Baby Development Questions
December 30, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Will a picky baby be a picky toddler? Will a baby who will eat anything be a toddler who'll eat anything? Are the two linked at all?

related: Does a baby who advances quickly developmentally indicate accelerated advancement in the future? Does delayed development (excluding the developmentally disabled) portend future developmental delays?
posted by kristymcj to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience-sample set of two-one has nothing to do with the other. My oldest, who ate gourmet as a baby-all about the rich sauces, fancy salad dressings, mango salsas, etc. now lives on kosher hot dogs and mac and cheese from the box. My youngest is still in gourmet foods at nineteen months so it remains to be seen what happens there but I'm betting that she will go the way of her sister.

Also-developmentally, at least based on what I've seen in my family-early stuff doesn't seem to relate. For instance, I was an early walker/talker/reader, but an average student. My husband is just the opposite-very behind the curve in the first three years and he's a genius. I wouldn't be surprised if, anecdotally at least, this is common.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:24 PM on December 30, 2010

Anecdotal 'no' to the second question for food. I liked plenty of foods as a baby that I didn't appreciate again until I was in my twenties (sweet potatoes, for example).

For the second question, no; different children get different skills at different rates, the developmental guidelines are just based on averages. 'Most' kids learn to do X by Y age, learn to do A by B age, etc. but there's no mental prerequisite system saying that a kid must master one thing before they can learn another.

In general, one of the major problems with IQ testing of small children, 'gifted' tracking at a young age and so on is that the groups who are 'advanced' at 3, at 5, and at 10 are largely not the same children. There are so many different skills that have to be acquired - there are kids who are clever, speak quickly, etc. but don't read until they're 8 or 9, or kids whose fine motor skills take longer - there's no evidence I'm aware of that being fast at one skill is going to make them fast at another.
posted by Lady Li at 6:25 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Experience as father of 4: the food thing was random and at some times maddening. They started out eating from the bountiful diversity of foods I set out before them, but then one day the switch gets flipped and lunch MUST be a peanut butter sandwich. I found that if I didn't freak out about it or force the issue then they would find what the like and start expanding as they got older. Nothing like a teenage boy having dinner at a girl's house to get him to expand his palette.

And I wish most parents would chill out about the developmental issue and just enjoy their kids. Unless there is a severe problem, there is so much individual variance that you should just let them be. If your kid needs acceleration when they are in school you will know. Eight years of grad school in ed psych and there was not a single outcome I could engineer; just stay child-centered, make sure both parent and child are enjoying themselves, and learn how to screen out other parents when they try to tell you how their kid was writing sonnets at the age of 6.
posted by cgk at 6:41 PM on December 30, 2010 [10 favorites]

Evolution rears its head again. As an immobile infant, survival depends on completely trusting one's primary caregivers. That means a baby eats whatever s/he is given, without question, including gourmet fare. As a toddler, however, the increased mobility means the capacity to get into a lot more trouble, including wandering off into the poisonberry patch. At this stage, survival is enhanced if one only eats a very few foods known to be safe/bland which, sadly, today consists of dreck like mac and cheese from the box.
posted by carmicha at 6:43 PM on December 30, 2010 [8 favorites]

My older daughter ate everything, with gusto, until she was about three. In the five years since, she's mainly stuck to the "white foods"--breads, pasta, chicken, dairy.

Both my kids have been average to above average in terms of development of all sorts, but like many people, I have a family full of anecdotes about uncles who didn't speak until the age of four and went on to become engineers.
posted by padraigin at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2010

Anecdote: our son ate everything and anything, including fiery curries and platefuls of broccoli and asparagus, until he was 2. Almost overnight, he switched to bland starches like bread, rice and potatoes and refuses to eat most meat and all green vegetables. Now it's oatmeal and banana for breakfast, beans on toast for lunch, and rice, pasta or noodles with eggs and whatever veges we can coax him into eating for dinner, with plenty of fruit throughout the day.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:46 PM on December 30, 2010

Based on my study of two children: a toddler whose favorite food is saag paneer will, a few years later, eat nothing but plain spaghetti. Another toddler whose favorite food has always been bland things will also, a few years later, eat nothing but plain spaghetti.

Re developmental concerns: my kids are advanced in some areas and standard in others, with a few significant delays thrown in here and there. It's a crapshoot.

I know many children with special needs and all the ones I know have areas where they're behind their peers, and areas where they excel. They might be great at electronics but not be able to tie their shoes, or have terrible social and emotional skills but genius-level IQs. You know, kind of like adults. (I don't know any children with severe physical disabilities, but presume it's the same for them as it is for everyone else.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:51 PM on December 30, 2010

It also has to do with toddlers beginning their ascent/decent into a concept of self and learning how to manipulate their environment.
posted by gjc at 7:19 PM on December 30, 2010

To sum up: children are frustrating and inscrutable. Roll with it.
posted by incessant at 7:38 PM on December 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'd be careful about food allergies. A friend of mine had a lot of food aversions that have been with her since adolescence. It frustrated her parents, and they thought it was "pickiness." When she said that the food made her mouth itch, they thought it was just psychosomatic.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 7:54 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

We have a 2.5 y.o. boy. He's been a different person every 6 months. I mean, still recognizably himself, but very different in what he likes doing, attitudes and aptitudes, development, etc. So no, it's not really predictable, or predictive.

I think cgk above has some good advice. I don't think that young kids are basically miniature and un-formed adults that have to develop and acquire latent adult skills, and pass specific milestones at specific times, otherwise they will be considered defective (and we get quite a lot of this from other parents, pre-school staff, our otherwise excellent paediatrician, etc.). They are actually different little beings with their own way of living and finding out about the world. Part of that being is to be amazed/scared/angry/happy with the world they are learning about, in their own way. This whole diagnosing/pathologizing scene of slow/advanced etc. is often ridiculous bs, IMHO.

This series of slim books is quite old but actually quite a good antidote to the massive baby and toddler manuals that you're now supposed have to have on your shelf.
posted by carter at 8:27 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

My 24 year old son, who only ate white food as a toddler, eats everything. His sister was a very adventurous baby and kid (Brave Little Taster) is pretty picky at 18. He's a super-taster for whom texture is very important, she cares a great deal about visual presentation. Both have my ADD, he was colicky, early walker--she was a shy but active kid. Nothing relates to anything. They are who they are.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:04 PM on December 30, 2010

Traveling and can't sleep, so I thought I would add two things. First off, I think the evolutionary argument is weak. The helpless infant would have been nursed to begin with, but the movement to solid food would happen within a social context -- namely the normative behavior of the parent(s) bringing food to the weaned infant, and also providing supervision that would prevent all sorts of dangerous behaviors. There is stronger evidence for evolutionary forces acting on the adults, which is why we all think babies and big eyed kittens are do darn cute. The social frame would provide more of a barrier to toddler foraging than a sudden preference for pablum. Sorry if you were kidding and I missed the point.

Second, I came across a relatively recent lit review on the subject, but can't access the full text from off site. I am including the abstract below, sorry that I don't know how to fancy format it here on the green. Looks like it would be a fun read, apparently I can blame my mother for my preference for highly palatable junk food.

Harris, G. (2008). Development of taste and food preferences in children. Current Opinion In Clinical Nutrition And Metabolic Care, 11(3), 315-319.

Purpose Of Review
: There are concerns about the rising incidence of obesity in children and their acceptance of healthy foods. Many factors affect children's food acceptance, the most salient are those enabling early exposure to culturally appropriate foods in the weaning or pre-weaning period. Parents, however, have always observed individual differences in children's willingness to take new foods. This review looks at studies that encompass both exposure to and genetic determinants of food acceptance.,
Recent Findings: Children's willingness to take new foods and accept specific foods has strong-to-moderate heritability. This inherited willingness is moderated by cultural differences in early exposure to both the taste and texture of foods, giving rise to different patterns of food acceptance. Breast-feeding not only confers an advantage in food and taste acceptance but may also give rise to a preference for highly palatable 'junk food'. Modelling and flavour-conditioning may also contribute to food acceptance, whereas coaxing a child to eat may impact negatively on the intake of food. Children of obese mothers, however, react to prompting by overeating rather than food refusal. This may indicate another area where food acceptance is genetically determined.,
Summary: Health intervention programmes that aim to promote a healthy diet in children should start at the weaning and, to a lesser extent, the pre-weaning stage, and target maternal diet for optimal effectiveness.
posted by cgk at 9:10 PM on December 30, 2010

Meanwhile, on The Blue.
posted by cgk at 9:26 PM on December 30, 2010

I was picky from a young age until about uh... age 20. That was the point where (a) I got fed up with the hassle that is being picky, and (b) had a boyfriend whose favorite food was sushi, and not giving in to the sushi was becoming awkward. Now I'm way over that.

I don't think this is really predictable from a young age.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:18 AM on December 31, 2010

Kids grow and develop separate from you in all things, ideas and appetites included. "It's a phase," is an excellent and useful parenting mantra.

I had a kid who grew up sleeping on the banquettes of our sophisticated restaurants; didn't taste junk food until she went to high school and was on the receiving end of serious cooking her whole life. You have to see her plow through a bag of Doritos and push veggies around on her plate -- I could swear she was raised elsewhere.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:28 AM on December 31, 2010

Heh, I cannot wait until our 2yo decides he's willing to try something other than pizza and chicken dinosaurs. He's just terribly *suspicious* of new foods. No amount of cajoling convinces him to step outside his food boundaries. Hell, even fun stuff like cookies or chocolate took some serious convincing for his first tries. Meanwhile he'll gobble up just about any kind of fruit. That and the juicer machine works wonders for sneaking a fair bit of veggies into his diet. But he's making his weight and is healthy. So we're just biding time until he decides to broaden his palate a bit more.
posted by wkearney99 at 7:28 PM on January 1, 2011

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