Tips For Feeding Picky Toddlers
Do you have a picky toddler who is constantly turning up their nose at mealtime? If so, don’t worry – you are not alone! Feeding picky toddlers can be challenging, but you can make it easier with the right tips and tricks. In this blog post, we will provide you with 10 easy tips for feeding picky toddlers that are sure to get your little one interested in their meals. With these tips for feeding picky toddlers, you can make mealtimes more accessible and even more enjoyable.
1. Include at Least One Food They Like at Every Meal
As parents, we want to ensure our kids eat a balanced diet. However, when dealing with a picky toddler, getting them to eat anything other than their favorite foods can be challenging. To combat this, try including at least one food they enjoy every meal. Out of all the tips for feeding picky toddlers, this is my favorite one. This will help ensure they’re getting some nutrition while also allowing them to feel like they have some control over what they’re eating.
The key is to make sure they have some familiarity and comfort with what’s on their plate but also offer some variety. For example, if your child loves mac and cheese, pair it with steamed broccoli or carrots. If they enjoy fruit, include a small side of strawberries or blueberries with their toast in the morning. Over time, they may become more open to trying new foods, especially if they’re offered alongside their favorites.
Remember, every child is different and has unique tastes and preferences. It’s important not to force them to eat things they don’t like, as this can create a negative association with food. Keep offering various options, including some they enjoy, and be patient. With a little bit of creativity and consistency, you can help your picky toddler develop a healthier relationship with food.
2. Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of it if They Don’t Eat Everything
It can be frustrating when your picky eater refuses to try new foods or won’t finish their plate. However, it’s important not to make a big deal out of it if they don’t eat everything you’ve prepared for them. This can create unnecessary stress and tension at mealtime, which can make the problem worse.
Instead, remain calm and neutral. Simply take away their plate and don’t offer them any snacks until the next meal. Don’t try to force them to eat or beg them to finish their meal. This will only reinforce negative associations with food and mealtime.
Remember, it can take many attempts before a child is willing to try new food. It’s also important to respect your child’s preferences and tastes. If they genuinely don’t like a particular food, don’t force them to eat it. Offer a variety of healthy options and encourage them to try new things, but don’t pressure them.
Creating a relaxed and positive mealtime environment can help encourage your picky eater to try new foods and develop healthy eating habits. Don’t stress over every meal, and don’t make it a power struggle. Focus on creating a positive and enjoyable mealtime experience for everyone.
3. Let Them Help With Meal Prep
Getting your picky toddler involved in meal prep can be a fun way to introduce them to new foods. When they help with meal prep, they’re more likely to feel invested in what they’re eating and willing to try new things. Plus, it’s a great way to spend quality time together and teach them valuable life skills.
Start by letting them help you with simple tasks like stirring, pouring, or measuring ingredients. You can also let them pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmers’ market. They might surprise you by choosing something new that they’re willing to try.
Another idea is to set up a mini kitchen station just for them. Give them their own set of child-sized utensils and let them create their own mini meals. This could be something as simple as a yogurt parfait, a sandwich, or even something more elaborate like a pizza or salad.
4. Get Creative With Their Favorite Foods
One of the easiest ways to get a picky toddler to eat is by getting creative with their favorite foods. Think of different ways you can serve their favorite meals or add extra ingredients to make it more exciting.
For example, if your toddler loves mac and cheese, add some peas or broccoli to the dish for extra nutrients. You could also use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of their sandwiches or quesadillas.
Another great idea is to try different dips or sauces to serve with their favorite foods. Kids love dipping things, so try hummus, ranch dressing, or even ketchup with their veggies or chicken fingers.
You can also get creative with the presentation. Use colorful plates and utensils, and arrange the food in fun shapes or patterns. This may entice them to try new things and make mealtime more exciting.
5. Give Them a Choice
One great way to get picky toddlers to eat more is by giving them a choice. Rather than forcing them to eat a certain food, offer them two options and let them choose which one they prefer. For example, you might offer them a choice between broccoli or carrots as a side dish with their dinner.
This gives toddlers a sense of control and can make them more willing to try new foods. Just be sure to choose options that you are okay with them choosing, and try to make the options relatively equal in terms of nutrition.
Another way to give toddlers a choice is by allowing them to choose how they want their food prepared. For example, you might ask if they want their chicken baked or grilled or if they want their carrots roasted or boiled. This can also make mealtime more fun and engaging for picky eaters.
Overall, giving toddlers a choice can be a helpful way to get them more interested in food and more willing to try new things. It can take some extra time and effort on your part, but it can make a big difference in their eating habits.
6. Let Them Play With Their Food
As much as it may make you cringe, letting your picky toddler play with their food can actually help them become more interested in it. Toddlers love to explore their world through their senses, including touch and taste. They can become more familiar with its texture and flavor by allowing them to play with their food.
Introducing dips and sauces is an easy way to encourage playing with food. Whether it’s hummus, ranch dressing, or tomato sauce, dipping allows toddlers to experiment with different tastes and textures. Encourage them to dip vegetables, fruit, or even crackers and bread.
Another fun idea is to create “food art” on their plate. Use different foods to make smiley faces, animals, or patterns. This can be a fun activity for both you and your toddler and may spark their interest in trying new foods.
Remember, it’s important to set boundaries and ensure that the food is not being wasted. But by letting your picky eater play with their food, they may become more adventurous and curious about what’s on their plate.
7. Try New Things
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to feeding picky toddlers is introducing them to new foods. However, it’s important to keep trying and exposing them to a variety of foods, even if they initially reject them.
One effective approach is to start small and gradually introduce new foods. For example, if your toddler loves chicken nuggets, try serving them with a side of steamed broccoli or sweet potato fries. They may initially resist, but eventually, they may come around to the idea.
Another tip is to involve them in the decision-making process. Take them grocery shopping and let them choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. Make it a fun activity and allow them to touch, smell, and taste different foods.
Finally, it’s important to keep offering new foods regularly. Studies have shown that it can take up to 15 tries before a child will accept a new food. Don’t get discouraged if they reject it the first few times. Keep offering it in different ways; eventually, they may come around to it.
8. Reward Good Behavior
As parents, it’s natural to want to reward good behavior, but we should be mindful of how we do it when feeding picky toddlers. Rewarding food can lead to unhealthy eating habits and overeating, which we want to avoid. Instead, we can reward good behavior with non-food items such as stickers, a special toy or activity, or extra screen time.
For example, if your toddler tries a new food or eats a good amount of their meal, give them a sticker or a small toy they’ve been wanting. You can also praise them with words, like saying, “Great job trying that new vegetable!”
Another way to encourage good behavior is by setting a positive tone at the table. Keep mealtimes relaxed and enjoyable, and avoid making negative comments about the food or their eating habits. If your child sees mealtime as a pleasant experience, they will be more likely to continue trying new foods and eating well.
Rewarding good behavior is a great way to encourage your picky eater to try new foods and develop healthy eating habits. Just remember to do it in a way that doesn’t involve food and keeps the tone positive and relaxed at the table.
9. Avoid Using Food as a Punishment
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to feeding their picky toddlers is using food as a punishment. This could include not letting them have dessert or treats if they don’t finish their vegetables or not allowing them to have snacks if they don’t eat their lunch.
This is not only a negative way to approach mealtime, but it can also create unhealthy associations with food for your child. They may begin to view certain foods as a chore or something they have to force themselves to eat in order to get a reward. This can lead to disordered eating habits and a negative relationship with food in the future.
Instead, try to approach food in a positive way. Encourage your child to try new foods and praise them for their efforts, even if they don’t end up liking the food. Make mealtime a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone at the table. By creating a positive atmosphere, your child may be more open to trying new foods and developing a healthier relationship with food.
It’s also important to note that food should never be used as a punishment for misbehavior. This can lead to emotional eating and other negative behaviors surrounding food. Instead, find other ways to discipline your child and separate mealtime from behavior issues.
10. Avoid Bribery
It can be tempting to offer rewards or treats in exchange for your picky toddler eating their meal, but this is not a good habit to get into. It can create a negative relationship with food and set up a pattern of only eating when there’s a reward involved. Instead, focus on creating a positive and relaxed mealtime environment and encourage your toddler to try new foods without the pressure of receiving a reward. Remember, eating a variety of healthy foods is its own reward and will benefit your child’s growth and development in the long run.