They learn something new every day, and are ever inventive in their tactics to
avoid doing what they don’t want.
Managing mealtimes can be particularly frustrating especially if you haven’t learnt the cardinal rule:-
Accept that you will never win a fight with a toddler !
5 Tips for Managing a Fussy Toddler
1. Offer a choice. Do you want A or B. Not ‘What do you want?’
2. Start the meal with something he likes (small cracker, piece of fruit ) to
entice him to the table.
3. Get him to partly prepare the food.
a. Sprinkle the cheese on the pasta,
b. Pour the milk on the cereal (pre-poured small amount in a jug )
c. Can you cut the banana for me (with a pate or kids knife)
4. Talk about what you are doing for the day so you are less focused on
5. Don’t nag. Set a time limit for the meal 15-20mins max and just say ‘Five
minutes then dinner’s finished!’ and remove the plate.
Toddlers Go Through Stages of Food Refusal
Neophobia (fear of new foods) is common at this age. It can take more than 10
exposures to a food before it is accepted, so if they don't like it, just try offering the
food again another day.
Let your child have some control by granting their simple preferences eg. the shape of
their sandwich, no crusts on their bread, what shaped pasta they would like with the
bolognese or casserole.
Involving them in meal preparation may make them more interested in the meal to be
served. Even if not immediately.
Fads are common! Your toddler may like a food one week and dislike it the next. It
is usually just a stage and easier to go along with than fight.
They often have so many fads that in the end, they have quite a varied diet anyway.
Just continue offering a variety of foods.
Remember that it is the food over the week to look at not an individual meal.
Vary the foods they do like, because children are more likely to eat foods that they
are familiar with eg. same sandwich everyday.
Add some grated cheese or meat slices to the side of the sandwich; or ¼ of the
sandwich with the new item.
The idea is to disguise, not trick!
Add small gratings of vegetables into their rissoles/meatballs/lasagne/bolognaise
Check out Vegie Smugglers book website and Facebook.
Serve the family meal and if they won’t eat this (or parts of it) take the meal away
(after several attempts to encourage).
Say things like ‘it’s a shame you weren’t hungry, that was such nice food’ as you
take their plate away, rather than getting mad at them.
Your child won’t starve and will soon learn to that if they feel hungry they need to tell
If they ask for food at non-meal times then offer a choice (of small item you are
happy for them to have eg. a rice cracker or a strawberry), but then they have to watt
Or just say ‘not yet it is nearly dinner time’.
Be a Good Role Model
Children tend to watch and imitate others.
Do you sit down to eat, or eat in front of TV?
Do you have any meals as a family? Hard if parents work late hours, but try even if
just once at the weekend.
If either parent is a fussy eater then try to avoid negative remarks about food in
front of the toddler.
But it’s OK to say ‘dad doesn’t like chicken but he loves lamb chops!’
If you set a good example when you eat, they are likely to follow.
Do you and your child need further assistance?
If you would like to speak to me directly about these issues, feel free to call in or book an appointment here.