They’re constantly on the go, discovering things, playing and getting bigger on a daily basis! Food is vital for fueling your toddler’s development physically, but it’s also helps them develop mentally.
Meal times are a great time to encourage your little one to play with their food and experiment with self-feeding.
Mealtimes with toddlers can also be challenging at times. Your idea of fun food might be by cutting their sandwiches into different shapes, but a toddler’s idea of fun might be throwing it on the floor to see if it bounces.
Here are some clever tips to give your toddler the best start in discovering a lifelong love of healthy eating:
- Make it colourful – Try to serve a rainbow of different coloured fruits and veggies to your toddler each day – their plate will look more appealing, and you’ll be offering a variety of different nutrients and flavours.
- Use fun names – Have fun together inventing playful or descriptive names for food, such as broccoli florets might be baby trees. It’s also wise to avoid making foods 'good' or 'bad'. If you show your own delight at the flavours and textures of healthy food, such as “this juicy mandarin”, your kids are more likely to enjoy them too.
- Play with shapes – A change in the food presentation can make all the difference to mealtime success. You can use a cookie cutter to make cute shapes in their toast and sandwiches or arrange their dinner in a circle on the plate, or make a cooked capsicum stickman – anything will do! Just make sure the foods are an appropriate soft texture and shape for your toddlers biting and chewing abilities.
- Involve them in food selection – The thought of taking little ones to the supermarket might fill you with dread, but it’s a great way to teach them about healthy food choices. Time your trip for when they’re not tired or hungry, and get them involved in putting things in the trolley and picking out fruit and veggies in every colour.
- Let them help you prep – If you give your toddler a chance to help prepare meals, it can be a fun bonding experience and they’ll probably be more interested in trying the food. Ask your toddler to choose a couple of vegetables which you can then cook for dinner. As they get older, they may be able to lend a hand with mixing food in bowls, arranging chopped vegetables on a plate and setting the table. You can also point out herbs growing in the garden, and show them how to pick them, smell them, and taste them.
- Mix it up – If you have a fussy toddler on your hands, try combining a few of the above tips. Use colour, shapes and texture to get your little one experimenting with different food. Try offering them a smorgasbord of healthy snacks, all of different colour, texture, and shape – and let them have a bit of fun playing with their food. Add a tasty hummus dip, as kids will enjoy ‘dipping’ their food.
- Social skills – Joining in at mealtimes can help your toddler learn about social interaction. This is your chance to be a good role model for your child’s eating, they tend to copy what you and the rest of the family do and join in. You can show your toddler how much you’re enjoying your ‘baby trees’.
The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.