How do I deal with a picky toddler?
Real Mom Problem
“This is serious. I never ever thought in a million years that I would be one of those moms. My son's eating habits are horrible. Every evening I lose it and lock myself in the bathroom and cry because I just can't do this anymore.”
- 1. Involve your picky toddler in shopping and meal preparation
- 2. Make mealtime fun by renaming food or cutting it into silly shapes
- 3. Continue offering new and healthy foods, even if they refuse it the first time
- 4. Check with your pediatrician if you're concerned about your picky toddler's health
Real Mom Solutions
The moms of CafeMom have been in your shoes and have shared tips for tackling many picky eater problems. You're not alone!
Don't Worry -- It's Just a Phase
Why do we fault our kids for being picky eaters when we as adults like and dislike foods?
I honestly think it is a phase that every child goes through. Both my sons went through it around 15 - 26 months and now my oldest is 8 and my middle one is 3 and they both eat everything and anything, even onions, lettuce, sardines, pickled fish - EVERYTHING! I would not worry about it to be honest.
It's the age. They will change. And if not? Fine. They are people too -- we all like different things.
Some kids are just picky eaters. Just keep offering her new foods, make sure she sees you eating a variety of healthy foods. My son usually wants whatever I'm eating. Also try to make it fun: cut things in different ways, arrange food into silly faces on her plate, etc...
Try These Helpful Tips
My daughter loves to cook. She eats so much better if it is something she helped me cook. Find some fun healthy kid friendly options and get him involved before the meal. Every child is different. Set your rules. Be firm & consistent. Make food fun. Good luck momma!
It can be very beneficial to give your child a choice of a 2-3 items and have them be in control of which one they choose to eat. Example: give the choice of 2 -3 vegetables and allow child to pick one. Also, it is a GREAT idea to play with your food and allow your child to play with their food (when appropriate)! Sometimes this takes away the fear or anxiety the child may be experiencing with the food. Meals should be fun!
I just keep putting stuff in front of them. As my oldest got to the age where he would really understand, I told him that he had to eat certain things before he could leave the table. Keep in mind that toddlers get their nutritional needs in within a 7 day period of time or so. So you can't look at just one day, you have to look at what they take in over a week's time period.
My son is now 5 and for the past three years I've been able to get him to taste, and most of the time eat, everything on his plate. I have him help fix some part of the meal or set the table, then he is proud for being involved and wants to eat since he helped. Hope this helps!
If they're not hungry, then they're not hungry. BUT, your children still need to sit at the table with you at meal time. Don't give in. If you let him know that you will give in after he throws a fit, then he will do it every time. He is not going to starve himself so don't worry too much. Only offer him foods you want him to try. Soon enough he will learn that he's not going to win this battle and start eating normal food.
My daughter would not eat anything green for the longest time and even now she is still picky, but with time she has gotten better. She used to gag and cry and fight and I finally just let it go. If we had dessert and she wouldn't finish she would miss out and get to watch everyone else eat dessert. If she wouldn't finish what she was served she got nothing else for the night. Now she says she LOVES salad and she will eat it- because everyone else is. With her it helps to let her have more say in what is on her plate- pick a vegetable, condiment, etc... She still fights at times but she isn't starving.
We offer our picky eater a daily vitamin. Plus, I always try and introduce as many new foods as possible, even if he doesn't eat them. I don't go out of my way by doing this, I just simply put whatever we are having to eat on his plate too and eventually curiosity got the best of our son. Mind you he still is a very picky eater, but there has been slight improvement in the last 2 months. Two months ago he wouldn't touch mashed potatoes and now he loves them! Good luck I know and relate to your frustration!
One Smart Mom's Successful Strategies
I do a couple things that have helped my kids eat a variety:
1) I don't allow them to eat the same breakfast/lunch/or dinner two days in a row. So, if they have toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast today, they must have something else (cereal, waffles, cinnamon toast, yogurt, bagel, etc) the next day. No living on PB&J or Mac N Cheese EVERY day. I force them to have variety.
2) I always include a "grown up" food. So when they have toast and jelly, they also have scrambled eggs. When they have Mac N Cheese, they get a small salad or fruit as the side.
3) They have to try everything.
4) I let them help me cook. They count, measure, stir, put napkins around the table. They love to eat things "they made."
5) I make food fun as much as possible. I cut sandwiches with cookie cutters, use food coloring markers on bread, make funny faces with their veggies on their plate - and let them do this as well, to be creative and fun. This way - it's not "about the food" but fun family time.
As a result - they eat whatever we eat; whether it is Chinese, Thai, meatloaf, roast beef, you name it. Both girls have favorites and a few things they don't like at all, but this list is short enough we accommodate that with "healthy substitutes" and try the foods again later.
Make Sure It's Not Medical
Have you taken her to a GI specialist to rule out an underlying medical issue? My son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis almost by accident, and it causes feeding difficulties (among other issues).
A lot of kids are just picky, but there are a lot of kids who end up being picky due to reflux issues that are unknown and go untreated. I work in early intervention and see a lot of kids with undiagnosed reflux. Check with your pediatrician.
I am a behavioral therapist for children with developmental delays and often a sensory issue is part of the difficulty in eating (or lack of eating). My son seems to have some sensory- texture issues and I am glad I am aware of it.
The other problem could be his digestive tract. Priobiotics helped my son tremendously with picky eating. His problem was he felt full all of the time. The picky eating remains but I have seen a significant improvement in tolerating the taste test and even trying new things on his own in school. Everything I have read and discussed with professionals tells me probiotics are essential to a picky eater's diet in order to promote a healthy immune system. I do believe it.
Show Them Pickiness Is Not an Option
I offer my kids food; if they are just being picky then I wrap it up and make them eat it for the next meal. They realize their only option is to stop being picky.
I am going to be honest with you, I hate when women say "my child will only eat _____." You are his mother, you make his meals, he will not starve himself. So instead of giving him that unhealthy selection, you give him something else - period - or make him healthier versions of the things he likes.