How to encourage good eating habits in children

Short of standing on your head at times, it seems impossible to get a young child or toddler to eat. You play the games, you sing songs, you dance, you create food sculptures and for all your efforts your child still just looks at you with lips cemented shut and refuses to eat the great meal you have prepared. Yes the meal must taste good and be somewhat appealing to the young toddler; however, you should not have to be a ‘Circus, Circus’ ring master to get through a meal.

Here are some tips to get your child to finish meals:

First, the TV can be your worst enemy. Most children are very active, and have engaged and active minds. Be sure that there is little or no TV during meal time. This will help to have your child engaged with you the one feeding them and serving them their meal. Talk or read during meal time. Share a conversation no matter how detailed your little one can get about their routine or experiences during the day. Have attention on them and focus it around family time at the dinner table. If this is a new tactic in your home it might take a few times around the table before your child engages in the activity.

Make meal time fun. Have interactive utensils, plates and cups. Personalize your child’s place mat. Let them claim ownership of their items and of their seat. It is important to make it inviting to the little boy/girl and let him/her know it is okay to have fun at the table. (note: manners can still be in place and fun can still happen.)

Trying to get your toddler to eat anything and everything all the time is not very effective in expanding their taste palette. Be aware of your child’s likes and dislikes. Try centering a menu that is both nutritional and a big hit with your child’s appetite. Give him/her a little bit of everything that will be served in larger portions to the adults. Make a replica of your plate, on a much smaller scale of course. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many new options.

By introducing your child slowly to new things, making meal time fun and interactive and keeping family in your meal time routine; your child will start to engage and enjoy meal time. Once your child’s palette expands with perseverance and patience on your part, then meals will go down quickly and be enjoyed tremendously. That little smile, hug and kiss will be so rewarding.