Encouraging a toddler to eat a full meal can be tricky and messy! Read our best tips and tricks.
- Don’t forget that your toddler has a small stomach – about the size of their fist – and so they will know when they’ve had enough to eat.
- Always offer a range of nutritious food.
- Ban unhealthy snack foods from the house – that way, you’ll never be tempted to give them to your toddler.
- Avoid cordials and too much fruit juice as these are high in sugar and take away the appetite for other foods.
- If your child says they are thirsty just before they eat, offer water only.
- Encourage your child to help prepare the meal. There is almost always a small task that can be managed by a child – setting the table, getting food from the fridge for you, adding ingredients to a bowl. Save peeling, grating and cutting until they know how to handle kitchen implements properly.
- Don’t serve your child too much food – it’s better to have them ask for more if they are still hungry than have them sit face-to-face with a mountain of uneaten food on the plate.
- Don’t use dessert as a bribe to eat the rest of the meal – it rarely works and can often lead to more resistance over dinner.
- Invite one of your child’s friends over for a meal. The feeling of festivity at the table often encourages a fussy eater to eat.
- If your toddler rejects everything you put on the plate, try placing all the meal’s food on communal plates in the centre of the table and encourage them to serve themself.
- If your toddler is too tired to eat at dinner time, try giving them most of their dinner for afternoon tea and then offer a light supper when you eat later.
- ‘Picnic food’ is sometimes a nice substitute for a meal at the table. Try offering cold meats, bread, raw veggies (grated) and salad on a mixed plate – but don’t stress if it’s not all eaten.
- Don’t force your toddler to eat. You could cause them to choke – it’s almost impossible to chew and swallow if you’re crying – and may make them tense about eating.
Your child is born instinctively knowing how much food they need so they won’t usually overeat. However they can easily lose this skill. If they are always pushed to eat more than they want or is encouraged to finish everything on the plate, they may learn to ignore the body’s messages when they’ve had enough to eat. This can lead to weight problems later.
It’s going to be messy!
Learning to feed themself will be a messy business for your toddler. Let them have fun with their food because the more practice they get doing it for themself, the quicker they will master the skills.
This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot.