I was quite naïve when my husband and I started solids with our first child. He loved everything! Sweet potatoes, avocado, green beans. We could put almost anything in front of him and he would eat it up!
I thought we had one of those kids who would never be picky with food. Weren’t we lucky!
Boy, was I wrong.
Once our son was about twenty months, something changed. Were his taste buds developing? Was he trying to assert his independence? Was he seeking attention? Maybe he was sick of the foods we’re giving him.
Our quiet breakfasts and pleasant dinners had turned into daily battles. If it wasn’t certain fruits, dairy, or carbs in front of him, our son would down right refuse to eat.
In my head, I knew this was a phase and I knew he wouldn’t starve. And thankfully it was.
Our now four year old isn’t a perfect eater, but when we’re able to get through a meal without me become a short-order cook and without tears, I call that a win!
Here are some tips and tricks I used with our toddler during our meal madness.
Roll the Dice
The former teacher in me loves incorporate learning into everything we do, and if it gets my toddler to eat, it’s even better! Just take a dice (I found these foam dice that are quiet!) and have your child roll. I have him roll it a lid so it doesn’t go all over the table. Roll a 4? Four bites please! Roll a 1? Just one bite tonight! I also love how it incorporates counting and early number sense.
Is your toddler getting bored with the same old pancake or sandwich? Grab some cookie cutters and make them into a new shape! It’s amazing how my 4 year old is suddenly interested in his the PB&J sandwich he had three times a week when it’s in the shape of a star, heart, or garbage truck! Though he would eat almost anything if I could cut it in the shape of a garbage truck…
Eat Your Age
My mom used to do this with us and I’ve done it with my kids too. You take so many bites depending on how old you are. Two? Great, two bites of green beans please. Four? Four bites of chicken. Simple and to the point. Now, once they hit six or so, you may need a new strategy (not sure how a tween would respond to, “Twelve bites of Brussels sprouts, please,” but for the littles, it works well for us.
Taste the Rainbow
You’ve probably heard “eat your colors” and I totally agree with this! But I sometimes make everything on the plate the same color to mix it up! It catches my toddler off guard and gets him excited about his food. When I began doing this, he liked to guess what tomorrow’s “color” was going to be. I don’t do this often, but it’s always fun when we do!
Change the Utensils
I noticed that when we go to the farmer’ market, my four-year old is always up for trying all the samples! But when I would bring the same veggies home, he would refuse to eat them. What gives? Then I thought about how he ate them at the farmer’s market versus at home. Toothpicks. The next time I gave him some vegetables, I cut them and let him use a toothpick to eat them. He thought it was the coolest thing! We’ve also used kabob skewers and they were a hit too! Note: when he uses toothpicks or skewers he is highly supervised! You could also try chop sticks, “picnic utensils” (plastic fork and spoon), or simply letting your child use the larger, adult utensils (or vice versa if they are already using regular spoons and forks, let them try the smaller ones).
Take a Dip!
Maybe it’s just me, but I love sauces, dips, spreads, and salsas with my meals. I’ve noticed that if I add a dip to my children’s food, it is instantly appetizing. Our favorites include:
-hummus with raw veggies
-Greek yogurt and berries
-Balsamic glaze with roasted vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)
-Peanut butter with apples and celery
And if none of these work, ketchup and ranch make everything better, right?
Hopefully, your child’s picky eating habits are just a phase and will pass soon. It is a frustrating time for both parents and toddlers. With any luck these tips will make getting your toddler to eat a little more enjoyable for everyone!