Feeding a toddler can be quite an education. Between the ages of 2 and 5 you never are quite sure what will happen, every day is an adventure! But there are keys to success when preparing meals and snacks for toddlers.
1. Offer small amounts of several different foods for them to try and choose from
2. Make meals colorful, make sure the plate has a variety of colors and isn’t just one color. A more attractive plate stimulates appetite and is more interesting.
3. Kids love food that they can eat off of a skewer like fruit kabobs, satay, or chicken kabobs, or even an occasional corn dog. Those food items are usually a hit!
4. Pair new food items with a favorite side dish or entrée.
5. If you child is crying and hungry while you are trying to get dinner ready let them go ahead and eat their fruit, milk, or an item that counts as part of their meal while they are waiting
6. If you are preparing a more “adult” meal such as a spicy chicken dish set aside plain meat or ingredients to adapt a more kid friendly meal.
7. Serve occasional meals with a smoothie that has spinach, beats, or carrots blended in as the drink to add protein and veggies to their dietary intake.
8. Offer “new” food items earlier in the day when your child is less tired
9. If your child is having a tough day offer them their dinner earlier than usual to avoid a melt down during a regular mealtime.
10. Give children a “job” at mealtime even if it’s just placing a napkin by each plate. This helps keep them busy but also give them a sense of involvement with meals.
11. Allow your toddler to “prepare” at least a little part of their meal (let them put the cheese on their taco, etc). They are more likely to eat foods they feel they have had a hand in making.
Remember it is developmentally normal for toddlers to suddenly reject foods they may have once eaten often. They are learning to be independent and make their own choices or sometimes they simply tire of a certain food and because they cannot express themselves well with language yet you may not be able to understand why whey are refusing certain foods. Do not worry, your child will get enough nutrition if they eat at least some of the meals and snacks they are offered. Children will eat when they are truly hungry and it is normal to have days when they are less hungry then others. As long as your child is following their own growth curve at well child visits there should be no concern.