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Don't have a battle at mealtimes, everyone at some point has a bit of trouble with a fussy eater in the house so the first thing to remember is keep cool about it. You are not alone in your struggle to get food down a stroppy toddler or a moody and tired pre-schooler. Don't think your child will starve if they don't eat properly for a few days... they won't! They may be genuinely not hungry or a bit poorly, so don't get angry with them and claim they are being defiant or naughty, this may not be the case. And, don't blame yourself.
Many fussy phases pass, so don't worry for the first few days. If eating is becoming a problem on a frequent basis and some difficult habits are forming, then try some of these tips:
- Play with food: allow your toddler to handle the food and roll peas or fly carrots like planes. If it gets them eating then allow it! Don't be too strict.
- Give small amounts of lots of choice: so have a few sorts of vegetables for them to choose from. Try using a compartmentalised plate or a muffin tray and fill each hole with something different!
- Try giving 4-6 smaller meals a day rather than the usual 3 large meals. Healthy snacking is just as nutritious and possibly better for smaller tummies to cope with. Grazing minimises low blood sugar so will lessen any undesirable or difficult behaviour too.
- Make the food fun. Cut bread into strange shapes (eat your mountains or bread crown sounds a bit ore fun!). If you can cut into shapes of use cookie cutters to make sandwiches or toast then do.
- Or get them cutting things themselves (give plastic, blunt knives to cut cooked carrot) and the food is more likely to disappear. Or, get them spreading their own spread onto bread.
- Use fun plates and even get some party plates to serve a meal on. Pretend its a party!
- Call in an older cousin or friend who eats well and have a meal together. See if any good eating habits rub off!
- Sitting on a chair with dangling feet is something that toddlers don't enjoy (try sitting on a stool for a whole meal) so place a step or box under their feet to support them. This may keep them still a while longer and many help them concentrate more on eating and less on wriggling.
If eating problems persist and really do become a barrier, then you may want to seek medical or professional help, but on the whole, eating fads come and go and this is a normal part of growing up.