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  • Annika Brindley

Picky Eaters - Mealtime Tips For Toddlers And Children


Toddler throwing a tantrum in her high chair during dinner

Do you have a toddler who will not eat dinner? Maybe you have a baby who is not that interested in solids?

Sometimes child eating issues are significant, but often making minor logical and straightforward tweaks can substantially change your child's eating habits. Are you allowing your toddler to eat snacks at the playground at 4:00 PM and then serving dinner at 5:30 PM?

Are you giving your baby 7 oz of milk and then giving her solids right after? Sometimes it is hard to see the little things that keep our children stuck. If your child is not hungry, they may begin to believe that they do not like dinner, or eating, which is not the case. They habitually sit down to eat, are told to eat but are already full. They are not hungry and they now think that they don't like dinner, and it has become a negative experience. Kids don't always know how to tell you, "Hey, BTW, I ate two bars and puffs and cookies, and I am not the slightest bit hungry."

Separate your baby's milk (Nursing or bottle)and solids by at least an hour. For example, your six-month-old wakes up at 7:00 AM and has 7oz of milk. Wait until 8-8:15 for breakfast because she will have more room at that time and be ready to eat. Remember, before the age of one, milk comes first before solids! If your toddler is waking from her nap at 2:00 PM, allow her to have a bit of milk and a small snack, not a bottomless Ziplock baggie of goldfish. Fruit, and not a bag of salty carbs is a great afternoon snack.

Make sure snack ends by 2:45 PM. Many Daycare providers often give kids a very late snack, so remember to have a good conversation with them about the daily snack schedule. It is easy to give your kids a snack on the ride home from the playground or from school as it makes the drive easier - but watch out for those quick fixes. A snack to keep your child happy in the car seat can produce an unhappy and uncooperative kid in the highchair.

Even older kids, like my teenagers, have the I've-stuffed-my-face-with-snacks-and-I'm-not-hungry-for dinner- Mom issue. They finish school and sports and are ravenous at 5:00 PM. Dinner is a complete disaster for my family if that late HUGE snack happens.

Choose to have dinner early. Then, an hour or two later you can offer a "last call" for a healthy snack - yogurt, apples, banana, milk, etc. There are many creative ways to solves this problem. Just remember not to label your child a "Bad eater".

Look at the big eating picture and move some of the food puzzle pieces around!