Childhood Feeding Practices

What are childhood feeding practices?

Childhood feeding practices are the ways in which parents and caregivers feed children. How a parent or caregiver decides to feed a child matters to the child's overall health and relationship with food.

In order to prevent chronic, lifestyle-related health conditions in children, the Public Health Department promotes the 5 Keys to Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater, which follows Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. These keys promote a positive feeding relationship between caregivers and children and help children grow into happy, competent, and healthy eaters.


The 5 Keys to Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater 

The 5 Keys describe different responsibilities for the parent and child during meals and snacks. When parents follow the 5 Keys, they provide a structured feeding environment that supports children in learning to become competent eaters. 

The parent responsibilities of the 5 Keys are:

  • What food is offered
  • When food is offered
  • Where food is offered

The child responsibilities of the 5 Keys are:

  • Whether or not to eat the foods offered
  • How much to eat from what is offered

For more information about these keys, please refer to our parent, provider, and additional resources below.


Resources for Parents

Parents living in the County of Santa Clara can learn more about the 5 Keys by taking a 4-class parenting series called the 10 Steps to a Healthier You offered by the Healthier Kids Foundation. The classes go over the 10 Steps to a Healthier You lifestyle recommendations for families, how to set up structure and routines for kids, the 5 Keys to Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater, and additional strategies to boost healthy habits at home.


Training for Providers

The Health Department provides information and training about the 5 Keys to pediatric healthcare providers, public health programs, and community-based organizations, so parents receive consistent, best practice feeding messages from each of their service providers. Please consider taking one of all of our provider trainings listed below.

Additional Child Feeding Resources


    • 5 Keys to Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese​: This parent handout describes the 5 Keys to Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater and outlines feeding goals for the parent to try.
    • 10 Steps to a Healthier You Classes​: A free, 4-class workshop from the Healthier Kids Foundation that provides parents with information and strategies for creating healthy habits at home.
    • Child Feeding Ages and Stages​: Feeding guidance from the Ellyn Satter Institute based upon age (birth to ​17 years old) and developmental stage
    • Children's Eating and Growth​: Information from the Ellyn Satter Institute about how children learn to become competent eaters.




    • Family Meals and Snacks: Information and tips from the Ellyn Satter Institute about creating a supportive feeding environment for children during meals and snacks.
    • Tips for Happy Mealtimes​: A WIC handout with tips for creating pleasant mealtimes for everyone.



    • The P​icky Eater: Ellyn Satter Institute guidance for parents about supporting picky eaters in learning to try new foods.
    • Tips for Picky Eaters​: A WIC handout with information about picky eating and tips for creating a supportive eating environment for picky children.



    • Childhood Feeding Problems and Solutions: Problem-based feeding advice from the Ellyn Satter Institute. Feeding problems include: children who don’t eat fruits or vegetables, picky eating, eating too little, eating too much, underweight children, overweight children, avoiding pressure, and avoiding restriction.
    • Setting Routines:A tip sheet for parents about how to set up routines with their Children.
    • Dealing with Tantrums: This tip sheet provides parents with developmentally-appropriate strategies to resolve and minimize tantrums.
    • Positive Time-Out​: Guidance for parents about establishing positive time-outs to help stop undesirable behaviors in children and teach important life skills.​


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