- Advancing motor skills, like stacking pieces of food, helps engage a child’s interest in eating.
- How and what you eat can influence what your child will eat.
- Eating with your child provides social interaction that can make mealtime a positive experience.
- Providing new and adventurous foods can spark your child’s imagination.
Your little one is now 2 or older, and he has many new motor skills that will help him be much more adventurous with his eating.
You should expect to see him:
- Turning over containers to pour out the contents
- Putting individual pieces of food into containers
- Stacking individual pieces of food
- Perhaps using one hand more than the other
- Replacing mouthing objects with a focus on trying to eat objects
- Refining the rotary chewing motion, will allow him to chew more advanced textures more efficiently
- Increasing his chewing strength
Eating habits can be influenced by you
Social modeling is an important part of teaching good eating skills at your child’s stage. What you say and do carry a lot of influence now, so it’s no surprise that his habits and preferences will be pretty similar to yours.
Foods disliked by you tend not to be experienced by your child. The reality is that if you or others in the family don’t like a certain food, you’re not likely to buy and prepare it. This is especially important to keep in mind while your child continues the transition to table food — he’ll be eating what the family is eating.
Other social interactions that influence your child’s eating habits are:
- Eating with your child and having the same foods will help encourage him to eat, too.
- Letting him try foods that you may not like yourself will give him a chance to decide whether or not he likes it.
- Showing him the proper bite-sized pieces he should be eating.
Think like a child
Children are naturally adventurous, so use that to your benefit by inspiring their imagination when it comes to food. Here are some ideas to try:
- Make faces on pancakes with soft fruit pieces or create mountains with mashed potatoes and gravy help engage the imagination.
- Offer a colorful variety of different, grown-up foods, not just Toddler foods, to educate your child’s palette.
- Allow touching, tasting and even spitting out food as a way to encourage trying new things.
- Offer small portions. Loading up a plate with the amount you might eat could be intimidating to your child.
Foods that may cause choking, and ways to prepare
- Hot dogs — should be cut in quarters length-wise, and then sliced.
- Chunks of peanut butter — spread thinly on bread or a cracker.
- Large pieces of raw vegetables or fruits — cut into soft bite-sized pieces
- Whole grapes and cherry tomatoes — should be quartered
- Meat or poultry in large chunk — cut into bite-size pieces
Avoid hard candies including jellybeans, nuts, popcorn, seeds like processed pumpkin (pepitas) or sunflower seeds.
Healthy Eating Habits Quiz
Test your technique, finesse your feeding style.
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