…and they don’t involve Tiny Teddies (although they are delicious).
Toddlers can be fickle. I know this because I have one – a fickle one.
One week she loves bananas, can’t get enough of them, will eat a whole one without coming up for breath. The following week she’ll take a bite, screw up her nose, toddle over to the rubbish bin and drop the whole thing in.
Food was a big part of my upbringing and I always felt truly loved when my mother prepared my favourite comfort foods, so on occasion my heart has been broken when my daughter has refused to eat the meals I’ve lovingly made for her.
I’ve spent hours cooking delicious food only to be left feeling defeated and frustrated when she’s flatly refused to take just one bite. Tears have been shed more than once.
It’s taken a while but I’ve finally learnt not to take Little Chop’s food fussiness so personally.
Here are some of my tips for feeding a fussy toddler.
1. Don’t push the issue
If your toddler refuses to eat or taste something you’ve made, don’t force them to try it or get frustrated with them. This will only cause stress and negative emotions towards new foods. Stay calm. Put the food in the fridge and try again tomorrow, or freeze it and try again in a week or two.
2. Have a backup plan on hand
Keep something you know they’ll eat in the freezer or pantry as a backup. For Little Chop, I keep pots of home made bolognese, fish fingers and Weet Bix.
3. Build up your recipe collection
The more recipes you know, the more options and back up plans you’ll have for feeding your fussy little food critic. If they refuse to eat the risotto, you can whip up a batch of pikelets in five minutes flat. If they don’t like rice learn some pasta dishes. It can’t make things any worse.
4. Learn what works and adapt it
If your toddler loves rice offer them a variety of rice dishes, e.g. fried rice, risotto, paella etc. Same goes for pasta, beans, bread – learn what it is that they will eat and present it to them in a variety of ways. Little Chop likes a particular combination of finely chopped vegetables so I use that mixture to make her bolognese, stir fry, soup and fried rice.
5. Keep trying
Just because your toddler won’t try something new today doesn’t mean that they won’t try something new tomorrow, so keep offering. Don’t give them the same thing everyday, this will only perpetuate the issue.
6. Keep it simple
You don’t need to be a gourmet chef to make a toddler happy, just keep it simple and tasty. Don’t spend an hour cooking their dinner unless you are cooking it for yourself too. You will feel much worse when something you slaved over gets rejected than something you whipped up in fifteen minutes.
7. Don’t take it personally
You might feel personally rejected when your child refuses to eat what you’ve cooked for them, especially when you associate food with love as I do. Remember this is just a phase – a learning period – and it won’t last forever. Your child loves you just as much regardless of whether you feed them Weet Bix or roast lamb.
8. Offer what your having
Your toddler is more likely to be interested in trying a new food if they see you eating it. For example, tonight I offered Little Chop some pasta with osso bucco in her Bunnykins bowl. She took one bite and wouldn’t eat any more. I made the same thing for my own dinner and she had about ten mouthfulls from my bowl. She wanted to eat it because I was eating it. So, try offering your toddler food from your plate.
I hope that parents of fussy toddlers find something useful in these tips. If you try them out, let me know how you go. Please remember, I’m not an expert, just a mum trying to help other mums and dads who may be struggling with a fickle, food-rejecting toddler.