As the rate of growth slows down and the need for independence starts emerging, many toddlers have a low appetite and become picky eaters. This is a normal developmental stage that most children will grow out of. Parents do not need to be too worried as long as their children are healthy, growing normally and have plenty of energy. However, if your child's picky eating habit prevents him from getting enough nutrients for growth or if he appears to be sick, you should talk to your pediatrician.
Children are good learners and they love to copy their parents. Set a good example for your toddlers by eating a variety of foods with them and letting them see you enjoy the foods. Show them your willingness to try new foods and discourage negative comments about foods.
Allow them to participate in meal planning, food shopping and preparation. You can use these opportunities to teach them about nutrition and learn about their food preferences. Toddlers might be more willing to eat foods that they help prepare.
Start with small portions and wait for them to ask for more food. Too much food on their plate might overwhelm them. If they cannot finish their meal, that's fine. Children usually stop eating when they are full. Never force them to finish their plate. They may associate eating with stress, and forcing toddlers to eat may overfeed them.
Offer a variety of foods and offer new foods one at a time. If they reject an item, continue to offer them the item at another time for a total of ten times. Avoid offering foods when they are cranky or tired.
Give them plenty of time to enjoy the meal but not too long that they may start to feel bored or lose interest. About 20 to 30 minutes per meal is appropriate.
Give them their own utensils to encourage self-feeding or give them finger foods to eat. Toddlers usually like to feed themselves.
Follow a regular meal and snack time that are not too close together. Plan for 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks a day since toddlers cannot eat enough at one meal to stay full until the next.
Make meal time fun and pleasurable. Eat together as a family and focus on the meal and each other. Involve your toddlers in conversation about happy and fun things.
Try using cookie cutters to make different shapes out of food to make meal time more fun. Encourage your child to invent a name for a food and help prepare new snacks.
If you are concerned about your toddler's health or growth, consult your pediatrician.