Feeding toddlers can be stressful and messy. Learn some simple feeding strategies to get your toddler to try new foods while making family mealtime fun.
When I get together with friends who parent toddlers, sure enough, we always end up talking about food. Which is a highly emotional topic for a lot of people in charge of feeding toddlers. Feeding toddlers is HARD. And by hard I mean it takes plenty of patience. Something I run short on [just ask my mother, husband, a neighbor with the annoying dog, etc.]
I’m the first to admit I have my struggles with feeding my toddler, mainly because he’s super messy and his preference for food seems to be very hot and cold. One minute my little foodie is eating everything in sight. The next minute he’s throwing food across the room to see how fast Mom can run.
I know I’m not alone in the struggle for feeding toddlers. And because I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as too much advice when it comes to feeding these picky little human beings, I’m here to share what toddler feeding tips are work for us right now. There are probably many more tips beyond 7. But this is what’s working in my kitchen and dining room table. It could likely change next week!
7 Stress-Free Tips for Feeding Toddlers
- Follow your toddler’s hunger cues. Do you notice there’s a meal or time of day when your toddler seems really hungry? I do! Joey always eats a BIG breakfast. This means that I need to prep breakfast ahead of time— because when he wakes up he’s asking for food ASAP! Usually, on the weekend I’ll prep Egg and Toast Cups and 5 ingredient blender pancakes. I’ll also make sure our fridge is stocked with fruits and veggies and yogurt for smoothies.
- Get your toddler in the kitchen cooking! Or at least observing what you, the head chef, are doing. I talk to Joey about the foods I am chopping and stirring, as well as their color, shape, and texture. I also let him taste-test a food or two. Mind you this isn’t the scene at every meal. But once or twice a week I make a conscious effort to get him in the kitchen with me!
3. Serve something new with an old favorite. My full-proof tip for getting Joey to try new foods is to serve it with something I know he likes to eat: a dip or sauce, or a piece of fresh fruit. Name a fruit and this boy will eat it! So fruit and veggies are natural side-by-side food!
4. Eat with them. My friend Elizabeth at Enjoy Every Bite gave me some solid advice for this one: kids don’t want dinner. They want you.
5. Do not offer bribes or prizes for trying new foods. Your child may start to associate trying or liking new foods with a prize or pleasing you vs. actually enjoying that food. I’ve read AND witnessed that it often takes more than 10 times of exposing a new food to a child before they begin to accept it. I think I’m on try number 14 with eggs…. Can you tell who the stubborn one is?!
6. Serve the solids before the liquids. A common tip to suppress hunger is to drink a big glass of water before a meal. That’s not the kind of advice we want to implement with toddlers. So be careful how much juice, water, or milk you serve between meals. Generally speaking, milk should be limited to 16-24 ounces per day [2-3 cups].
7. Don’t make new foods a big deal. The more attention you draw to their taste testing means they’ll catch on to your antics. Yes, toddlers think you offering them healthy food is a scheme!
I’d love to hear what works for you when it comes to feeding your toddler. Any tips or tricks I’m missing?!Foolproof tips and tricks to feeding the pickiest of toddlers Click To Tweet
These are excellent tips, Katie… and I can just imagine you running from one end of the kitchen to another as food flies, ha! Think of your little one as a free personal trainer? I’m a big fan of the “getting kids into the kitchen” tip, as well as offering new foods with familiar foods, and of course, eating WITH your littles. I also like to recommend (none of our own yet) trying the “tapas approach”: offering small amounts of a variety of foods in a muffin tin. Great for meal or snack time!
Wow!!! That is a fantastic idea!! I’m trying that this weekend! Thanks so much Heather!
Great tips! We have definitely found that liquids come after meals at our house – my son would drink only milk if I let him! I also like the tip of eating with them. Even though it may take longer for my son to eat then my husband and I, we find he eats better if we stay at the table with him while he finishes.
Same here!! It’s hard with demanding schedules and late work nights but we aim for 2-3 nights together.
Sally @ Real Mom Nutrition says
Great tips, Katie! It’s fun to remember those days. 🙂
I might black them out… And use the blog as a reminder 😉
Jessica @ Nutritioulicious says
Awesome tips and so true. And you are DEFINITELY not alone! Food battles are the norm in the course of toddlerhood! Just ask my mother, MIL, husband, friends – anyone who knows me!
And then when they hit college they’ll likely be foodies like us, right?! Or so I hope! Not saying I’m ready for that stage yet…
Elizabeth @ Enjoy Every Bite says
All such great tips!! Johnny’s new thing is stirring his food around on his tray and calling it “baking.” At least he’s out of the throwing stage… for now 🙂
Omg!! Adorable!! He’s learning from the best 🙂
Zoe Campos says
Thank you for telling me that I should be careful about the liquids I’ll serve my toddler in between meals. I give him milk whenever he asks me to and it might be the reason why he’s having a hard time finishing his proper meals. Aside from limiting his liquid intake, it might also be a good idea to buy the bamboo dinner set for kids that I saw online and hope that it can encourage him to eat more.