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 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.