In the early years of life, the main way children learn and develop is through play. The more play time a child has, the more opportunities a child has to try different things, have success, make mistakes and build relationships. Each experience over time is a building block to resilience. Resilience is a normal part of development and is required to be able to cope with the ups and downs of life. There are some fundamentals a child needs for this normal part of development and three of these are:
- Good nutrition
- Opportunities to play indoors and outdoors
- Positive relationships
Here we will focus on the role of nutrition can have on developing resilience. We’ll share information about how good nutrition facilitates play, a healthy immune system function, and cognitive development, which help support resilience.
Play builds resilience
In order to play, learn and have the experiences a child needs to build resilience, their nutrition needs to provide enough energy. In Australia and New-Zealand it is estimated a 1 year old requires between 3200 and 3500 kilojoules of energy per day.
To ensure your child is getting enough energy for the play and learning required to build their resilience:
- Offer small and regular meals and snacks throughout the day
- Provide healthy energy-dense foods as part of a normal healthy diet such as cheese and avocado
- Consider serving a toddler milk drink to complement a normal healthy diet when intake of energy and nutrients may not be adequate
A healthy immune system function allows a child to build resilience
Nutrition in early life can influence the development of the immune system. A child with an immune system that is functioning as it should will be less likely to develop allergies and more likely to be able to fight off common childhood illnesses, allowing for more opportunities to play and experience the world. It is these experiences that build resilience for later in life.
Key nutrients to support optimal immune system function include:
- Zinc: impacts a range of immune system mediators and is a necessary nutrient for the immune system to function.Include meat, shellfish, legumes and seeds in your toddler’s diet.
- Vitamin D: required for immune system maintenance. Sunlight is the most efficient source of vitamin D. Try to get a daily walk with your toddler while being sun smart. Include vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish (salmon, tuna) and eggs in your toddler’s diet.
- Vitamin A: helps with maintaining immune function. Include vitamin A rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, cheese and butter in your toddler’s diet.
If you are concerned your toddler may not be getting enough of these essential nutrients, then toddler milk drinks can be helpful to include as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Optimal cognitive function allows a child to build resilience
The brain grows faster during the first 5 years of life than any other time. It is a critical time for cognitive development. During these early years the brain remembers all the experiences a child gains through play, touch, smell, taste and social interactions. It is these experiences that form the foundations for resilience later in life.
Iron is a critical nutrient that is known to support brain development and cognitive function. Offer iron-rich foods to your child including red meat, chicken, legumes and iron fortified foods, include these as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Aptamil Toddler is based on 40 years of research and complements a balanced dietary intake with its unique formulation. It is specifically formulated for young children, when intake of energy and nutrients may not be adequate. Aptamil Toddler contains the nutrients and energy required to nutritionally support the immune system and cognitive function in such a critical time for learning and play. The more opportunities a child has for playing, the more opportunities they have to build resilience to prepare for the future!
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