Encouraging your toddler to eat

  • Don’t forget that your toddler has a small stomach – about the size of her fist – and she will know when she’s 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 she’s thirsty just before she eats, offer her 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 she knows how to handle kitchen implements properly.
  • Don’t serve your child too much food – it’s better to have her ask for more if she’s still hungry than have her sit face-to-face with a mountain of uneaten food on her 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 her plate, try placing all the meal’s food on communal plates in the centre of the table and encourage her to serve herself.
  • If your toddler is too tired to eat at dinner time, try giving her most of her dinner for afternoon tea and then offer her 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 her to choke – it’s almost impossible to chew and swallow if you’re crying – and may make her tense about eating.


Your child is born instinctively knowing how much food she needs and she won’t usually overeat. However she can easily lose this skill. If she’s always pushed to eat more than she wants or is encouraged to finish everything on the plate, she may learn to ignore her body’s messages when she’s had enough to eat. This can lead to weight problems later.


Learning to feed herself will be a messy business for your toddler. Let her have fun with her food because the more practice she gets doing it for herself, the quicker she’ll master the skills.


This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot.

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