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Most of us believe that Ayurveda is ONLY for adults and not for toddlers, but that is an incorrect perception. Whether it is nutrition, immunity building, or even massage, this ancient practice can help to support the development of young ones — from babies to teenagers.
The classification of age that has been described in Ayurveda, is quite practical and holds relevance, even in the present times:
The indication for classification is based on the change in the dominance of doshas, which is an integral part in understanding the individual itself. During the pediatric age, the dominant dosha is the kapha dosha. Due to this, there are certain characteristic features that can be attributed to childhood.
A newborn child requires 18 to 20 hours sleep in a day. Similarly, during childhood, the inclination is generally towards sweet foods, while a select few prefer sour and salty taste. Very rarely would you have come across a child who loves chillies or neem.
Another important aspect is the classification of the years during childhood. This is a beautiful classification that has been described in the kashyapa samhita, and is based on the food that the child primarily eats.
The importance of this classification is that it also describes the changing agni (digestion and metabolism) in the child. This is specifically evident in the toddler age group, when the child’s appetite constantly fluctuates. This is particularly taxing for the parents.
Try to put a tick mark to each of these things while planning your kid’s diet:
It is important to include all the six tastes – namely sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent in a child’s diet.
Sweet here does not just mean sugar or jaggery. It includes the whole category of cereals, milk and milk products, meats as well as dals. The major part of the meal should comprise cereals and milk products (where applicable), in case of a toddler who is being breastfed. Other food groups such as vegetables, fruits, meats as well as pulses, should be gradually introduced, but in smaller quantities.
Include important cereals like rice, wheat, barley, ragi, and more to the child’s diet. One of the best dals is moong dal. Also, incorporating fruits such as pomegranate and citrus fruits are important, since they improve the appetite as well as prevent common disorders like diarrhoea that are prevalent among this age group. Raisins are also an important ingredient, since they help to prevent constipation.
Remember that milk is a meal in itself. Hence, a gap of half an hour to an hour between milk and meals should be followed. Otherwise, the combination of sour/ salt with milk is considered viruddha or incompatible together.
Meal timings in the case of a toddler are very difficult. Demand feeding is the best method of instilling the need for food signals in a child. Force feeding could lead to stress, rather than helping in most cases. Generally, when the child is hungry, he/she will come to you.
Giving them treats in place of a meal MUST be avoided as far as possible. That’s because children are very quick learners, and adapt to situations in no time. When they realise that they can get treats in place of meals, they are likely to become adamant in choosing the latter.
Involve your child in the preparation of meals. Let him/her choose the vegetables, measure the cereals, knead the dough, and identify the spices, so as to raise the interest of the child in the meal itself.
Alter the same food ingredients into different recipes, in order to change the perspective of the child towards eating or avoiding it. For instance, making rotis in the shapes that the child identifies with, could spark their interest
Unless the child suffers from certain allergies, try to include different types of foods to your toddler’s diet, in order to reduce the chances of them turning into picky eaters.