How to feed a fussy toddler
How to feed a fussy toddler
A splash of joy with bath essentials for your baby Reading How to feed a fussy toddler 9 minutes

Hey parents, worrying about feeding a fussy toddler? Fret not, in this blog, we aim to offer you a comprehensive guide that will provide you with valuable insights to look when a toddler is hungry, tips when they refuse to eat, practical advice for setting a toddler feeding schedule and ideas on how to make healthy food tasty and interesting.

Starting from the time your baby begins eating solid food, we as parents try our best to provide nutritious food to support their growth and development, isn't it! It is very important to establish healthy eating habits early on. During the toddler years, children experience rapid growth and development, therefore it's essential to offer healthy food for the toddler that provides energy and essential nutrients for their optimal growth. 

Understanding Toddler Hunger Cues

Before offering anything to the child, we need to recognize and understand hungry baby signs. When we are hungry our body starts sending signals to the brain indicating the need of nourishment, the same goes for the toddler. When a toddler is hungry, there will be signals like behavioral changes, physical cues, or verbal expression. And as parents, we need to be attentive to understand the signals and respond accordingly.

Let's understand the signs to look for when a toddler is hungry-

  • Pay attention to the baby's behavior. A hungry toddler will be fussy and restless, finding it difficult to focus on any activity.
  • There will be increased hand-to-mouth movement, along with a tendency to put everything in their mouth such as putting toys, fingers, or other objects to satisfy their hunger.
  • You can also notice your baby's interest in food during family meals. If they get excited when they see food and start pointing, it could be a sign that they are hungry and ready to eat.
  • Some toddlers are able to express their hunger by asking for food or by using hand movement or making sounds to let you know they are still hungry. 
  • Observe their behavior, they may even become clingy and seek comfort during times of hunger. 
  • You might notice that they become less active and lose interest in playing. This decrease in energy can be a result of their body's need for fuel to sustain physical activity. 

Tips for Handling Mealtime Refusals

Kids are unpredictable when it comes to food preferences- one day they like another day they refuse altogether, right! We all have experienced tantrums and mealtime refusals by toddlers, isn't it? Let's understand what could be the reason behind their refusals -

  • They may be teething which might cause swollen gums, increased drooling, and irritability.
  • There may be developmental changes ( physical and emotional ) that can affect their appetite and eating habits. 
  • If they are feeling any discomfort or stomach ache, then they will be unwilling to eat.
  • Some toddlers may have sensory sensitivities with textures, flavors, or smells of food which leads to aversion.

After knowing and understanding the reason you will be able to help your toddler in a better way. From choosing the right snack to understanding portion sizes, here are a few tips for handling mealtime refusals-

  • By offering variety- Try to introduce a wide array of flavors and textures when preparing baby food by incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products. Providing a diverse selection on the plate not only attracts a toddler but also encourages them to explore different foods.
  • By respecting their appetite- Avoid forcing them and respect their appetite. You can begin with small, manageable portions and gradually increase serving sizes as they become more comfortable with different foods. Plus, you can also offer them frequent meals throughout the day to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.
  • By involving them in meal preparation- Involve your baby in kitchen activities and ask them to help with tasks like washing vegetables, stirring, or even baking. This not only encourages learning but also fosters excitement about the food they've helped to prepare.
  • By minimizing distraction-  Encourage your toddler's attention to food by minimizing distractions during mealtime. Leave toys, books, television, etc away from the table to encourage mindful eating habits.
  • By allowing independence- Encourage self-feeding by praising your baby's efforts. These small steps not only boost their confidence but also foster a sense of independence in them. And yeah, embrace the mess as your baby learns to feed themselves. You can use colorful organic cotton baby bibs that you can find at A Toddler Thing to make mealtime enjoyable.
  • By being patient- Lastly, be patient and continue offering a variety of healthy food for the toddler until they accept it. This will definitely develop healthy eating habits that will benefit them in the long run.

Practical Advice for Setting Your Toddler’s Feeding Schedule 

Setting up a routine early on is very helpful later for a balanced life later on. This not only cultivates discipline but also encourages time management skills in them. From morning to night, establishing a feeding schedule for a toddler is important for their overall health and development. 

As your toddler starts self-feeding and exploring the world of solids, setting a feeding schedule is essential for a positive and enriching experience. Top 5 effective strategies for establishing a schedule involves-

  • Be a role model- You would have observed kids mimic you in every possible way, from the way you dress to the way you eat,isn't it! And therefore, it is essential to set a good example by eating well in front of them. This will inculcate the habit of eating nutritious food and enjoy mealtime.
  • Consistency is paramount- Try to be consistent in meal times to regulate their appetite. This will not only set their routine but also allow predictability for the next meal, preventing excessive snacking.
  • Be flexible- Listen to your child and ask about their preferences, likes and dislikes when it comes to food, this will ensure meals are enjoyable and satisfying for them. Relax and be flexible as toddlers may not always be hungry at designated meal times.
  • Embrace messes- Don't be afraid to let your toddler get messy during meal times, it might require extra cleaning though. Embrace messes, it's all a part of their journey as they explore different textures of food. You can use organic muslin wipes to clean hands during meal times- a practical way to manage mess and hygiene.
  • Encourage healthier options- In growing age, it's important to focus on essential nutrients for their growth. You can swap ready-made snacks and juices to homemade nutritious snacks and fresh juices. Opt for whole fruits or boiled veggies for snack break.

 Exciting Ways to Make Healthy Food Tasty and Interesting

We can't compromise when it comes to providing nutrition to a toddler, can we? We always seek ways to ensure they get adequate essential nutrients required for their optimal growth. As the saying goes, "you eat with your eyes and nose first," meaning the food should be visually appealing and smelling aromatic to attract toddlers to eat what's on their plate even before they actually put food in their mouths.

Here are some toddler-friendly ideas to transform healthy food into tasty and interesting ones- 

  • Colorful plating- Your baby isn't eating properly? You can use a variety of fruits and veggies to create a stunning and colorful platter. For example, you can make a playful rainbow with sliced fruits that are not only visually appealing but also rich in nutrients.
  • Creative food designs- You can create innovative food designs by using cookie cutters of different shapes like heart, triangle, diamond, star, or dinos, flowers, leaves, ball, etc. There are endless ways to transform ordinary meals into fun and flavorful ones.
  • Veggie peek-a-boo- You can cleverly hide veggies and make delicious mixed veg or hara bhara kebabs. You can blend it into puree to add them in pasta or soups. It's up to you, you are the master of your own art!
  • Tiny bites- Serving small portions is an excellent strategy to encourage children to finish their meals and feel satisfied. This will not only prevent food waste but also develop confidence in them that they can finish their meal.
  • Mix and merge- Offer a food platter full of different texture, flavor and tastes which will excite and expose your toddler to a wide range of culinary experiences, cultivating an openness to trying new foods in the future.
  • Innovative names- Our kids enjoy being called by pet names, the same way you can also give creative names to veggies like little tree (broccoli), orange rockets (carrot), green gems (peas), etc.
  • Make it fun- Convert mealtime into fun activities by allowing them to make their own sandwiches, pizzas, fruit salads, etc. This will not only encourage learning but also give a sense of autonomy.
  • Healthy side dips: Instead of ready-made sauces or dips, you can make healthy dips at home like yogurt fruit dip, peanut butter dip, mashed avocado dip, etc. Kids enjoy dipping and eating food.

At A Toddler Thing, we are not just a brand that sells sustainable baby products. We are your partners in this journey called parenthood.

Hope you got some ideas to tackle your picky eater too!