Feeding fussy eaters

Toddlers may be small, but they have big personalities - and unfortunately, being finicky about food is a common occurrence. Here's how to keep your cool and avoid mealtime mayhem.

As your toddler discovers a growing independence, you might be starting to notice another change, too. Suddenly, your previously angelic little one is too ‘busy' to eat – or won't eat anything but breakfast cereal and toast fingers, no matter which meal it is. Any new foods are viewed with deep suspicion, and even foods they've always enjoyed might be suddenly turfed from the table.

You'd be forgiven for wondering who's kidnapped your sweet baby and left this choosy child instead – but don't rush to panic stations straightaway. This sort of behaviour is perfectly normal, and it's all part of growing up.

Keep calm

As parents, we all want to take the best possible care of our children, and it's easy to worry when your child is point-blank refusing to eat the lovely nutritious meal you've prepared. The key is to try to relax, and just keep offering a variety of good things to eat. At this age, their daily intake doesn't matter as much as what they eat over the course of a week.

Most toddlers eventually grow out of this ultra-fussy stage - particularly if they see everyone else enjoying lots of different foods - so just keep persevering. They’ll usually come round in the end.

Top tips for fussy eaters

  • Toddlers might need to see and try new foods 10 or more times before they get used to them, so try not to give up straightaway.
  • If your little one won't eat something, it's best to just take the food away without drawing attention to it – resorting to desperate measures runs the risk of making food refusal fun for your child.
  • Give lots of attention when your toddler is eating – rather than when they are not eating.
  • If your little one won't even try a food, try serving it to the family - if toddlers see others eating a food with enjoyment, they often want to try it themselves.
  • Try not to bribe, coax or force your toddler to eat. Using sweet foods or treats as a reward for eating something can actually reinforce the behaviour you're trying to stop.