If you have toddlers, you know how hard it is sometimes to get them to eat! Meal time is rarely a quiet, relaxing experience with toddlers in the house. With these tips, however, you may be able to coax your toddler into cooperating with you long enough to eat.
1 – Schedule regular meal times for your toddler. Toddlers function much better when they eat at regular times. They learn to expect when they are going to eat and will better transition into meal time.
2 – Sit down with your toddler to eat. If your toddler is having a meal at a different time from the rest of your family, still sit down with him or her to eat. My toddlers put much more energy into concentrating on what they are supposed to be doing if I’m sitting there with them. They enjoy my company and it makes meal time more pleasant for them to have me to talk to (they also fight with each other less).
3 – Don’t regularly feed your toddler foods you know he doesn’t like. It’s good to try to introduce new foods to your child, but do so slowly. If your child doesn’t like something, wait awhile to try to feed it to him again. Meal times are hard enough as it is without trying to force your toddler to eat something he doesn’t like.
4 – Don’t be afraid to let your toddler regularly eat the same foods. If you find something your toddler especially likes to eat, don’t be afraid to serve it often. My toddlers have several lunches that they enjoy, so I alternate those lunches so that they are eating the same foods, but not every day. Often toddlers get into a rut where they want to eat the same things all the time. This is fine, you can still slowly introduce other foods until they acquire a taste for them.
5 – To make sure your toddler is hungry at meal time, don’t let him have too much to drink or have a snack too close to meal time. It’s easy to lose track of time and not notice it’s almost time for dinner when they’re begging for a snack. If they’re hungry they’re much more likely to eat their dinner.
6 – If your toddler starts messing around at the table and playing with food or trying to get down from the table, tell him you will take his food away if he doesn’t settle down–and mean it! If he’s hungry he’ll settle down in a hurry.
7 – Having a hard time getting your toddler to drink milk? Limit how much chocolate milk he drinks so that he doesn’t have anything to compare the milk to. At this age chocolate milk isn’t really necessary and they won’t miss it if they don’t have it. I serve my toddlers milk for every meal, and they know they are supposed to drink milk when they sit down at the table. They get watered down juice for snacks and water in bed.
8 – No matter how messy it is, let your toddler feed himself. Of course I don’t feed my toddlers really messy foods, but it is a good idea to let your toddler feed himself as much as possible. It makes them be more interested in eating if they get to using their own spoon or fork. I’ve tried using toddler spoons and forks, and they worked for awhile, but my boys now want to use mommy’s spoon and fork. Give your toddler foods in a variety of shapes and textures to experiment with. You’ll be surprised at how fast they learn to feed themselves!
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What’s for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, organizing tips, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking.