How to please a child with picky eating
- Around the time when your Toddler is becoming more independent, she might become pickier with what she eats.
- Learn easy ways to help a child with picky eating habits.
- Toddlers starting at 2 years of age can be “neophobic,” meaning they’re afraid of anything new and prefer eating foods they’re used to.
Discovering what your Toddler wants to eat
Does your child want plain pasta for dinner every night? Or refuse to eat anything green? Toddlerhood can be a challenging time when it comes to what your Toddler wants to eat
and setting up healthy eating habits. You may experience food refusals, pickiness and personality developments, like independence.
What’s the deal?
Picky eating usually shows up around age 1 or 2, when children are experiencing developmental changes and becoming more independent. By saying “no” to what Mom and Dad want her to eat, your child is showing that she has her own thoughts and opinions.
Also, as your child’s cognitive development advances, she becomes more aware of how foods look, smell, taste, feel, and sound in her mouth. She might need to check it out a few times before eating it. In fact, some experts say a child needs to be offered a food about 10 times before she’ll decide to eat it.
Your child may limit the number of foods she'll eat or even avoid entire food groups. She may demand a food be made a certain way or want the same food every day or at every meal. Don't worry; there are many easy ways to help your child.
Simple tips on helping a child with picky eating
There are two factors that may contribute to your Toddler’s picky eating: her environment, and, of course, her food. To help curb her pickiness, try these tips:
Set the stage
- Create a calm environment during mealtime by turning off the TV.
- Keep her tray simple by limiting the amount of bowls, spoons, and cups. Too many things in sight can overwhelm her and leave her uninterested in eating.
- Use familiar objects at the table—seeing the same bib, bowl, and utensils are comforting to your Toddler.
- Sit down at the table to eat as a family and include her in the conversation. Your Toddler wants to eat when you do.
Choose smart foods
- Serving smaller-sized portions (1 to 2 tablespoons) is the way to go—large portions may overwhelm her.
- Give her time to chew, swallow, and even play a bit with new food. Playing with food is part of learning about it, which helps her feed herself. Rushing her takes the fun out of eating and adds stress.
- Embrace the mess! It will make the feeding experience more pleasant for you and your baby. Let her explore even if it does get messy—Toddlers often need to look at, touch, smell, and taste a food before eating it.
- Patience is key. If your Toddler rejects a food, it might just be that she doesn’t recognize it. Children can often be “neophobic,” meaning they’re afraid of anything new and prefer eating foods they’re used to. Instead of giving up on a rejected food, try preparing it in a different way and offer it again.
- Serve a variety of healthy foods, and set a good example by eating them yourself. When your Toddler sees her mom, dad, or siblings eating a nutritious food, she may be more willing to try it.
- Include a food she’s used to in her meal, and then let her choose if she wants to try the other foods on her tray. Don’t prepare a separate meal—it could encourage her to continue this type of behavior at mealtime.
- Pay attention to your Toddler's hunger and fullness cues—never force your child to eat. Your role is to decide what foods to offer and when to offer them, but let your child decide whether to eat and how much to eat.
- Let your Toddler pick out a fruit or veggie at the grocery store, and then let her help you prepare it. Children are more likely to try foods they help prepare.
- Don’t bribe her with sweets. This teaches her that some foods are desirable while others aren’t.
- Be realistic. Your child may never love Brussels sprouts, but you can help her learn the joy of trying new foods at the dinner table.
Healthy Eating Habits Quiz
Test your technique, finesse your feeding style.
We're here to help
While most children do meet their nutrient needs, you might still have concerns about your child’s diet. If that’s the case, talk to our Registered Dietitians, or try GerberMenu, which can help you plan a nutritionally balanced menu for your child.
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