Temperament Trait: Regularity
This is all about how much routine your child needs. Can you set your watch by her, or does she have only a few consistent patterns?
- More predictable: Kids who like regular routines eat better and exercise more when meals, snacks, and physical activities are scheduled. Think about signing up a child with this trait for a swim class or regular team sport.
- Less predictable: These kids also need regular meal routines, says Rose-Kayser. But they may also need between-meal snacks. And they may also be unpredictable with portions, eating more or less from one meal to the next. Kids are generally pretty good at self-regulating their food intake, so if your child is healthy and following the normal growth patterns according to his doctor, don't worry about how much he is eating every day. To help kids with this trait exercise more, encourage spontaneous free-form play instead of regularly scheduled activities, which may bore them over time.
Temperament Trait: Intensity
This refers to your child's emotional energy. Is she mellow, or does she react strongly (negatively or positively) to situations?
- Mellow: Kids who are more mellow tend to be low-key in their response to new foods and activities, Rose-Kayser says, so it may be more difficult to know what they like. When in doubt, ask.
- Emotionally energetic: Help kids with this trait eat better and exercise more by offering them lots of choices. Because this child's interests may change quickly, expose her often to new foods (without pressure) and provide positive reinforcement for even her small efforts of trying or tasting new foods, Welsch suggests. Try serving food in fun ways: Cut vegetables or sandwiches into silly shapes, offer dipping sauces, or serve foods on cool plates. And give her choices of physical activity (bike ride? neighborhood walk? team sport?), multiple exposures to new activities, and lots of positive reinforcement.
Temperament Trait: Approach/Withdrawal
This refers to your child's first response to new people, situation, foods, or other changes. Is he quick to check them out? Or does he shy away from new things?
- Approaches quickly: This child may naturally enjoy trying new foods and sports.
- Hesitant: A child who holds back needs more encouragement to try new things. He's also more likely to try something new when he knows what to expect, Rose-Kayser says. Try offering a new food three or four times, or asking him to help make dinner. He will probably prefer physical activities at home, in a small group, or with friends he knows, Rose-Kayser says. This child may require a bit more patience from you -- it may take more than a dozen tries before he likes a new food.