Getting a toddler to eat can be really difficult if he enjoys his meal the first day but refuses to taste it the next time. Hey mommy! Don’t get disheartened if you are tired of your toddler’s eating habits. Read to find out ten effective ways to get your baby to eat. In the end, you will also find some FAQs regarding the same.
My Toddler Won’t Eat: Ways to Get a Child to Eat
You are doing your weekly grocery shopping with all your heart, making sure you pick up healthy, tasty, and lip-smacking food items. You’re investing hours in the kitchen, planning and preparing meals for your little bub, ensuring they are delicious, nutritious, and look great. You are not too strict with the meals and let your toddler have junk and cheat meals too.
With a perfect balance of rules and leniency, you are trying to encourage good toddler eating habits in your baby but no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to be working. Well! You are not alone. A lot of mommies are in the same boat – constantly struggling and searching for how to get kids to eat.
How Strange Are Your Toddler’s Eating Habits?
While toddlers cannot really have a lot of power over their lives in the initial years, they choose to control what they eat – constantly making their parents run after them with a bowl of food. Before we even begin to expand on tips for getting a toddler to eat, let us assure you that most toddlers are picky eaters.
They have unpredictable eating habits wherein they seem to devour their meals and even overeat sometimes whereas, on some days, they are very cranky – refusing to eat almost everything offered to them. Although concerning, picky eating is a common behavior that can be corrected with some effective tips and tricks at the right age.
10 Effective Ways to Getting a Toddler to Eat
If you are eager to know how to get your toddler to eat, here are some of the most effective ways to get a child to eat and teach them to eat better and healthier.
Trust us! Some of these extreme tips to improve toddler eating habits and get kids to eat will become less extreme – the more extreme you get with implementing them!
1. Put in all your creativity
Well, you might have already tried including more colors in your baby’s diet but think again. Have you tried everything? Is this the most creative you can be? Try finding more ways to innovate your cooking and make your toddler’s food look more interesting. Do not just include more colors but bring in more shapes, textures, and even smells. Babies love creativity and exploring new forms of food is one of them.
2. Serve in Smaller Portions
One of the most effective ways of getting a toddler to eat is by starting light. Even if you think you are already serving them in the recommended, average-sized portions, serve them in even smaller portions. Offering them little encourages them to ask for more if they are interested or at least get them to eat something than nothing.
3. Offer Choices
Understand that it’s okay for toddlers to be fussy eaters. Instead of serving one meal, break it into two meals and offer choices. Toddlers feel empowered and pampered when they are given options.
- Ask them what they would choose and make them feel wanted.
- Make them realize that their opinion matters.
- Do not force them to eat what they don’t pick.
Remember that this is a gradual process wherein you can change your baby’s eating habits but you cannot aim to achieve everything at once.
4. Engage Your Child
From cooking to setting the table, engage your toddler at every point to make them more interested in their meals. Do not expect help (of course) but accidents are very likely to happen. Remember that the mess can be cleaned later but engaging your child in choosing or preparing the meals, and setting the table will encourage them to taste (and eat).
5. Eat with Them
Parents who don’t eat with their kids are more likely to have picky eaters than others. It is better to have the same meal time with your child to teach the importance of family dining at a young age. Although your meals can be different, your baby learns a lot more when you eat with them. Furthermore, it is easy for such toddlers to transition to normal meals when they grow up.
6. Excite them About Mealtime
Most of the toddlers are fussy about eating because you suddenly pick them up from their favorite games or activities and ask them to eat. Make mealtimes fun and exciting for them by telling them it will be time for food soon – before around ten to fifteen minutes so that they are mentally prepared.
7. Have a Fixed Mealtime
Toddlers have a very particular body clock and if you observe deeply, they do everything around the same time. So, set a fixed mealtime for your baby to be ready for food without you having to beg for it. Similarly, fix their place to sit so that you can instill discipline in them at the right age.
8. No Snacks Before One Hour
Although snacking is very important for toddlers, ensure that you don’t give them any snacks at least before an hour of their mealtime or else it will disturb their body clock and they won’t eat properly.
9. Teach Them Healthy Snacking
Most parents confuse snacking to be junk thus making it an integral part of their toddler’s life which they don’t want to get rid of even when they are old enough. Hence, cut back on junk, choose the snacks wisely, and offer your toddler healthy options between meals.
From cheese to yogurt, nutritional bars, whole-grain crackers, fruits, veggies, juices, and nutritious spreads, make sure their snacks keep them full until the next meal and are healthy at the same time.
However, what’s more important to know about snacking is that it should have fixed times too. Moreover, snacks should be offered in very small portions, bringing a hungry child to the table because they didn’t feel full the last time.
10. Let Your Baby Eat on His Own
Many toddlers want to eat by themselves but parents are either concerned about their safety or about the mess that they might make. This makes the babies feel frustrated and fussy about their meals. Let your toddler feed themselves and see how well they eat then. If you are worried about their safety if they are eating from the fork or spoon, just bring in some baby-safe cutlery and you’re good to go but let them practice the mechanics of eating on their own.
Mistakes to Avoid While Changing Fussy Eating Habits
Here are some of the biggest mistakes parents make while trying to feed their picky eaters:
1. Bargaining for each bite
Many parents negotiate with their kids to eat some extra bites to let them do what they want later on. This overall creates a wrong mindset about eating and creates a frivolous attitude towards food. You should rather make your baby understand why eating is important but making such deals makes them think of a challenge that they need to accomplish.
2. Not listening to the baby
Rather than forcing your child to listen to you and eat, it is equally important to pay attention to their needs. Listen to them and understand what they dislike about their food. Try to eliminate the pain points and make them more interested in eating.
3. Forcing the child to finish their plate
We understand how important it is to teach kids to finish their meals but forcing them at an age where they don’t really understand why you are asking them to make certain actions makes them crankier. Furthermore, it also develops unhealthy attitudes towards overeating later in life. So, offer them small portions and if they still have something left, ask them to finish the leftover food the next time.
4. Expecting too much
Some parents expect their toddlers to behave like adults and do as they say. And many even expect huge results when they are making an effort to encourage good eating habits straightaway. You must learn to manage your expectations and understand that your toddler is meant to make mistakes, discover new things and learn from them.
5. Inconsistent practicing
Last but not least, many parents make these mistakes all the time and one day – all of a sudden, try to implement all the tips shared above to get their toddler to eat nicely. Please understand that you need to be consistent and patient while teaching something to your toddler.
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting a Toddler to Eat
If your toddler won’t eat despite all your efforts, here are our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to picky toddler eating habits.
Why do toddlers stop eating?
One of the biggest reasons toddlers stop eating is because by refusing to eat, they somewhat practice their independence and try to control their parents. However, sometimes some medical issues or your toddler’s unique taste buds can also have an impact on their eating habits.
What do you do when your toddler won’t eat?
If your toddler doesn’t eat, don’t panic and be patient.
- Try figuring out the main cause and understanding their behavior, eating patterns, and favorite foods.
- Get creative with their meals and don’t give up.
- Demonstrate healthy eating habits and eat along with your child.
- Do not force them to eat and make them feel they need their food.
- Make them interested in their food and help them understand how they can be stronger and taller like you when they eat properly.
How to get your toddler to eat?
By following some of the proven ways to improve toddler eating habits shared above, you can encourage your toddler to eat without being too picky. However, changing a baby’s habits takes time, patience, and consistency. Don’t expect huge results in the beginning and be ready for random picky eating days. Moreover, allow them to skip a meal because they can’t stay hungry for a long time and will come back running to you for food sooner or later.
Why does my toddler refuse to eat?
Your toddler might refuse to eat if:
- They are unwilling to eat something new
- They are bored of the texture, color, or smell of their food
- They want to eat by themselves,
- Or, their food does not look very appealing
Should I punish my toddler for not eating?
Not at all. Punishing your toddler for refusing to eat can make eating a negative experience for them. It is important to teach children good habits by using calm words and actions. Punishing them leaves a bad impact on them and doesn’t really encourage them to eat properly. It rather engages them in aggressive and self-harming behavior.
How to Get a 2 Year Old to Eat?
If you are wondering how to get a 2 year old to eat, make things fun for them. Even if they cannot speak, they can easily understand your directions. Ask them to feed you and let you feed them. Most kids aged two find this a fun activity and are properly fed by the time their meal finishes.
How to Get a 3 Year Old to Eat?
Our biggest advice on how to get a 3 year old to eat would be to engage them more in grocery shopping and meal prepping. Furthermore, encourage cooking pretend play to make them more interested in “real” cooking and tasting. Ask them what they want to eat to arouse their interest and let them stay hungry for a while so that they can eventually eat the meal you prepared.
Should I talk to a doctor if my picky eating is slowing my child’s growth?
Although picky eating is just a habit and doesn’t usually take a toll on a child’s overall growth, feel free to contact your doctor if you think the development is not taking place as normal. You can also talk to a dietician or a nutritionist to get a baby diet plan as per your child’s age, nutrition requirements, and food choices to ensure healthy growth.
How can I increase my toddler’s appetite?
Here are some effective ways to increase your toddler’s appetite:
- Always give them light snacks
- Set regular snack and meal times
- Encourage them to chew properly
- Let them go hungry for a while
- Offer water half an hour before their mealtime
- Encourage them to play more so that they feel hungry and have a better appetite
We hope we helped you understand the tricks for getting a toddler to eat. If you patiently implement these tips in your baby’s routine, you are very likely to see your child transition into good eating habits soon. However, if your baby is still not eating their normal proportion of food for a significant period of time, then it’s imperative that you seek out a medical professional’s help.
Sometimes, your child may have tapeworms or any underlying disease that’s causing them to go on a hunger strike. Most of all, don’t forget to remind yourself that it is completely okay to see a picky-eating phase with kids, and being patient sorts it all gradually.