Creative Ways to Get Your Picky Toddler to Eat

by Cara Batema

    Tired of engaging in a battle of wills every time you sit at the dinner table with your toddler? If you have a picky eater on your hands, meals are your least favorite time of day, but you are concerned for your child’s nutrition and overall health, and so you look for options beyond your toddler’s scrunched-up nose or flat-out refusals to eat. With a few tricks, you can make mealtime easier for both of you.

    What's in a Name?

    Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but your toddler’s perception of food lies in what you call it. If you tell your toddler he is eating a vegetable, he’ll close his mouth tight. Call broccoli a “tree” or thin carrot slices “swords,” and he might gobble them up faster than you can serve them on his plate. Calling Brussels sprouts “hero buttons” made Susan Risdal's children ask for more, Risdal says in an article on CNN.com, Target your toddler’s interests and come up with cute names for food.

    Play With Your Food

    Your mother might have yelled at you for playing with your food, but desperate times call for measures once frowned upon. Let cheese cubes become building blocks and let banana wheels roll across your toddler’s plate before he stuffs them in his mouth. Present your child with a plate of fruit arranged into a funny face, or make a snowman out of mashed potatoes, and use veggies for the eyes and nose. Let dinnertime be an occasion to play games. Huggies suggests that you ask your toddler if he can eat something on his plate that is orange or challenge your child to get as many peas onto his fork as he can.

    Food Preparation

    Huggies also suggests getting your toddler involved in food preparation. This trick lets your toddler explore with the smell and textures of foods before he eats them, and a kid is much more likely to eat a food he helped prepare. The pride your toddler feels from helping out is additionally a confidence booster. Kids also love to use gadgets, so explore some kitchen tools together. Let your toddler push the button on the food processor or help him use the masher for cooked potatoes

    Dip It

    Many toddlers love to make a mess, and what better way to get messy than to experiment with dips. Most toddlers love to try foods they can dip, so be exotic and try hummus, melted cheese, guacamole, peanut butter or yogurt.

    Hide It

    What your toddler doesn’t know won't hurt him. Some crafty parents hide vegetables in other foods. For example, make zucchini bread, and chances are your toddler will love the savory snack without realizing it has veggies. Cover broccoli with a layer of cheese or sneak pureed vegetables into a quesadilla.

    About the Author

    Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

    Photo Credits

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