Dinnertime at our house became a battleground when our youngest turned one. The minute she started feeding herself, we entered the world of fussy eaters. All of a sudden, she could choose what to eat and what to throw off the high chair and splatter onto the floor.
I took her to see a pediatrician out of concern that she would somehow suffer from malnutrition. He told me that she was perfectly healthy and very normal for a toddler at mealtime. He said that all she needed each day was enough food to fill the palm of her hand and that toddlers’ tummies are only as big as their fists. What a relief!
Being a fussy eater is part of what it means to be a toddler. Our job as parents is to just keep introducing new flavors and textures over and over again, even if rejected, because food preferences are set early in life. It's important to help children develop a taste for healthy foods early.
As I’ve seen firsthand, toddlers first explore food with fingers and then with cutlery around 15-18 months old. Children should be given every opportunity to practice these skills, but should be offered a helping hand when frustration arises. My daughter likes me to step back and let her be in control, and the food does go into her mouth most of the time, so I'm happy to do it.
As toddlers only have little tummies, snacking through the day is generally more compatible for my busy explorer. I try to serve foods that are packed with the nutrients she needs to grow healthy and strong, but to serve them creatively. Cutting sandwiches with cookie cutters, making veggie art with mushroom noses and tomato ears, and camouflaging vegetables into yummy sauces are favorites in our house at meal times.
And what about dessert? I believe that everything's ok in moderation. As long as it's limited, there's always room for a treat from time to time in my book!
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A freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia, Amanda Edwards especially enjoys writing tips on toddlers. She runs her own online wholesale business, and spends her days caring for her two young daughters, Grace and Milla.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.