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Toddler drinking water at family meal

Family meals for toddlers

    4-minutes read

    Feeding toddlers can be quite challenging, particularly if your child won’t try new food. There’s only so many ‘here come the train’ noises and ‘yum yum’ faces you can pull after all!

    Here are our tips for easy toddler meals and what to do if your toddler is refusing to eat, so don’t reach for the sugary biscuits (for your little one) or the red wine (for you!) just yet. Help is at hand!

    Eating together

    First up, a few ground rules might make mealtimes easier. Try and keep them distraction-free by turning off the TV and getting all the family together. It’s about making meals family time, and your toddler will love all the praise they get when they finish off that sweet potato casserole.

    Eating together should teach them good table manners too, even if there are a few upturned bowls of spaghetti in the early days. Hearing everyone talk and laugh will help develop their communication skills, and they’ll learn from you how to use cutlery and will want to do what you and the family are doing. Some studies suggest toddlers will also get into their fruit and veg more readily if the family eats together. Sprout stew for everyone tonight, then!

    Don’t worry too much if it’s a flat no to new food, to begin with. It can take up to eight tries for your independent little one to start enjoying the taste of something.

    How do I get a fussy toddler to eat?

    Here are a few more fussy eating toddler tips and some ideas for easy toddler meals:

    • Start off with small portions; you don’t want to overwhelm your toddler by placing a massive plate of food in front of them.

    • Mix it up with various flavours and textures – it’s good for your toddler to try lots of different things from an early age.

    • Don’t expect them to eat everything in their bowl or plate; they’ll let you know when they’ve had enough or would like some more.

    • Add new foods with recognisable favourites, so they have something they like on the plate whilst being exposed to new tastes.

    Baby Food fight!

    There might be the odd tantrum at mealtimes, and not just from your partner wanting the TV turned back on. Even the loveliest candlelit soiree can turn into a food fight when there’s a toddler in town. So:

    • As well as no screens, try and keep noisy toys or other entertainment away from the table as it can be distracting.

    • Ignore the silly behaviour (from your toddler, that is!) If they get a reaction smearing baked beans up the wall, they might try and do it again, so pay it no attention if you can and clear up later.

    • Give them plenty of praise for good behaviour or try something new. They will love pleasing you and will probably want to try something new next time too.

    • If your toddler is refusing to eat, try stealing it and pretend to eat it yourself. They’ll think, ‘hey, that’s mine’ and will want it back so they can wolf the lot!

    • Try not to focus just on your toddler; you might find they’ll want to get back to the silliness if you do, plus mealtimes are for everyone, of course.

    • Try and stay firm if they decide they don’t like what’s on offer (again, we’re talking about your toddler here, not your partner!) If they don’t like the food you’re offering, don’t replace it with a snack instead.

    • Tantrums will happen now and again. So, there may be times when you need to grin and bear it and think about that long hot soak you’ll have later.

    Feeding your toddler when you’re out and about

    Toddler eating a bowl of noodles

    It’s great fun for your little one to eat out and try new things and new experiences. If it all goes well, it could be a lovely treat for you and the family too. Tantrums don’t just happen at home though, of course. So:

    • Choose a child-friendly place. That new expensive-looking French restaurant on the High Street may not be the best choice! Look for places with high-chairs and crayons on the table; that should do the trick.

    • Book an early table – it might even be cheaper, and if you’re worried that it could turn into a bunfight and a fussy toddler meal, at least the other diners are likely to be mums and dads, too, so they’ll understand. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming with all the sights and sounds, so a bit of time out away from the table might help.

    • Have a few fun games and distractions up your sleeve in case it takes ages for your food to arrive.

    • Most places won’t mind if you bring an emergency backup pot of pasta, in case your little one doesn’t like the look of the chicken fricassee

    • Don’t plan to be out too long; it may well be a case of eat and go. Your little one is bound to let you know when they want to go home.

    • Finally – enjoy it. It’s a chance to have a break from the chores, after all!

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