3 Rules To Follow When Feeding A Toddler


Managing a toddler at the dinner table can be challenging for parents. Toddlers are going through several developmental changes, including trying to control what and how much to eat. Having gone through the whole rigmarole with my children, I can guarantee that feeding a toddler can be equally exciting and stressful. To help you and your child with this process, here are a few basic rules to follow when feeding a toddler.

Rule 1: Don’t Force-Feed

When we were children, my sisters and I had to eat whatever was served on the table or go hungry! Setting rules is reasonable and necessary to avoid mealtime battles. Still, they have to be flexible, especially when dealing with picky eaters. 

Forcing a child to eat foods they don’t want or like can be counterproductive. At one to three, children begin to navigate the world around them and assert independence. Some children are resistant to change and hesitate to try new foods. Others have a sensitive palate. Children with autism can have an aversion to some foods or could fear unfamiliar foods. Force-feeding only increases their anxiety. 

Most children outgrow this habit, but forcing them to eat could develop a lifelong aversion to that food. But just because the child doesn’t like something the first time doesn’t mean they will never like it. Instead, reintroduce the food sometime later. Serve a small portion and encourage your child to try a few bites. 

Rule 2: Don’t Bargain

If you find yourself saying things like, “Try this broccoli, and I’ll give you a cookie,” you’re bargaining with your child. The problem with bribing children is that it doesn’t work in the long run, and you’re handing over control to the child. With these habits, meal times become a negotiation session for children. 

A study about feeding a toddler eating habits found that 85% of the bribed children ended up eating greens but were more likely not to continue eating them. In comparison, children who weren’t bribed ate them the most. The study found that repeated taste exposure can help manage food-related likes and dislikes.

Do not use gadgets to trick children into eating food they dislike. Mobile phones, TV, and other devices should be off-limits for everyone at mealtimes. Showing videos of rhymes or Peppa Pig during meal times will become a habit that’s hard to break. 

Rule 3: Be Equitable

I’m all for family food rules if enforced equitably, but make sure you show flexibility. If children aren’t allowed to refuse a new food without tasting it first, mom and dad should also eat new foods once before saying no. 

Also, toddler meals don’t have to be fancy. Offer them healthy options, allowing the toddler to decide what they want to eat. But they ask for something that’s not being served for that meal, offer to make it in the near future. 

Helping your child have a positive mealtime experience is possible when following the right steps. All you need is some patience and perseverance. 

3 Tips to Maintain Sanity While Feeding High-Energy Toddlers 

Parenting a toddler can be extremely exhausting. Toddlers have few worries and endless energy. As their motor and thinking skills are developed substantially, toddlers often prefer to do things themselves. And when they can’t quite do what they’re trying to do, children become frustrated. As cliched as it may sound, patience is the key to surviving your child’s toddler years. You have to form a partnership with the child, encouraging their independence but assisting when they cannot complete a task. 

Mealtimes can be incredibly frustrating. But again, the rules are simple. Stay patient and trust yourself. If toddler meals are testing your patience, here are a few things to remember.

1. It’s Normal for Children to Be Picky

As they grow, children begin to assert their independence through food. This behavior sometimes presents itself through children preferring a single type of food or refusing to eat something. However, being picky about specific types of food doesn’t make them picky eaters. 

If your child only eats mac and cheese, don’t lose sleep about depriving them of other essential nutrients. Keep reintroducing new foods but keep the favorites on the menu as well. Most children will eventually come around and become flexible.  Present a healthy array of options, allowing the child to pick and choose but don’t give in to the demands of preparing a specific meal that’s different from the one already prepared. 

2. Force-Feeding Can Backfire

Force-feeding can backfire because you’ll be making the child feel helpless and frustrated. They could also develop a lifelong aversion to food. Some children have sensitive tastebuds, making them refuse certain types of foods. Sometimes, children diagnosed with autism may experience anxiety when you introduce unfamiliar foods. Forcing them to eat can increase mealtime anxiety. 

Threatening or scaring children into eating creates more problems. It could turn mealtime into a power struggle and even create self-esteem issues. 

3. Do Not Bargain

You may be tempted to bribe children to get them to eat healthy food. Do not offer cookies or other sweet treats in return for eating something they don’t like. Such practices don’t work in the long run. Besides, they are unlikely to develop a love for that food through bargaining. Dessert shouldn’t be an incentive for healthy meals for kids

Also, control the urge to lecture about the nutritional benefits of eating food the child has just refused. Instead, you could arrange a play date with feeding a toddler who is more likely to eat fruits and veggies. Children are more likely to try new foods when they’re with friends. 

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