Meal times should be enjoyable for you and your toddler. Yet they can easily turn into battlegrounds if your toddler doesn’t eat what you provide, doesn’t sit still at the table or complains that the food doesn’t taste nice. Between the ages of one and three your toddler will be experiencing an amazing period of growth and development, so it is important that they receive all the extra nutrients needed to support this. This can seem a hard task, especially if your toddler is being fussy, so here are some suggestions to help you make meal times with your toddler successful.
Your Toddler’s Perspective
The first stage in making meal times better for your toddler is to look at it from their point of view. Consider the following points:
- The dinner table should be set in pleasant surroundings with as few distractions as possible. Uncomfortable chairs, the wrong cutlery size and a television set blaring in the background does not create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.
- Stress-free. If you arrive at the table in a state of tension because last night you and your toddler had a battle over food, a peaceful meal time is unlikely to happen. No matter what has happened previously, approach meal times in a positive frame of mind. Believe that this time all will go well at the table.
- Young children can be very particular about the texture of the food they eat. It’s not that your toddler deliberately tries to ruin your dinner plans, they just may need a little time to get used to unfamiliar textures. Some little ones may struggle with lumps in some foods, such as fruit pieces in yoghurt, and also more slimy textures, such as mushrooms. Try changing the texture slowly and subtly, chopping it into slightly larger pieces over time.
- Be mindful that adults are more accustomed than toddlers to salty and spicy foods. Your child may be wary of new tastes, and might reject your newest culinary creation or reject foods one day that they accepted the previous day. Give your toddler time to adapt to new tastes and experiment with new types of foods and vegetables that are rich in key vitamins and nutrients. To encourage your little ones, get them to try a variety of flavours and persevere, continue to reoffer foods on different days but don’t force your toddler to eat the foods if they do not want to.
- Avoid over-reacting. If you make a fuss every time your toddler doesn’t finish a meal, they will quickly learn that messing about at meal times is a great way to gain your attention. So stay calm and gently encourage your toddler to eat. Toddlers will stop eating when full so don’t be upset if they don’t eat all the food, but calmly take any excess away.
Toddlerhood is an amazing period of growth and development for your child. During this time aim for steady, gradual progress at meal times. Increase the range of foods your toddler eats by gently introducing and offering new textures and tastes each day. Offering a variety of single tastes each day, and repeating this regularly, will help little ones become used to and accept the taste of unfamiliar foods.
Most importantly, make sure to sit with your toddler during meal times. Your company while eating – even if you don’t eat anything yourself at that time – makes the whole eating experience more enjoyable for them. Chat to your toddler throughout the meal and do your best to give them your complete attention at that time. You’ll then find that your child spends less time complaining about the food because they are having such a good time.