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Encouraging Toddlers to Eat

Encouraging Toddlers to Eat

Children have small stomachs - about the size of their fist, and large serves can be off-putting.

  • Provide a range of nutritious food and offer children a choice.
  • It is better not to have unhealthy snack foods (especially snacks like biscuits, soft drinks and sweets) in the house. This will prevent toddlers being tempted.



  • Avoid cordials and too much fruit juice as these are high in sugar and take away the appetite for other foods.
  • Don't fill a child up on milk or fruit juice just before a meal.
  • Allow children to help prepare the meal. It takes longer but encourages interest in the food.
  • Keep mealtime serves of food small and allow children to ask for more. Remove uneaten food without comment.
  • Don’t use dessert as a bribe to eat the rest of the meal. This makes dessert too special. If you do have desserts make sure they are nutritious such as fruit or milk puddings. Give small serves.mashed potato face with vegetables
  • For a treat you can sometimes make the meal into a picture such as a potato face with pieces of vegetable for the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Having a friend over for a meal often encourages the toddler to eat.
  • Sometimes vary where you serve the food. For example at your toddler’s own table in the playhouse, or a picnic in the garden or serve a meal where the food is put on plates in the centre of the table and everyone helps themselves to what they want.
  • Sometimes it is possible for toddlers to help grow vegetables in a window box or small area of the garden.
  • Give your toddler the main part of her evening meal early (around 4.30pm) so she is not too tired to eat. She can still have a small portion of the meal with the family later if you like to eat together.
  • A cold meal such as meat, bread and fruit or salad is nutritious. Raw grated vegetables are just as healthy as cooked. Or you could freeze part of the evening meal from the day before and reheat it for your toddler.
  • Do not ever try to force a toddler to eat. It can cause choking and make the child dislike the food. Adults would not like to be forced to eat food that they don’t like.
  • Keep a relaxed eating environment and leave the eating up to your toddler.
Note: Learning to feed themselves is often a messy business for toddlers. If you don't like mess, put newspaper on the floor and a big feeder or bib on your toddler. The more practice they get in doing it for themselves, the quicker they will learn to feed themselves well.

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