending playgroups, or  
  • going to age appropriate community events.  

Parents don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive toys and structured activities. 

Avoid reacting to negative behaviour. Sometimes what we see may be a child not knowing how to express themselves. Try to focus in on the feelings that may be underlying the behaviour. Are they confused, tired, worried or angry. Asking and talking about these feelings may be more effective in helping your child change the way they are behaving.  

Want to know more? 

Kidsmatter – Managing Behaviour 

Kidsmatter – Managing Behaviour Further Resources 

Kidsmatter – School Refusal 

Raising Children Network – School Age Behaviour