Struggling with picky eaters is a universal problem for moms, and it can get disheartening when your toddler throws your carefully curated plate of vegetables and proteins on the floor, or feeds them to the dog! Before you label your child as a picky eater there are tips and tricks you can try to set a foundation for lifelong healthy, adventurous eating habits.
4 tips for introducing new foods to your toddler
Model trying new things for your toddler
Much like modeling drinking water for your child with a dining set, you can also model eating foods. For example, when you have a spoon, offer your child a spoon. They will learn from watching you eat. Lift your spoon slowly and bring it to your mouth as you model the behavior. As your child observes you eating a certain food, like broccoli, they may become more interested in following your lead.
Engage the senses to encourage acceptance of new foods
- Smell foods with your little one to pique their curiosity. Scratching the outside of fruits and vegetables, like a lemon rind, will make the lemon smell more fragrant.
- Have conversations with your child about the foods you’re eating to promote language development. “The pineapple is rough on the outside but tastes sweet. The pineapple is cold because it was in the refrigerator.”
- Touch the surfaces and make observations. “This is wet because we cooked it in water.”
Exercise patience with your toddler
Toddler eating habits can be frustrating! If your child spits out broccoli the first time it hits their taste buds – it doesn’t mean they’ll hate it for life – or even for the duration of their childhood! According to studies, it can take up to 10 times of being exposed to a food before a little one will acquire a taste for it. A child may find a pear sour at first, but learn to love it after more exposure. Don’t give up on certain foods. Present nutritious foods that are flavorful, and don’t shy away from the savory.
As your child gets older, you can present food in different forms. Maybe your toddler doesn’t like cooked green beans but they’ll eat them raw, or with a little soy sauce on top. Picky eaters can be more willing to try foods if there is a fun dipping sauce like hummus or ketchup.
Get your toddler involved in food preparation
Involving your child in all aspects of meal prep is not only great for their independence, but they’ll actually be more likely to eat the food they helped make because they feel a sense of ownership.
Start by chatting with your baby at the grocery store about the items you’ll need. Let them smell and feel the produce. You could create a short grocery list for an older toddler. Start with two or three items of pictures on a piece of paper, like a milk carton, strawberry, and banana. Then you can help your child locate the items they’re responsible to find in the store.
When it’s time to cook, children can be involved in the process from a very young age. Usually, a child is ready to help around 15 months, when they are stable on their feet and can hold things confidentiality.
First, they can help wash the produce from the store in a learning tower placed by the sink.
If you’re slicing mushrooms, your child can use a child-safe knife to slice a de-stemmed mushroom on their Monti Kids cutting board. In addition to slicing, a child can also help stir and transfer ingredients. Your child can also help with seasoning the food. If you want to control the amount of pepper, for example, you may want to put the maximum amount you’re willing to use in a small bowl so your child can use their fingers to put pinches of the spice into their food. Sometimes toddlers can be a bit overzealous when it comes to shaking pepper!
Start family-style meals with your toddler
Sitting down with the entire family for a meal can be such an important, loving part of a child’s day. Sometimes dinner won’t work due to scheduling conflicts, so breakfast is the perfect substitute.
A little one can soak up healthy habits and good table manners by dining family-style. Family style is a meal in which everyone serves themselves. A child can begin serving themselves when they can confidently hold a spoon. In the early stages, they will need plenty of assistance from mom or dad to help scoop food onto their plate. In eating this way, a little one will learn portion control and eventually to only take what they’re wanting to eat. In time your child will also learn social graces such as, “Please, thank you, and please pass the mashed potatoes.”
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