If you have a toddler who eats like a champ, congratulations! You must be Wonder Woman. For the rest of us poor mamas out here struggling to get our toddlers to eat something other than goldfish and graham crackers three times a day, trust me, you are not alone.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember six-ish months ago when I could put anything in front of my son and he would scarf it down in a second. I got cocky and took it for granted. I started thinking he was different than other toddlers and that he would always be a great eater! Then Karma rolled around as she always does…and peaceful mealtimes quickly became a thing of the past.
It’s no secret that kids go through regression when it comes to eating. They may start out strong (if you’re lucky you’ll get a few good months in where they will eat pretty much anything), but you can be certain that goldfish and graham crackers are right around the corner (or whatever their favorite is, we’ll just call it “cake”). As a mom, we worry about our kids health! We want them to have a solid intake of veggies, fruits, and protein. They need it to grow and develop, and these early years are very important in creating good eating habits to nurture both mind and body.
So what do you do with a toddler that just won’t eat? Who throws everything that you put on their plate (and maybe the plate too)? Do you let them starve until they will eat what’s before them, or do you give in to whatever “cake” they want just to get something in them? I don’t have the magic answer for this and I don’t believe there is one, but here are some things that have helped make mealtimes at our house a little more successful.
Utensils - Spoons and forks can be an exciting challenge for toddlers and make them more likely to eat food when using them.
Let them help pick out their food - Give them choices that YOU approve of and let them pick. For my son, we even let him carry his “pick” to his chair and then sit him down to eat it.
Family meal time - This is one I’ll admit we struggle with, but sitting down together as a family is not only important family time but also provides a better chance for your toddler to imitate and eat with you.
Feed them what you are having - Let them try your food, even if small amounts. Again, toddlers love to copy what they see. If mom is eating it, it must be good, right?
Small portions and variety - Give them small portions of a few different foods. You can always add to their plate once you see which foods they are actually eating.
Save milk for last - Don't let them fill up on milk until you have attempted food first.
Praise and reward - Let them know you are proud of them when they do eat, toddlers thrive off positive reinforcement. And if they do particularly well, you can always reward with that “cake”.
These tips probably won’t solve your mealtime drama, but they will help (at least they have in our house). Every toddler is different! Every child requires their own parenting technique. And when you are feeling stressed and worried about a lack of nutrition in their diet, just remember that this isn’t new. Kids always go through this stage, and in the end they turn out just fine.
If you have suggestions for mealtimes that work at your house please share below in the comments section. And if you try some of the above and have success, please share that as well! I would love to hear your thoughts.