For Baby

Good eating routines: meals with your toddler

Part of your baby growing into an independent person means developing his or her own tastes and habits. They’ll have days when they’re fussy, days when they’re not hungry and days when they’re cranky. Creating good habits and setting boundaries now, especially around mealtimes, can shape their attitudes as they grow.

Here are some tips for helping them develop a healthy attitude to food:

Good Eating Routines New Image
  • Good timing - wouldn’t it be great to get your toddler sitting and eating meals with the rest of the family? You may need to be fairly flexible to begin with so try to plan meals for when your toddler isn’t too tired, that way they’ll have the energy to enjoy themselves.
  • Good role models – as your toddler gets used to eating they’ll probably like sitting down with the rest of the family at meal times. If they can see you eat the same food they have on their plate, that’s even better.
  • Start small - offer small servings of familiar foods, and while variety is great, don’t give them so many choices they’re overwhelmed. Toddlers can also be pretty suspicious of new foods so be patient and keep offering things to them even when they refuse it at first.
  • Stick with it – if they won’t eat what’s on the menu, that’s ok. If they’re hungry you can sort something out later. Try not to offer loads of alternatives at the time, as it’ll teach them that there’s always a better option to be had.
  • Enough is enough – let them decide how much is enough. You never need to force-feed them as babys and toddlers have much better cues for hunger and fullness than adults do. Forcing them to finish food they don’t need can makes them lose these cues
  • Snack less – don’t fill them up on treats between meals, or give them lots of juice or milk beforehand.
  • Encourage them – children need to experiment. It’s fine to let them play with their food when they’re little. Try letting them feed themselves too.


Comment 4

Have your say...

Marissa's Comment

I have a question - When do you start letting them use a spoon to feed themselves? At the moment I am offering finger food, but wondered when they can start using a spoon for things like scrambled eggs or mashed potato etc? My child is 11 months. Thanks

The for Baby Team's Comment

HI Marissa,
Thanks for your query. Whilst most babies will have the hang of finger foods well and truly by 11 months, handling a spoon or a fork may take a little more time and practice!
It's a good idea to use the '2 spoon method' at meal times to encourage your baby to have a go at self feeding. This involves giving your baby a soft baby friendly spoon to hold & play with - whilst you do most of the feeding from the bowl with another spoon.
You can also dip your baby's spoon into the food and let him take it to his mouth to eat the food. This is a good start and demonstrates the 'bowl to mouth' pathway.
We hope this helps Marissa, if you'd like more advice please call our Careline team on 0800 55 66 66 and they'll be happy to help.

Nina's Comment

My 11mnth old gets fed with the spoon as well as finger food. When finger food I can only put a cpl of piece at the time on his plate because if more he just keeps stuffing as much as possible into his mouth and then he starts gagging. Any suggestions how to teach him to stop that/eat slowly? Thanks, nina

Reply from The ForBaby team

Hi Nina,

Thanks for your query. It is great that your baby is really enjoying both spoon and finger food! Finger foods are great for hand eye co-ordination. Gagging means they have bitten off more than they can manage in their mouth and their eyes may water and they may look a bit distressed. This is a protective response that pushes food away from the airway if it is too big to be swallowed. Gagging is a normal part of learning to eat. Gagging isn’t the same thing as choking - choking means that they can’t breathe.

Continue to offer a variety of spoon foods and finger foods. While your baby is learning to eat finger foods (and more slowly), continue to put a few pieces on his plate at a time. Then let your little one signal when they have had enough. Ensure finger foods are soft and cut into finger sized pieces to make them easy for your baby to hold.

Joining in at mealtimes can help your little one learn about social interaction. They can copy what you and the rest of the family do, and find out what behavior is and isn’t acceptable.

We hope this helps, if you’d like more advice please call our Careline on 0800 55 66 66.

Kind Regards
The ForBaby team

elaine's Comment

My 11 doesnt want to sit on her highchair and wanting to standing up. If we keep insisting her to sit in the chair she will scream n scream. Is there a way i can do to let her sit there properly. As at the moment i have been feeding her while she played at the same time

Reply from The ForBaby team

Hi Elaine,
Thanks for your query. Sometimes meal times can be tough and teaching good behaviour during meals can take time and patience! Easier said than done I know but the more relaxed you are will help, as your daughter will pick up on this.  If you’re not already, try eating together as a family as they will watch and learn from you and are more likely to want to join in, this will help make meal times a positive experience. Remember your wee girl is continuing to learn and good behaviour is developed over time so it takes consistency and patience from you. Another article you might find useful: Eat nicely please: teaching your toddler table manners. But if you would like to discuss further please feel free to call our Careline on 0800 55 66 66.
ThanksThe ForBaby team

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