Has feeding your toddler become a chore? Don’t worry, even those with the best little eaters know the delicate dance of persuasion sometimes used to get children to eat. If mealtime has become frustrating, here are some of my favorite tips. For those of you looking for suggestions for the 5 and 6-year-old set, these tips were not directly written for them but may apply. Often times, a good little eater can become a temperamental eater when entering school.
they’re real people
The most important tip I can give parents or caregivers is to remember that children are people too. I know the statement sounds a bit silly, but I can’t tell you how often I have watched children being served food without seasoning, or something that looks more like a dried up hockey puck than food. Little ones crave good food, variety, seasoning and a bit of interest in the meals they eat.
Some children may be indifferent and others thrilled with frequent repetition in their meals, but most will want variety. If meal time becomes boring, one may find their toddler increasingly resistant to eat.
Children are children… fun elements may entice toddlers to eat meals they might not normally be inclined to eat. For instance, I love to serve my children meals or snacks in ice-cube trays. The little compartments excite toddlers. After a number of years using this trick, my 5-year-old still thinks it’s cute and often requests the vessel. Presenting food in an ice-cube tray also provides a container that sparks ideas of variety.
I frequently fill the tray with fruit and nuts, but I also serve goats yogurt, sandwiches, hummus with veggies or pita bread to dunk, and salads.
Not only do I use the trays for everyday meals, but it’s a go-to for kid’s parties. You’d be surprised how excited young children can be to get a sampler of healthy food.
Most children are not persuaded when pressured. So, unless your child has severe issues, medical or otherwise, with their diet I would air on the side of positivity when trying to convince any toddler to eat. Never show extreme displeasure. If a war is what is presented, most children will oblige. Here are some positive tactics that work with most toddlers…
- *Star charts can be very successful in encouraging little ones to eat their meals or an “undesirable” food. If you have tried a star chart before and found your toddler resistant or defiant in completing the tasks or behavioral requirements, I suggest sneaking a few extra stars on the chart in the first few days. Once a child has received positive feedback, they usually flourish using the chart.
- Don’t reward with sweets. I find that rewarding with confection only reinforces in a child’s mind that healthy food is less attractive than sugar. We are trying to promote healthfulness, not just manners when we insist out children eat.
- Be consistent with the types of meals you serve. As children age, you’ll find that many will hold out for the next meal if they find displeasure with the one they are served.
- We all have food preferences. I let my children know that it is perfectly acceptable to dislike some food, but that they shouldn’t be dissuaded by eating most things.
*The star chart should include any number of tasks or behavioral expectations you have for your child. You can have a small daily prize, weekly or monthly. I like to reward with activities, such as going to a baseball game, getting a manicure and pedicure etc…