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MSPI Teacher Spotlight

Nutrition for Infants & Toddlers

 Guidelines compiled for parents

 by Leigh Anne Roper, Infant Teacher at Montessori School of Pawleys Island


 Adequate nutrition is essential to infant and toddler growth and development.

 With today’s convenience of grocery stores it can be difficult to decipher which are the healthier options. Organic foods reduce exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Organic foods seem to be the healthiest choice; however, “organic” does not mean complete nutrition. Even organic foods must be presented to children in accordance with their daily requirements from the food pyramid.

This article is intended to encourage parents and caregivers to provide healthy nutritious food choices from an early age. It presents dietary recommendations for infants and small children to get the proper nutrients, and offers clear concise facts to encourage organic food choices. While there are food pyramids for adults and children four and older, there are no dietary guidelines to follow for healthy children four or under. We are aware of the nutritional requirements; however, the food labels are not formatted in the same manner as the adult labels.

 Understanding Food Labels

 Serving sizes on adult food labels reflect the serving size most adults consume in one serving; while, food labels for children two and under reflect the portion size small children typically consume in one serving. Children’s food labels list the total fat content and calories; however, it is not broken down in to saturated fats or cholesterol content. It is not advised to restrict young children’s fat intake. Babies and toddlers need fats and cholesterol for myelination of the nervous system. The food labels for children four years of age and under list protein content, vitamins and minerals, but do not list daily requirements for other nutrients. There are no guidelines set for small children in regards to carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, fat or cholesterol. (eatright.org) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends toddlers from one to three consume about 40 calories per inch of height each day. Some children are more active than others, some will eat more and some will eat less. On average a toddler will eat around 1,300 calories a day requiring 500 mg of calcium, 7 mg of iron, and 400 IU of vitamin D. (kidspot.com) Routine doctor visits will advise parents as to any needed adjustments to the child’s caloric or fat intake.

 Organic vs. Conventional

 Most parents want to feed their children the healthier option, but do they really know what “organic” means? The goal of organic farming is to reduce pollution in our environment, while conserving both water and soil. Organic foods are grown without chemicals for fertilizing or pesticides. Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, (manure or compost),plant derived natural pesticides, trap birds or insects, and they rotate crops, weed, and use only plant derived weed killers. Organic farmers feed their livestock healthy diets, allow them to roam outside, and keep their stalls clean and healthy. Traditional farmers use antibiotics and growth hormones to prevent disease and promote growth. Food labeled as organic must be USDA certified, and are required to be 100% organic if they only contain one item. If the product contains more than one ingredient it must be at least 95% organic in composition to have the UDSA organic seal. Organic food has not been determined to be more nutritious than conventional foods. People choose organic to avoid exposure to pesticides and additives, and to protect the environment. Many people believe organic foods even taste better. Since organic foods are not treated with preservatives they may not keep as well, and tend to vary in size or color.  (mayoclinic.com) Organic foods are typically more expensive. If the cost is a deterrent for purchasing organic foods, one option would be to avoid purchasing the following fruits and conventional vegetables. These are referred to as the “dirty dozen” because they retain the highest pesticide residues.

 1. Apples

 2. Celery

 3. Strawberries

 4. Peaches

 5. Spinach

 6. Nectarines (imported)

 7. Grapes (imported)

 8. Sweet Bell Peppers

 9. Potatoes

 10. Blueberries

 11. Lettuce

 12. Kale or Collard Greens (babycenter.com)

  Breast milk vs. formula:

 There is no question here, from birth to six months of age; breast milk is the best for babies. The World Health Organization, Health Canada, and UNICEF “recommend that no other foods besides breast milk be given to your baby until six months of age.” It is also advised that a mother continue breastfeeding for the next six months following the introduction of solid foods, and throughout the first two years of life. (bestchance.gov.bc.ca) Some mothers are unable to breastfeed, perhaps their milk supply is inadequate, or health issues prevail. In either case a formula is used in substitution for breast milk.

 Feeding infants:

The first four to six months infants should only have breast milk or formula. Most pediatricians recommend between four and six months of age starting solid foods. At about six months of age single grain iron fortified cereals can be introduced, followed by rice, pasta, cereals, and crackers at eight or nine months. It is also acceptable to start with a vegetable (potatoes, squash, carrots, yams), or avocado, introducing one new food at a time for several days to watch for sensitivities. Avocado is the most similar to breast milk of any natural food. (Kovach, 2013.) As long as they are fully cooked and mashed, meats, poultry, legumes, tofu, fish, and eggs may be introduced at this time (6-9 months). Puréed soft fruits may be introduced and harder fruits only if they are cooked until soft. There is no need for juice in a child’s diet, unless the pediatrician recommends to aid constipation. As the dentition matures children can be offered harder fruits cut into tiny pieces.

Daily Suggestions for 12-24 months:
Milk and Dairy

 1-2 oz cheese

 ¼ cup cottage cheese

 1/3 -3/4 cup yogurt

 Grains- 100% whole grain products (5-6 times a day)

 ½ – 1 slice of bread

 ½ – 1 cup whole grain cereal

 1/3 – ½ cup rice, pasta, hot cereal

 Fruit & Vegetables-1 dark green and 1 orange vegetable (5 + times a day)

  1 medium sized vegetable or fruit

 2-4 tbsp. cooked, fresh or mashed fruit

 ¼- ½ cup of cooked vegetables

 ¼ – ½ cup raw vegetables

 Meat or other protein (2-3 times a day)

 2-4 tbsp ground, or minced lean meat, chicken or fish

 2-4 tbsp of mashed legumes

 1 whole egg

 3-6 tbsp tofu or tempeh

1 tbsp peanut or other nut butter

  Daily Recommendations 24-36 months

 4 servings of fruit and vegetables

 3 servings of 100% whole grain

 2 servings of milk and dairy

 1 serving of meat or protein

 Food Safety:

 Choose fish that are low in mercury. (Rainbow trout, shrimp, prawns, salmon- both wild and farm raised, Atlantic mackerel, & sole)

 Cook meats thoroughly

 No honey under 12 months

 Only cooked bean sprouts or mung sprouts

Only pasteurized cheeses


Montessori’s Hands-On Approach to Math

By:  Leslie Lane Whitley, Primary Teacher at Montessori School of PI


The Montessori Method of education is a unique approach to learning.  Rather than “teaching” the child concepts, Dr. Montessori designed an environment and materials to stimulate the child’s interest, facilitating his understanding and learning spontaneously.

As the child moves through the Montessori classroom working first in the Everyday Living area, then the Sensorial area, he acquires skills that indirectly prepare him for the more complex mathematical materials.  The activities in the Everyday Living area give the child the opportunity to develop logical and sequential thought patterns.  An example would be exercises in scooping, squeezing, twisting, pouring, and bead stringing.  The exercises mimic everyday life.  Through the order of these activities the child prepares for the mathematical order of Sensorial materials.  Sensorial materials provide materialized abstractions of many mathematical concepts.  For example, children work with the quantities one through ten before moving on to the mathematical materials which give the child the numerical value.  The Sensorial materials and exercises present qualities such as color, form, dimension, sound, and weight.  An example would be matching sound cylinders.

The mathematical area is designed with materials that are concrete representations of quantities.  The golden bead materials demonstrate the basic operations of arithmetic. Dr. Montessori felt that if a child is given these materials during his early sensitive years, he can easily understand many facts and skills of arithmetic.  By manipulating the concrete materials, being able to touch and see the quantities actually in his hands, he will have a greater understanding later when the abstract concepts of math are presented.  Every mathematical material isolates one particular concept.  When the isolated concepts are combined the child begins to reach a greater understanding of the abstract.  The materials are tools which allow the child to solve problems and make discoveries by actually using concrete forms.

The mathematical materials are divided into four major areas: the introductory materials, the decimal system, the linear counting materials, and the memorization materials.  The beginning materials introduce the numerals 1-10.  Through the use of the number rods, sandpaper numerals, and then the combination of these materials, the child learns to associate the numerals with the proper quantities.  The decimal system is introduced with three basic exercises.  First the child uses the golden bead materials, small round gold beads to build quantities.  The one bead is a unit, 10 units strung together on a wire is a ten bar, 10 ten bars strung together is a hundred square, and ten 100 squares stacked on top of each other and wired together is a thousand cube. Then the child finds the number cards that represent the quantities, and combines the two.  The child learns the process of static and dynamic addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division using these same materials.

The child has now been exposed to the four operations of math in the concrete form.  The child moves the numerals and exchanges the quantities while visually seeing the interplay of the numerals.  The child is now ready to move even further from the concrete toward the abstract using the memorization materials.  The materials are fun, attractive, and actually foster the child’s love of math.

If a child is allowed to explore and discover for himself the basic math concepts at the age he is most receptive, he will develop an excitement and enthusiasm for math that will stay with him throughout his lifetime.



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