4 Tips To Help You Manage Fussy Eating In Toddler’s

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What To Do When Your Toddler Turns Into A Food Critic

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Toddlers can be fussy eaters. Even kids who feed well as infants can undergo a dramatic change in their attitude towards food around 12 months of age.

Does your toddler's fussy eating make you want to scream

Does your toddler’s fussy eating make you want to scream?

Some toddlers become hypersensitive to food textures, some develop a demanding palate, and others detest meal times because they have a fear of missing out. If you’re concerned about your toddler’s eating habits you’re not alone – a third of parents worry that their child isn’t eating enough, but keep in mind that toddlers can tell you when they’re hungry and when they’re full, and while they won’t necessarily eat to a meal schedule, they will eat when they’re hungry.

If your toddler is energetic and healthy they’re probably getting enough food, but if you’re still concerned check your child’s weight on an age and height chart.

If your toddler’s fussy eating is driving you up the wall, before you admit defeat, try these tips.

Tip #1: Develop a Routine

Try to have meals and snacks at roughly the same time each day and have a meal time routine.  Toddlers are easily distracted so turn off the TV and limit any other distractions.  Where possible, have your toddler sit and eat with the rest of the family, but if this is too distracting, sit next to your toddler and feed him or her before the rest of the family sits down to eat.  Set a time-limit for meals and explain to your child that if they don’t want to eat their meal, they won’t be able to eat again until their next meal or snack time.  In terms of portion sizes, try not to give your toddler too much food or they won’t ever get into the habit of eating everything on their plate.

Tip #2: Encourage Good Eating Habits

Introduce your child to foods with different textures, colours, and tastes from a young age. If your child is reluctant to try new things, encourage experimentations by asking your child to have at least one bite of new food. If they don’t want to eat any more than this that’s ok. Don’t force your child to eat foods they don’t like, just encourage experimentation. Toddlers are more likely to eat something new if they see you enjoying it so model enjoyment at meal times. Don’t be too concerned if your child wants to eat the same thing every day though. Encourage your toddler to try new things but if their repetitive foods are nutritious, allow them to eat what they want.

Tip #3: Avoid Rewarding Undesirable Meal Behaviours

Toddlers don’t differentiate between negative and positive parent attention – either is fine by them so long as they get lots of it.  At meal times use gentle encouragement but avoid going to huge lengths to encourage eating – if your toddler enjoys your aeroplane impersonations they may refuse to eat for an encore performance. If your toddler is playing with their food, pay no attention. Let your child know how much meal time is left and leave them to it. If your child has refused to eat their meal, don’t allow them to fill up on snacks and filling drinks (milk, smoothies) afterwards.

Tip #4: Allow Independence

Avoid power battles with your toddler at meal times. One way to do this is to let your toddler help with the preparation of the meal – they’ll be more likely to eat their meal if they’ve been involved. You can also offer meal choices, but limit choices to two or three. Don’t offer to make your toddler whatever they want to eat or it will become a game. If your toddler wants to feed themselves, let them. Cut their food into bite size pieces and allow them to try using a large spoon or their fingers.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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