Fine-tuning everyday eating skills

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  • Let your Toddler decide how much to eat while you still decide what to offer.
  • Food preferences are shaped by positive repeated exposure to a food.
  • Food should not be used as a bribe when trying to change eating behavior.
  • Fine motor and oral skills include being able to wipe food from his lips with his tongue and easily feeding himself finger foods.

Your Toddler is ready to tackle the fine motor skills needed for efficient eating. He’s also beginning to realize he has power to say “yes” or “no” to certain foods that you’re giving him. Here’s what your little guy is learning during the Toddler stage:

  • Efficiently using his tongue to move foods side-to-side within his mouth.
  • Beginning to chew in a more adult-like pattern.
  • Cleaning his lips with his tongue.
  • Dipping foods in sauces and condiments.
  • Using just a few fingers to pick up food rather than his whole hand.

Who’s in control?

Negotiating at mealtime is something both you and your little one will need to learn together. It’s a delicate balance to help eliminate conflict at the table. Your Toddler wants and needs some control over his food, but you’re still taking the lead in helping to develop healthy eating habits.  

Parents should be responsible for what is offered at the meal, giving him a variety of healthy foods each day. Your Toddler should get to decide how much he’ll eat from what you’ve offered. This can be frustrating for a mom, especially if you were raised to “clean your plate.” However, this is an important time for your child to listen to his fullness signals and regulate food intake. 

Patience is key

Patience and persistence is important when introducing new foods to your child. It may take up to ten times exploring a food before your Toddler learns to like it.

Finding what he likes

Your Toddler’s preferences for certain foods are taking shape and being influenced by seeing a food over and over. The more you offer it, the better the chances that he’ll accept and eventually enjoy that food. It sounds like a losing battle when he dismisses food time and time again, but it takes time and patience. 

Offering foods he has previously rejected in a positive way is a key to making progress. Without fanfare or argument, keep presenting foods you would like him to eat. Eat them yourself with positive facial expressions and words. Gradually, he should get the message.

It’s easy to get frustrated early on, give up and just let him eat foods he already likes. But persistence will go a long way toward getting your child to accept a wide variety of foods.
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