Young toddlers trying out different foods for the first time will naturally be hesitant. Their instinct is to distrust new things which can be frustrating for you, especially when you know what you are providing is delicious and nutritious.
For some toddlers and parents, meal times can quickly become stressful. As you get more anxious that they need to eat something, they get more determined that the food on offer isn’t good enough. As obvious – and infuriating – as it sounds, you both need to relax and have more fun.
Eating together doesn’t just mean at the same time, it also means eating the same foods. Set yourself up as a positive role model by showing your toddler that you are happy and safe with these foods and really enjoying them.
You might want to try ‘stealing’ food from their plate, too, to encourage them to try new things. They won’t want to miss out on all the fun you’re having! Rather than closely monitoring what they are doing, eating together relaxes everyone and lets them get on with their own meal without your constant interference.
It will be tough to let go at first but you must hide your own concern if you want your toddler to feel more confident at the table. A baby high chair is ideal for this as it places them at your eye level and really involves them with the family.
Toddlers are always going to be messy. They are learning so much all the time and really getting stuck in is the best way to do it. Let them explore their curiosity around food. It might not look pretty but letting them get their (clean) hands in their food and playing with it will give them a chance to interact with it before they have to put it in their mouths. Just make sure it’s not too hot!
If your child is a little bit older, let them get involved with the cooking. For example, they could sprinkle cheese on pasta or try decorating cakes. Learning the pleasure of making something and then eating it will really benefit your child in the long run.
Introduce New Foods Gradually
Some picky toddlers can quickly grow up to be pickier children making parents feel stressed and worried that they won’t get enough calories or nutrition. Part of the problem might be that parents are over-doing the introduction of new foods making their toddler or child feel pressured when they should be relaxed.
To introduce a toddler to a new food, it is often best to add a very small portion to a meal they already like. For example, if they already like pasta, try introducing a spoonful of peas to their plate. Don’t make a big fuss, just say that you’ve added a special ingredient to try. If they don’t like it the first time, that’s okay. Familiarity is part of growing to like something so just present it again and again over a few weeks.
Food and mealtimes should be fun and relaxed, a time to catch up with the family all together. This should be your focus, the diverse food groups will surely follow.
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