We all love toddlers right? Those cute little cubby cheeks, those tiny little hands, the way they INSIST on putting their wellie boots on in the middle of summer to go to the beach…on the wrong feet…the way they slobber you in kisses and wave ‘bye bye’. SO cute! Blowing raspberries to tell you they don’t like food…adorable! The way they scream when you don’t give them EXACTLY what they want…hmm, less cute? What about that shoving food away? Hurling it across the room? Followed by a fork that narrowly misses your head? (Thank goodness for plastic forks!) Know what I’m talking about? The ups and downs of toddlers. Remember those days when your contented little baby sat and happily ate anything you put in front of them? Gone? Now it’s plain pasta…if you’re lucky accompanied by a cacophony of screeches and complaints.
Why are toddlers such fussy eaters?
The words ‘fussy eater’ and toddlers go hand in hand. OK, not all toddlers are fussy, but it’s not unusual for them reject previously loved foods. Being a toddler is difficult. They are beginning to communicate in more sophisticated ways, learning to speak, learning what they want. But somehow, parents aren’t really paying attention. They like things that are familiar and they are wary of strange and new things, be they people or food. It’s a tricky time for everyone, not least of all parents who want to avoid ‘melt down’ that can be provoked by the smallest of insult. Like giving them a biscuit.
What can I do to help my fussy toddler?
- Have a regular snack and meal routine.
- Sit down to snacks and meals at a table as often as you can.
- Offer healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurt rather than ‘convenience food’.
- Offer them healthy food and let them choose.
- Relax! (I know, easier said than done)
- Don’t pressurise them into eating…it doesn’t work and just makes everyone stressed.
- Offer as much variety as possible…I know they won’t always eat it, but if you don’t offerit, they DEFINITELY won’t eat it.
- Try family meals – I know they can be stressful (it doesn’t have to be every meal) but it does help them eat better in the long run.
Help your toddler to develop healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating is really important but it’s all about developing habits. Think of it as learning to ride a bike. Your toddlers haven’t leant yet! So yes it is great if they eat a whole piece broccoli, but don’t worry if they don’t. (Unless of course you’re worried that they have a medical problem or aren’t growing…but most picky eaters eat enough of each food group. If you’re worried, go to your doctor.) What you want is that by the time they’re choosing for themselves, they choose the healthy stuff, or at least enough of the healthy stuff. So keep working on it and don’t loose heart on those days when they seem to just eat pasta and bread!
Dr Orlena Kerek is a paediatric doctor and mother of 4 young children (who mostly eat their vegetables…but not always. She lives in Spain and writes about child health and children eating healthily at snotty-noses.com. P.S. If you want some more tips…sign up to her newsletter to get your free copy of 30 Tips to get your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables.